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Uncovering The Ties That Bind: Homelessness Among Immigrants and Refugees in the GVRD Kathy Sherrell (UBC) and Silvia DAddario (York) Metropolis 8 th National.

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Presentation on theme: "Uncovering The Ties That Bind: Homelessness Among Immigrants and Refugees in the GVRD Kathy Sherrell (UBC) and Silvia DAddario (York) Metropolis 8 th National."— Presentation transcript:

1 Uncovering The Ties That Bind: Homelessness Among Immigrants and Refugees in the GVRD Kathy Sherrell (UBC) and Silvia DAddario (York) Metropolis 8 th National Conference Presentation March 2006

2 Study on the Profile of Absolute and Relative Homelessness Among Immigrants, Refugees, and Refugee Claimants in the GVRD Sub-Study 2 Relative Homelessness 36 interviews with successful refugee claimants, and 4 Key informant interviews Explore the housing trajectory of successful refugee claimants (SRC) Sub-Study 1 Absolute Homelessness 12 Key informant interviews, and a Systemic survey of shelters in the GVRD Collect information on people using shelters over seven 24 hour periods between October 2004 and December 2004 Sub-Study 3 Relative Homelessness Immigrant and refugee housing survey (IHRS) October 4-8, 2004 Explore relative homelessness and in- groups systems of support ©MOSAIC

3 Context Immigration, Housing, Economic literatures all point to the increasing evidence that immigrants do not fare as well economically as their Canadian-born counterparts. –Recent cohorts are subject to lower relative incomes, and experience a delayed catch-up period (e.g. Picot, 2004).

4 If Not Here, Then Where? Despite high levels of economic disadvantage, immigrants and refugees are disproportionately under-represented in the shelter system. –38% of the population in the GVRD, but less than 18% in our shelter survey. So, the question arises …. Where are they receiving help from?

5 The answer (at least in part…) relates to social capital …the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance (Bourdieu, 1986). The networks of social relations that can provide people and groups with (the access to) resources and support. (Policy Research Initiative, 2006).

6 Taking Care of Their Own … When facing a lack of secure housing, it was suggested that members of established ethno- cultural and/or religious groups stay with family or other acquaintances, instead of relying on emergency shelters. –Access to networks may be facilitated by shelters workers and/or other service providers.

7 Living on the Edge… Results from the Immigrant and Refugee Housing Survey reveal: –28 % of respondents receiving help –15% of respondents providing help Those providing assistance often do so despite living in precarious situations themselves. These findings underscore the importance of in- group networks that bring about mutual aid, such that coping mechanisms are found and homelessness among immigrants and refugees remains largely hidden.

8 Why is this important? The literature on social capital talks about bonding, bridging and linking, meaning that people start with the bonds that they have with close friends and family, and then they move to bridging with others of different ethnic, class, and/or gender groups. This leads to linking with public services and supportive institutions.

9 But …. This process (bonding, bridging and linking) implicitly assumes that all people can attain and/or access social capital either through family and friends or through other networks. While the findings of the shelter survey and the IRHS support this assumption, the findings of the claimant study, however, suggest otherwise.

10 Falling Through the Cracks… The Refugee Claimant Study –The availability of networks are not equal across populations –Given the combination of uncertain legal status, lack of official language ability, unfamiliarity with Canadian society, claimants are the most likely of all newcomers to fall between the cracks.

11 Questions…. If immigrants and refugees are – at least for the most part – taking care of their own, then there is no need for government services or funding, right? Certainly, critics could argue that highlighting the importance of social capital will only prompt the government to divert its resources away from the public claiming that social services are no longer needed since (social) resources within the community are substantial in assisting the integration of newcomers.

12 Continued role of Government On the contrary, the findings of the Policy and Research Initiative (2006) study acknowledges the key role that social capital plays in assisting community development but at the same time this research notes that government is needed (directly and indirectly) in order to facilitate social capital.

13 Conclusions? We have seen that systems of ethnic resources and social capital appear to help newcomers escape the worst forms of absolute homelessness. Can these social networks be fostered in the larger metropolitan community? If so, how?


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