project . 2020 - 2022 . Closed

Micro-level mapping: Understanding service hubs from service users' perspectives

UK Research and Innovation
Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: NE/T014652/1
Funded under: NERC Funder Contribution: 10,065 GBP
Status: Closed
31 Mar 2020 (Started) 31 Aug 2022 (Ended)

ESRC : Fiona Long: ES/P00069X/1 Housing First was introduced in Edmonton, Alberta in 2009 and had the ambitious goals of ending homelessness by giving chronically homeless people a permanent home, followed by the provision of wrap-around support, with client choice being a central aspect. Since implementation, HF has yielded several successful outcomes, for example, 80% of HF participants have remained housed for at least 12 months. On the face of it, this move appears to be highly socially progressive. However, when considered within wider context of homeless governance, this shift towards HF simultaneously represents a shift away from forms of emergency support such as hostel and drop-in centres, and consequently a move away from 'service-dependent ghettos' or 'service hubs' (Evans, Collins and Chai, 2018). Service hubs consist of a range of small-scale, often centrally located services, which tend to interact with one another. This spatial concentration of impoverished individuals in deprived, 'no-go' areas is one of the logics underpinning Wacquant's concept of urban marginality (1999). Wacquant emphasises that such neighbourhoods are the creation of state planning and housing policies, and that their diffusion is therefore largely a political issue. Viewed from this perspective, Edmonton's housing policy can be seen in part as an attempt to disperse its homeless service hub. Whilst multiple reasons may underly the socio-spatial management of homeless populations, Evans and DeVerteuil (2018) highlight the prominence of urban gentrification. However, Evans Collins and Chai (2018) have explored the resilience Edmonton's downtown service hub in the face of gentrification; identifying strategies used to defend against displacement and stressing the importance of resilience for the security, wellbeing, and survival of homeless populations. This research project will therefore explore the resilience of service hubs in the wake of HF. A number of studies have sought to explore this topic by first mapping the geographical locations of service hubs and then conducting interviews with either representatives of those services (DeVerteuil, 2012; Evans, Collins and Chai, 2018) or users of those services (Kearns et al, 2019). These studies begin by identifying meso-level service hub assemblages, before focusing on micro-level accounts. Rather than taking a pre-established map of service hubs as its starting point, this study represents a new methodological approach, which will encourage homeless individuals to create their own maps; using micro-level accounts to identify meso-level assemblages. A bottom-up approach to mapping homeless cities can unveil 'hidden' aspects of these landscapes which may be invisible to non-homeless people e.g. CCTV cameras (Kiddey, 2014). Further, as the 'urban environment both shapes and is shaped by all those who inhabit it' (Cloke, May and Johnsen, 2008: 241), remapping the city in this way can draw attention to the ways in homeless individuals rework space through both tactical negotiations and spontaneous emotions within the context of regulation and resistance. I will recruit participants on a convenience basis, asking to accompany them whilst they go about their usual routines. GPS technology will be used to track these daily movements, thereby creating an individual service hub map (Hall and Smith, 2013). I will combine GPS-mapping with auto-photography, by asking participants photograph places which they utilise or are significant to them (Johnsen, May and Cloke, 2008). Accompanying conversations will be conceived as a type of unstructured interview. This study will locate individual narratives within the changing terrains homeless governance, in order to explore the resilience of Edmonton's service hub in the wake of HF. GPS maps will also be plotted against existing service hub maps to assess points of convergence and divergence.

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