Assistant Professor, Human Geography
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
I am a social geographer with a broad interest in urban issues and a research focus on policy, poverty and health. I recently received SSHRC funding to study urban policymaking in Canada. In today’s world, urban regions play a central role in attracting global investment, creating jobs, and providing services and as such they are widely seen as strategic nodes in the global economy. Despite its increasing importance, Canadian urban policy has been a neglected area of study. My study seeks to address this gap through an examination of the role that policy learning and policy transfer practices are playing in the development of Canadian urban policy.
To carry out this investigation, I am focusing on one particular policy sphere – housing and homelessness. Like other western countries, Canada has seen homelessness rates rise. In recent years, significant changes have occurred with respect to how governments are responding to this issue. In Canada, many of these changes reflect how Canadian policymakers and welfare service providers have looked outside Canada’s borders for new approaches. The introduction of the ‘Housing First’ (HF) models is one example. HF is a relatively new model for alleviating street homelessness and it has rapidly spread from the United States to parts of Western Europe and Canada. HF models ambitiously seek to ‘end’ street homelessness by directly providing ‘hard-to-house’ individuals with immediate access to independent, subsidized housing accompanied by professional supports. In Canada, HF models have featured prominently in recent federal and some provincial strategies and spread swiftly among cities.
With this study – entitled, “From streets to homes: mapping the rise of housing first policies and programs in Canada” – my aim is to examine the policy pathways that have contributed to the diffusion of HF policies and programs. In doing so, I aim to answer several questions. Where and when have HF policies and programs found implementation in Canada? How has the HF model been presented as a success abroad and within Canada? What pathways have permitted the flow of HF policies and programs to Canada and aided in their circulation among Canadian cities? How has the HF model been adapted within particular places? How do these local examples compare on a national and international level? Answering these questions will enhance our understanding of how urban policy is created in Canada, particularly in relation to the global policy circuits and local policy experiments. Understanding the urban policy landscape in this way, particularly with regard to the influence of U.S. social policy, will help put Canadian urban policy, and urban development more generally, in a global context.
Updated March 03 2015 by Student & Academic Services