Migration and Homelessness: Exploring Attachment to Place amongst Francophone, Anglophone and Indigenous People in Northeastern Ontario

By Carol Kauppi, Henri Pallard and Arshi Shaikh.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Place and space are central to human ways of organizing the experience of living. Homelessness is an experience of displacement that profoundly modifies a person’s sense of self and place. This paper examines the forces that propel the flow of migratory homeless people into urban communities in northern Ontario, Canada. In order to advance knowledge in the area of place attachment among homeless migrants, the paper addresses three objectives: (i) to examine the proportion of migratory persons in the homeless population (ii) to describe the characteristics, including the gender, culture and language among homeless, migratory persons as well as their reasons for homelessness and migration and (iii) to explore the meaning of and attachment to places among migratory homeless persons. The study utilized quantitative and qualitative data gathered in Sudbury, Ontario. The data were from a period prevalence count of homeless people and focus groups with service users. In addition, an analysis of interviews with fifteen homeless individuals who had experienced migration was carried out to acquire a deeper understanding of their sense of place and belonging. The quantitative data, based on a sample of 349 homeless adults, revealed that 28% (n=98) self-identified as migrants. The profile of migrants indicated that they tended to be Aboriginal, male, absolutely homeless and without custody of dependent children. Analysis of place attachments among migrant homeless individuals revealed that various spaces were transformed into meaningful places when homeless migrants forged bonds with others and met their existential needs. The bonds migrant homeless individuals formed with places they inhabited were central to their identity and a sense of belonging; hence along with race, class and gender, elements of place should also be considered in virtually any study, particularly those examining issues such as power, exclusion, and inequality within society.

Keywords: Space, Place Attachment, Migration, Homelessness, Northern Ontario, Canada

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.97-107. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 339.404KB).

Dr. Carol Kauppi

Professor, School of Social Work, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Carol Kauppi is Professor of Social Work and Director of the Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy at Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Her research interests have focussed in recent years mainly on girlhood, adolescence, motherhood and homelessness in northern communities. Professor Kauppi is also the Director of a five-year research project dealing with homelessness and migration in northern Ontario. She has published many articles and reports dealing with homelessness and housing, racism, family issues, young mothers, parenting including postpartum depression, and child and family poverty in Sudbury and northern Ontario. Between 2003 and 2008, she completed a multi-year, province-wide and national project on girlhood. As part of this project she co-edited and published an anthology of girls’ creative writing and art entitled girlSpoken: from pen, brush and tongue as well as a facilitator’s guide for teachers and service providers. The girlSpoken book has received an award from the Amelia Bloomer Project which is sponsored by the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association.

Dr. Henri Pallard

Professor, Department of Law and Justice, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Pallard is a professor in the Department of Law and Justice at Laurentian University as well as the Director of the International Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Law. He is an Associate Director with the Poverty, Homelessness and Migration research project. He has worked on various projects on homelessness, such as relations between homeless people and police, and homelessness in First Nations. He works extensively with the an international team of researchers on the challenges facing the implementation of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in North Africa. Of particular concern is their relation with culture and how culture affects a society’s understanding of human freedom, constitutional government and free and fair elections.

Dr. Arshi Shaikh

Research Associate, Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Arshi Shaikh completed her Ph.D. in the Interdisciplinary Rural and Northern Health Ph.D. Program at Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada in 2011. Her research interests include women’s mental health issues (e.g., postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder), psychosocial determinants of mental health, and mental health program evaluation. Dr. Shaikh’s Ph.D. dissertation is a qualitative study about resilience among women who experience postpartum depression and their supporting others in the northern communities of Ontario, Canada. Dr. Shaikh’s research has also focused on migration and homelessness. Dr. Shaikh completed her Master of Social Work degree at Laurentian University in 2012.