Research at University of New Brunswick helps people rethink future of homelessness | UNB is here | UNB

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Research at University of New Brunswick helps people rethink future of homelessness

Homelessness is one of the most significant social problems facing society today. Eric Weissman, assistant professor of sociology on UNB’s Saint John campus, wants to change people’s minds about what that means and how we can become part of the solution.

Drawing from his own experiences with addiction and homelessness, Weissman uses photography and documentary filmmaking to help students, researchers and community partners understand current approaches to homelessness. He wants to know if these approaches work and the role that those experiencing homelessness should play in developing their housing solutions.

Changing the narrative on what it means to be deserving

Twenty years ago, investments in housing for people experiencing addictions or mental health issues were limited. So, how can we change that? How can we create safer, inclusive spaces for people impacted by homelessness? And what are the impacts of housing on harm reduction?

By examining the social factors and personal traumas that drive people out of housing, into housing instability and often to the streets, Weissman’s research is providing a glimpse of how we can rethink the future of homelessness.

Examining emerging and evolving alternative solutions to homelessness

In more recent years, tiny home communities like Dignity Village in Oregon, and supported emergency tent encampments like Right to Dream Too also in OR, have been created as forms of self-governing communities for the previously homeless.

Housing, especially supportive modes for those who need it, is not only a stable, safe place that protects a person from the elements, but it also contributes to overall health. Solutions, such as tent camps and other intentional communities, are not just about shelter but people needing attachments to others or the community. In Canada, Homes for Heroes in Calgary and Fredericton’s 12 Neighbours Community are examples of the evolution of these forms.

Changing ideas to impact the community

Weissman is helping change people’s opinions about housing not only as a fundamental human right but as a way of reducing social and individual harm. His ideas not only have an impact on those experiencing homelessness but, on the policymakers, and service providers who work to improve their lives, as well as the public because we are the ones that must drive change.