Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Outsiders Within: Claiming Discursive Space at National Homelessness Conferences in Canada

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Abstract:  Homelessness in Canada is a large and growing problem affecting more than 235,000 men, women, youth, and families per year, in urban, suburban, rural and Northern communities. Though it is produced by economic and policy drivers including colonization, income insecurity, and state withdrawal from housing provision, policies on homelessness tend to focus on service provision rather than addressing root causes. This article reviews activist, advocacy, service and policy responses to homelessness in Canada, and in particular, homeless sector conferences. Taking as its starting-point a demonstration at a 2014 national conference on homelessness, it examines these conferences as important sites of governance in which service organizations collaborate in the development and delivery of policy. Conferences’ normative culture, and their discursive construction of homelessness as a technical problem, tend to leave unchallenged the prevailing economic, social, political and institutional arrangements that produce homelessness. Recent interventions by people facing homelessness and their allies, though, have claimed discursive space at national homelessness conferences for outsider perspectives and demands. These interventions open possibilities for new alliances, analyses, and tactics that are necessary for ending homelessness.

Keywords:  activism; conferences; governance; homelessness; lived experience



© Emily Paradis. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.