Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

Program Name/Specialization

Community, Policy, Planning and Organizations


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Second Advisor

Ginette Lafrenière

Advisor Role

Thesis Committee Member (Social Work)

Third Advisor

Kristine Lund

Advisor Role

Thesis Committee Member (Seminary)


This thesis is an exploration of relationships and issues of professional boundaries at Welcome Inn Community Centre, a faith-based community centre offering programs and services to address issues of poverty in Hamilton, Ontario. Data was gathered through semi-structured qualitative interviews with fifteen staff members, volunteers, and participants at Welcome Inn. A strengths-based perspective combined with mutual relationships and flexible boundaries were found to foster inclusion, acceptance, community building, and personal transformation at Welcome Inn Community Centre; Welcome Inn staff, volunteers, and program participants described these qualities positively. Mixed positive and negative comments were used to describe decision-making and boundaries at Welcome Inn. The need for increased intentionality and clarity around professional boundaries was identified. Using grounded theory methodology, a model, “Embracing the Grey Zone,’ and associated reflexive tools for navigating flexible boundaries were developed. The model and tools are presented here for use in social work community practice and education.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons