Safe Haven: The Story of a Shelter for Homeless Women


161 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4240-6
DDC 362.83'83'09713541




Jeff Karabanow is an assistant professor in the Maritime School of
Social Work at Dalhousie University in Halifax.


Rae Bridgman’s ethnographic study of a Toronto shelter for homeless
women provides the reader with an intimate portrayal of the inner
workings of a service delivery structure and some of the contradictions
and ambiguities inherent in supporting a marginalized street population.

The author delivers a compassionate and thoughtful portrait—infused
with rich details of staff members’ experiences, struggles, and
insights—of how this organizational structure presents itself to the
client base. Complementing much of the current research on project
development, implementation, and diffusion, the work sheds light on the
very real tensions that exist between an organization’s
vision/philosophy and its day-to-day practices. It also raises and
explores some important questions: How should a shelter conduct itself
in terms of providing needed services to homeless women? What sort of
philosophical guidance should inform its daily interactions with
clients? Should the service be seen as a short-term shelter or more as a
transitional structure? How should staff interact/intervene with

Bridgman has collected her material in a truly ethnographic style,
incorporating in her book field notes, informal interviews with staff
and residents, agency documents (including staff logbooks and client
files), and staff-meeting minutes. Her exploration of the daily
happenings of the organization and its varied inhabitants provides
insights into the complexities and nuances of working with homeless
women as well as being a homeless woman. This impressive book is
recommended for those interested in issues of homelessness,
organizational behaviour, and qualitative methodology.


Bridgman, Rae., “Safe Haven: The Story of a Shelter for Homeless Women,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,