The work of our multidisciplinary team and partners has led to a major transformation in community-based and collaborative homelessness research in Canada.
Managing Director of Research
Ahmad Bonakdar Bio
Ahmad Bonakdar, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Research, Making the Shift (MtS) Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab. In his role, Ahmad oversees all aspects of MtS Demonstration Projects (DEMs) including methodological approaches and the implementation of long-term research strategies. He also guides site-specific research plans and leads the academic and public-facing outputs of research studies from MtS DEMs.
Prior to this role, Ahmad was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH). He holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Public Policy with advanced training in qualitative and quantitative research analyses. His research interests focus broadly on social equity, environmental justice, in particular at the intersection of homelessness and housing, community-based studies, and urban imaginary of the marginalized and the underserved including youth experiencing homelessness. He has experience teaching seminar-based and studio courses in urban planning and public affairs programs and mentoring a diverse body of undergraduate students. His recent research has been published in peer-reviewed journals including International Journal of Cultural Policy, Cities, Public Works Management & Policy, and Journal of Planning Literature.
Executive Vice President
Allyson Marsolais Bio
Allyson is the Executive Vice President with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (previously the Canadian Homelessness Research Network) and VP and Co-Founder of Hub Solutions. Allyson has a Master’s degree in Critical Disability Studies from York University and over 15 years experience working in the social justice field. Currently, Allyson is excited about further developing Hub Solutions (www.hubsolutions.ca), the COH’s social enterprise, which provides research, evaluation and knowledge mobilization support to the homelessness sector. She is also working towards a professional designation as a Project Management Professional (PMP). When she’s not working to make research matter and end homelessness, Allyson can be found answering “Why?” for the gazillionth time for her precocious daughter, Quinn!
Strategy, Policy and Innovation Specialist
Amanda Buchnea Bio
Amanda Buchnea (she/her) is the Strategy, Policy and Innovation Specialist. In her role, Amanda works across the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, Making the Shift Inc., and A Way Home Canada and partners domestically and abroad to advance key research, knowledge mobilization, and government relations activities. She is also a PhD Candidate at the University of Guelph in their interdisciplinary program, Social Practice and Transformational Change. Her doctoral project examines community homelessness planning practices in Canada. Her research and praxis is oriented toward working in solidarity for housing justice, and disrupting the systemic and structural forces that hold injustices such as homelessness and housing precarity in place.
Amanda holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Toronto and an Honours Bachelor in Social Development Studies from the University of Waterloo. She has worked for seven years in the field of youth homelessness prevention policy advocacy and homelessness systems planning. She was the Policy and Planning Coordinator for A Way Home Canada until 2021, and most recently as the Manager of the Toronto Centre of Excellence on Youth Homelessness Prevention at Making the Shift. Over the years, Amanda has worked on numerous projects with partners in Canada and internationally, including the Systems Planning Collective and the UN Geneva Charter Centres of Excellence. She is based in Toronto with her spouse and two cats, and enjoys escaping the city to go camping around Ontario.
Manager, Research and Evaluation
Anika Shama Bio
Anika received a master’s degree in Applied Psychology from Memorial University of Newfoundland where she received intense theoretical and practical training in research design, statistical analysis, and program evaluation. She utilized both quantitative and qualitative research methods and data analysis in the evaluation of different knowledge transfer programs. In the recent past, she partnered with Eastern Health of Newfoundland and Labrador where she completed an evaluation of a knowledge exchange program that focused on using harm reduction techniques as means to respond to opioid dependency. She brings four years of experience in designing and implementing intervention programs in the fields of education and gender equality.
Personal: In her free time, Anika likes to go shopping for kitchen supplies and she likes to get lost in a new city.
Lead Research Assistant
Athourina David Bio
Athourina David is a Lead Research Assistant for the Housing First for Youth Demonstration Project with the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab (MtS DEMS). They hold a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Psychology and are working towards completing their MA in Counselling Psychology at the University of Ottawa. Their goal is to continue supporting minority communities and at-risk groups via a combination of research and practice. Prior to this, Athourina worked at the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, and spent a number of years supporting homeless & unstably housed youth. They have a passion for social justice and activism but also enjoy the occasional movie night.
Research Assistant on Indigenous Homelessness
Averi Labancz-Vye Bio
Averi Labancz-Vye is a BHSc Candidate who is currently in her 3rd Year Health Sciences at the University of Western Ontario. As a member of the Michipicoten First Nations in Northern Ontario, Averi is inspired to better the lives of Indigenous Peoples’ in Canada through her work. With previous experiences at her university, she has worked on educating others in the area of Indigenous Health in Canada as well as educating on the traditional practices and history of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples’. When Averi is outside of work you can find her with her friends and family, or reading.
C. L. Michel
French Content Coordinator
C. L. Michel Bio
C.L. Michel studied French and English literature at McMaster University and spent eight years as a language teacher, working with learners of all ages. She decided to focus on translation in 2018 and returned to school at Glendon College for skill building and certification, and it was during this time that she started working at the COH in a part-time student position. She started full-time at the COH in 2022 and her role is focused on the language side of things: editing, translating, and doing the terminological work required to deliver high quality resources in both French and English.
When she’s not working, C.L. Michel pitches in a 2SLGTBTQ softball league, hosts a French-language pop and hip-hop show on her local community radio station, and does support and advocacy work for people held in Ontario’s prisons. She lives in Hamilton.
Research Assistant, MtS DEMS
Cassandra Sangiuliano Bio
Cassandra is a research assistant for Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab (MtS DEMS). She proudly holds a Honours Batchelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice and Public Policy from the University of Guelph and aspires to pursue graduate studies. Her research interests include youth homelessness, the impact of social media on the contemporary discourse of critical societal challenges, the development and implementation of mental health frameworks and knowledge mobilization. Cassandra has previously participated in working in the “From NIMBY to Neighbour” project, in collaboration with Wilfred Laurier, the University of Guelph and York University working together to understand community perceptions and responses to homelessness in three mid sized cities in Ontario. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys yoga, cooking, and spending time outdoors hiking with her dog, Bentley.
Sr. Scholar on Indigenous Homelessness
Cathy Fournier Bio
Cathy has a PhD in the Interdisciplinary Studies (Medical/Social Anthropology and Indigenous Studies) and is currently the Senior Researcher, Indigenous Homelessness at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. She recently completed her Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Indigenous research at the University of Toronto.
Cathy is also an Oshkaabewis (ceremonial apprentice) at the Native Women’s Resource Centre in Toronto. Before pursuing a career in academia Cathy was a complementary and alternative health practitioner for over 20 years.
Senior Digital Project Coordinator
Chris Durand Bio
Chris is a Senior Digital Project Coordinator for the COH. He holds a BA in Foreign Languages and International Marketing from the University of Aix-Marseille and the University of Bordeaux. He also holds a MBA in Digital Strategy Management from Ecole Supérieure de Commerce et d’Economie Numérique in Bordeaux, France. After graduation, he started a Web and Graphic Design company that mainly works with nonprofits in France. Life brought him in Canada, where he found the opportunity to work in a fascinating and meaningful position, here at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.
Lead Researcher, Housing First for Youth, MtS DEMS
Cora MacDonald Bio
Cora is the Lead Researcher for the Housing First for Youth Demonstration Project with the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab (MtS DEMS). She holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from Carleton University and is working on completing her PhD. Her research interests include youth homelessness, community integration, Housing First, and knowledge mobilization. Prior to this role, Cora was the Project Manager at A Way Home Ottawa, where she was responsible for convening young people and community partners to establish a strategy for ending and preventing youth homelessness in Ottawa. In her free time, Cora enjoys listening to true crime podcasts.
Senior Communications Coordinator
Emma Amon Bio
Emma Amon is a Senior Communications Coordinator at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. She holds a BA in Media Production from Ryerson University and an MA in Public Service from the University of Waterloo. She has experience in graphic design, video production, and writing for diverse audiences. Emma is passionate about storytelling and is thrilled to be working in a role where she is able to tell stories through a variety of mediums.
Systems Planning Coordinator
Erika Morton Bio
Erika Morton attended McMaster University where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and her Bachelor of Social Work which sparked her interest in community development and prevention-based approaches to social issues. Her work in child and youth programming inspired her to follow a career pathway that would result in building the capacity of young people to achieve their optimal wellbeing. She worked at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton where she provided collaboration support with community partners and youth with lived experience of homelessness who are working together to end youth homelessness. In her role as a Systems Planning Coordinator, she is keen to transfer the skills and knowledge that she has developed towards ending homelessness in Canada. In her downtime, Erika is likely to be found being amused by her cats.
Jacqueline Sohn Bio
Jacqueline Sohn is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), specializing in scaling social innovation for at-risk youth. She holds a PhD in educational policy from the University of Toronto/OISE. Her research interests include evidence use in public policymaking, cross-sector collaboration and community-based prevention and intervention initiatives – all towards more equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for low SES students. She has instructed graduate courses in policy analysis and engaged scholarship and has researched and published in the areas of knowledge mobilization, the use of evidence in public policymaking and teacher professionalism. Prior to beginning her postdoc, she served in a provincial project coordination and policy role at the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Director of Research and Evaluation
John Ecker Bio
John Ecker, PhD is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the COH. In this role, he has been fortunate to collaborate with with a number of community partners on their research and evaluation activities. He attained his Ph.D. in Community Psychology from the University of Ottawa where he received advanced training in qualitative and quantitative analyses, as well as program evaluation theory and practice. His research interests are varied and include homelessness, housing, Housing First, community integration, and LGBTQ2S studies. In his spare time, John is an avid tennis player/fan and has a love of pop culture.
Karen Bosworth is the Instructional Designer & Content Developer for the Homelessness Learning Hub where she develops training and curates collections of learning resources for the housing and homelessness sector. Karen is driven to produce engaging and effective learning experiences that people will actually enjoy. She specializes in developing online training that is learner-centred and practical. Her key strengths include engaging scholars and practitioners in collaborative design, creating engaging and interactive lessons with stories and scenarios and working with trainers to transform in-person events to online learning.
Quantitative Data Coordinator, MtS DEMS
Lauren Mar Bio
Lauren Mar is the Quantitative Data Coordinator at Making the Shift (MtS) Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab (DEMs) at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH). In her role, she supports the development of qualitative and quantitative data analyses for MtS DEMS research and the implementation of MtS evaluation plans.
She holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from Western University, where she studied the mental health inequalities faced by sexual minorities in Canada. Before this role, Lauren worked in various research roles related to public health, food insecurity, poverty and 2SLGBTQIA+ inequities. Throughout these experiences, she conducted extensive research across diverse social issues and gained valuable experience in both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Lauren is passionate about ending homelessness and is honoured to be a part of such a fantastic team.
When she’s not working, Lauren can be found in the kitchen trying out a new recipe or on trails, running and hiking.
Research Manager, MtS DEMS
Mel Jean Bio
Mel is the Lead Research Assistant on the Toronto site’s Housing First for Youth (HF4Y) project with Making the Shift: Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab (MtS DEMS). She’s honoured to fill this role and appreciates learning from the team and participants. She holds a BA (Hons.) in Gender and Women’s Studies and in Sociology with a specialization in Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies. Prior to this role with MtS DEMS, Mel worked as an RA, Student Researcher, and Social Service Worker (SSW) in the connected areas of housing security, poverty, the criminal legal system, and gendered violence. She’s lived through youth homelessness and related experiences of trauma and criminalization and is committed to community-based research and blurring the lines between knowledge gained through lived experience with that gained from academia and formal front-line work. In her spare time, Mel can be found writing out her thoughts, spending time with her kids, and enjoying nearby trails.
Research Associate on Black Homelessness
Nathan Okonta Bio
Nathan Okonta has a master’s degree in international and community development. He is an alumnus of both York University and the University of Toronto. Nathan has been a social developer in Toronto for the past 20 years developing post-incarceration programs for youth and young adults.
Oluwaseyi Somefun Bio
Oluwaseyi Somefun (Seyi) is a youth researcher whose primary goal is to generate scholarship that supports the holistic wellbeing of youth who experience cumulative and convergent risks to healthy development. Specifically, her interest has focused on what can be learned from considering how, especially prior to intervention, youth manoeuvre risk in everyday life. Her research, which targets the identification of risk and promotion of healthy development among marginalized youth, is a critical step towards alleviating health disparities and socially constructed barriers to positive youth development. This research is grounded in her practical experience and interdisciplinary training in public health, sociology, demography, and social methods, and combines quantitative and qualitative approaches. She plays an ongoing active role in several interdisciplinary research projects. The majority of these have been published in high ranking international and national accredited journals. Recently, she has also focused on the acceptability of adolescent interventions, made new commitments to interdisciplinary dialogue in research that focuses on young adults in Africa. When she’s not struggling with research, Seyi can be found hiking or tinkering with her fantasy football team.
Pa Sallah Drammeh
Pa Sallah Drammeh Bio
Pa Sallah Drammeh is a BioStatistician, Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Projects, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. In his position, Sallah utilizes his statistical expertise to conduct analyses and provide training to colleagues and students on quantitative data analysis and techniques. Sallah obtained a master’s degree in Biostatistics from McGill University’s Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health. His research interests revolve around the Statistical Design of Clinical Trials and the modelling of longitudinal data.
During his master’s program, Sallah gained valuable experience as a Biostatistician during his internship at the Medical Research Council in The Gambia. There, he conducted statistical analyses on longitudinal data from the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Pediatrics Bacterial Meningitis Surveillance Network. His research focused on evaluating the effectiveness of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) in over 10 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, Sallah worked as a Research Biostatistician at the CHUSJ Research Centre in Montreal until he joined the COH. At CHUSJ, he performed statistical analyses using data from the QUALITY and CIRCUIT studies.
Before pursuing his master’s degree, Sallah achieved a BSc in Mathematics (Summa Cum Laude) and began his professional journey as a Software Engineer Trainee at a prestigious Data Analytics and Software Engineering firm in The Gambia.
Outside of his professional pursuits, Sallah finds joy in working out and hiking.
Promise Busulwa Bio
Promise Busulwa holds a BSc Honors in Psychology from York University. She has experience in both communications and research for social services and channels her passion for social equity and knowledge translation into her role as a Communications Coordinator. In her downtime, Promise can be found exploring artistic attractions in Toronto.
Research and Evaluation Coordinator
Rubina Karyar Bio
Rubina holds a master’s of arts degree in sociology and is a master of social work candidate at York University. She has advanced training in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, analysis, evaluation and critical race and intersectionality theories and practices. Rubina has more than seven years of experience performing applied and community-based research, critical theories and evaluation in academic and not-for-profit environments. She has lived experience of homelessness and worked as an outreach worker with Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals and couples experiencing homelessness at a Toronto-based Out of the Cold Program. In her academic and professional work, Rubina has focused on the issues of homelessness, poverty, systemic racism, intersectionality, equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. In her spare time, Rubina likes playing cards with her senior mother or walking in nature with her daughter.
Sandra Wong Bio
Sandra Wong is a Research Assistant working on the Family and Natural Supports demonstration project. Hailing from Vancouver and as a recent bachelor’s graduate in Kinesiology and Commerce from the University of British Columbia, she has extensive research experience in the topics of substance misuse and youth homelessness. Previous to this role, she worked under Dr. Robinder Bedi’s Research, Teaching, and Service Lab, Dr. Calvin Kuo’s Human Motion Biomechanics Lab, and Dr. Naznin Virjin-Babul’s Perception Lab where she strengthened both her quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Sandra holds a passion for community-driven initiatives and uses this to pursue medical school in her future.
When not working, you may find her in the kitchen with family and friends or out on the soccer field.
Sarah Anne Charlebois
Sarah Anne Charlebois Bio
Sarah Anne holds a BA from the York/Sheridan Program in Design (BDes honours). Working in both traditional and digital media, Sarah Anne is passionate about knowledge mobilization through the breakdown of data and research to easily digestible content in order to build connections and foster comprehension. Sarah Anne’s personal philosophy that education is the key to empathy integrates neatly into her everyday role as a graphic designer for the COH. She would like you to know that the Greenland shark is her favorite shark.
Senior Director of Communications
Steph Vasko Bio
Steph Vasko (she/her) is the Senior Director of Communications at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH). She leads the team responsible for designing the COH’s publications and communications materials, which range from reports and books to infographics and videos, that help advance our mandate to enhance the impact of research on policy and practice. Since 2009, Steph has been working with the COH’s Homeless Hub website, a key vehicle of knowledge mobilization and the world’s largest library of homelessness research. She also manages communications and design-driven projects for clients of COH’s social enterprise, Hub Solutions.
With a background in communications, web and graphic design, Steph designed several of COH’s seminal reports and led the redesign of the current Homeless Hub website. She’s skilled in both the aesthetic (interface design, user-experience design) and technical (programming, content management systems) aspects of website development.
Steph graduated from McMaster University’s multimedia and communications program in 2007. In this time, she has been involved in website development and communications management at a variety of organizations in Canada and Switzerland, from non-profits to non-governmental organizations in consultation with the United Nations.
When not thinking about all things design, Steph can be found exploring Toronto with her kids.
Dr. Stephen Gaetz is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University, in Toronto Canada. In 2021, Dr. Gaetz was named York Research Chair in Homelessness and Research Impact.
As a scholar Dr. Stephen Gaetz has had a long-standing interest in understanding homelessness – its causes, how it is experienced, and potential solutions. His program of research has been defined by his desire to ‘make research matter’ through conducting and mobilizing rigorous scholarly research that contributes not only to our knowledge base on homelessness but also to solutions to homelessness that impact on policy, practice and public opinion. Dr. Gaetz has led efforts to help communities and all orders of government to embrace the prevention of homelessness – and youth homelessness in particular – as a priority.
Susan is the Administrative Assistant at the COH. She is responsible for administrative duties of a broad scope and complexity, requiring independent judgement and familiarity of applicable procedures. Susan is resourceful, motivated and demonstrates a positive can-do attitude.
Research Assistant, MtS DEMS
Teyohá:te Brant Bio
Teyohá:te Brant is a Research Assistant on the Toronto site’s Housing First for Youth (HF4Y) with Making the Shift: Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab (MtS DEMS). She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Dalhousie University and aspires to go to medical school. Her research interests include youth homelessness, Indigenous health equity, and community health. Prior to this role, Teyohá:te has worked as a Research Assistant at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Well Living House where she assisted on action-based research related to Indigenous homelessness. She has also contributed to research as a Summer Student at The Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care. In her spare time, Teyohá:te enjoys creative writing and drawing.
Research and Evaluation Coordinator
Yasmine Abu-Ayyash Bio
Yasmine (Yes-meen) is a research analyst and knowledge mobilization specialist. She has worked on equity-focused research in the non-profit sector. She brings four years of experience in integrating Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) into research design and policy evaluation. She has provided training to researchers and government partners on gender analytics to assess how gender impacts organizational practices and policies. She previously worked in the settlement sector where she produced knowledge products on issues relating to homelessness and mental health. Her guiding principle is to make research data and findings accessible in plain language writing. She received her master’s in Gender Studies from SOAS, University of London and her Research Analyst postgraduate certificate from Humber.
Careers at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
Interested in working for us? We’re always looking for passionate people to join our team.