Funder's Disclaimer: To Go Or To Stay was funded by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy in 2012-2013.  The opinions and interpretations in publications and presentations included here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.  The project was hosted by the Youth Emergency Shelter in Peterborough, Ontario.  Fay Martin, MSW, PhD, was the Principal Investigator; she gathered the data, was a primary voice in analysis, and is the author of the reports and presentations on this website.


About To Go Or To Stay

I, Fay Martin, developed the project in consultation with an Advisory Committee comprised of senior representatives in five areas of policy and practice directly involved in the decision of rurally-raised youth to stay where they were raised or leave for more urban centres, i.e., housing, education, employment, health – including mental health and substance use – and the justice system.  A list of Advisory Committee members is included as an Appendix in the final report.

About the Author

I live and work in East Central Ontario.  This project offered the opportunity for me to exploit the learning of several decades of social work, much of it with marginalized youth, and even more decades of living, much of it in rural Canada.  I conducted individual interviews with 48 youth, aged 16 to 30, who were raised in three counties in East Central Ontario, followed by three group discussions with specific foci, and several key informant interviews.  This website was created to share this rich mountain of data more broadly, for purposes of general illumination into the perspective of youth at this stage in their lives, or the education or training of people working with this population.  It is shared with the permission of the participants. 


I ‘direct scribed’ the individual interviews, an approach developed in practice and adapted in my doctoral work that allows the natural eloquence and wisdom of voices that are usually muted to be heard.  Specifically, I typed a verbatim record of both sides of the conversation on a lap top computer which participants could follow on a monitor, with both parties free to edit themselves during the process – I frequently modeled, self-editing.  Participants received a hard or electronic copy of the document and could make additional changes within seven days, at which point the material became data.  I am identified as ‘FM’ in the transcripts.  Some changes have been made to clarify meaning and others to protect privacy; these notes and modifications are contained by square parentheses: [  ]

Interview Format

I first gave the subject an oral orientation to the project and they completed an application form with demographic data, and consents. The remainder of the interview was direct scribed and consisted of:

  • An invitation to the youth to describe his/her family circumstances in childhood – clarified and expanded through enquiry.
  • An examination of when and why and how the youth thought about and implemented decision/s ‘to go or to stay’ – clarified and expanded through enquiry

When the narrative appeared complete, I asked four standard ‘finish up’ questions, which are bolded in each narrative. The questions were:

  • In order that the reader may better understand the structure of this story, would you say what you think is the Most Important Event in this narrative?  It could be something that happened or something that didn’t happen, that most influenced how this story unfolded. 
  • Readers will form an opinion of how this story will turn out, good or not so good.  What do you say? 
  • What advice would you give to your younger self, whether or not that younger self would take the advice? 
  • What advice would you give to those of us who would like to be helpful to youth like yourself? 

The participant received $40 in cash for his/her participation.  There was often further chatting while the transcript was being printed.

After the Interview

I tidied the script, expanding shorthand used to expedite the process, correcting mis-spellings or obvious mistakes. 

After seven days I integrated changes or additions as instructed by participants (there were very few), saved the file in PDF form and shared it with members of the Advisory Committee, a sub-group of whom participated in co-analysis of the data.

The individual interviews took place between August and December 2012, in my home office, participant’s homes or agency space in which they were comfortable.  Participants who had spent the majority of their childhood in the three counties, excluding two cities, were recruited through service agencies or through social networks.  This gives a broad spectrum of perspective from very challenged to almost privileged youth, all of whom self-identified as ‘insecurely housed’, broadly defined as being one crisis away from losing the roof over your head

Co-analysis of this data – 662 pages, 257,500 words – took place over two days in January 2013.  Additional data were collected and integrated, and the report to funder was written in the following months and submitted in October 2013. 

This website is a central component in an on-going dissemination strategy. We welcome any comments or feedback you choose to offer.