Homelessness

The homeless person is an archetypal figure in the urban imaginary: sleeping in doorways; huddled under bridges; panhandling for change. This is "hollywood" homelessness, relying on superficial imagery to connote the dystopic city. However, homelessness is evident in the global north and the global south. Spatially, the characteristics and lived realities of individuals vary, and this is reflected in international differences. Moreover, in any domestic context, it is also important to recognize that homelessness is not an exlusively urban phenomenon. Structural inadequacies and individual vulnerabilities combine in particular ways deepening disadvantage amongst poor racialized groups, single women with children, and youth identifying as LGBTQ, for instance. I examine these complexities in the Caribbean using an approach that focuses on housing histories and decision-making to understand the life-course mobilities and constraints of individuals and to identify opportunities for improving housing outcomes and, ultimately, lives.

I am currently conducting research to investigate the life-course housing histories of homeless persons in Trinidad and Tobago, which comprises examining their pathways to street-dwelling and prospects for exit. The research contributes to preventing street-dwelling and creating sustainable exits for those on the streets. Visible homelessness, or absolute homelessness, is a spectacle of social exclusion and marginalization and street-dwelling is often experienced as archetypal of urban spaces. A biographical approach to understanding the housing and employment trajectories of the country's street dwellers reveals previously unrecognized geographies of homelessness. Seeing that homelessness has a history and understanding pathways to homelessness is the basis of empirically-derived indicators of vulnerability and early intervention to prevent homelessness, especially amongst youth.

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