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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Dropouts

I am currently involved in a research project funded by the UWI-Trinidad and Tobago Research and Development Impact Fund to investigate the life-course trajectories and complex decision-making of school dropouts in Trinidad & Tobago. This project will analyse dropouts' economic productivity and livelihoods and suggest interventions that can improve their income-generating capabilities and prospects.

The study asks three key questions:

  • What are the current household characteristics and economic activities of dropouts?
  • How is education manifest in the lives of dropouts since first leaving school?
  • What is the decision-making process, or the everyday calculus, that results in withdrawal from, or return to, school, shifts in employment, and shifts in residence?
  • Academically, not much is known about the academic trajectory of dropouts or the relationship to crime, formal, and informal employment, nor has this been theorized or modelled. The differing impacts on women and girls is also a gap that this study seeks to address since women and girls will have different decision-making, supports, responsibilities, and formal and informal opportunities, as well as potentially greater risk and vulnerability to sexual and household violence. Social benefits of this research include generating an evidence base that helps to inform policies that keep students in education, facilitates their return, or offers alternatives that are sensitive to gender, ability, and persons’ own ambitions.

    Scholar's prayer: From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth • From the laziness that is content with half-truths • From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth • O, God of truth, deliver us. • 

    Housing

    Where people live is central to how they live; it can affect financial, social, and bodily health. Consumer's largest expenditure is on their housing, which is not only the hub of daily activities, but also a status symbol, and a reflection of culture and personality. My research interests include the meaning of home, social capital, housing careers and residential mobility. The study of housing is a corollary of my interest in homelessness, where displacement, loss, precarious housing, squatting, or community vulnerability can be precursors to broad instability and street dwelling.

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    Migration

    Human migration is a natural and expected part of existence. Moving away from the binaries of forced and voluntary migration, my research interests interrogate mixed motives through the experiences of re-settled refugees and "illegalized" migrants. Click here for a full-text sample of recent research in Toronto, Canada. In Trinidad and Tobago, I am focused on the experiences of returnees/deportees and their re-integration. I find the movement of people, their strategies and constraints, a compelling story that engages politics, economics, and culture, and I am interested in working with issues of residential, national, regional, and international mobility.

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