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category: Social Science
published: Nov 2020
publisher: UBC Press

A Complex Exile

Homelessness and Social Exclusion in Canada

by Erin Dej

tagged: poverty & homelessness, mental health

Over 235,000 people couch-surf, stay in emergency shelters, or live on the street in Canada every year. But lack of housing security is just one barrier faced by people who are homeless. As A Complex Exile shows, the homelessness sector inadvertently reinforces social exclusion as well. The very policies, practices, and funding models that exist to house the homeless, promote social inclusion, and provide mental health care form a homelessness industrial complex. These practices emphasize personal responsibility and individualized responses that ultimately serve to exclude people in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Erin Dej demonstrates that the causes of, and responses to, homelessness have become largely medicalized, limiting discussion on structural and systemic drivers such as income inequality, discrimination, and housing affordability. A Complex Exile goes beyond bio-medical and psychological perspectives on homelessness, mental illness, and addiction to call for a transformation in how we respond to homelessness in Canada.

About the Author

Erin Dej

Contributor Notes

Erin Dej is an assistant professor of criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, where she co-authored A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention with Stephen Gaetz, and she is the co-editor of Containing Madness: Gender and ‘Psy’ in Institutional Contexts with Jennifer M. Kilty.

Editorial Reviews

Erin Dej's essential work of non-fiction makes the connection clear between Canada's failed response to the homelessness epidemic and its role in perpetuating social exclusion.

— THIS Magazine

Dej...offer[s] three key truths that the homelessness sector and anyone interested in the field would benefit from hearing.

— Literary Review of Canada

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