Confronting homelessness

Understanding life on the streets to better support the urban poor

When Joshua Freistadt first moved to Edmonton for graduate school, he found a city with a surging economy—and visible homelessness. For his doctoral research at the University of Alberta, Freistadt conducted extensive ethnographic research with Edmonton’s homeless—and those who work with them.

Through a range of interviews with Edmonton’s street-involved adults, he began assembling a comprehensive portrait of the experiences common to the city’s homeless: from racialized policing to anti-panhandling campaigns and social services.

Freistadt’s research demonstrates the need for accessible service centres throughout Edmonton—rather than concentrating homeless people in the city core—makes the case for eliminating Edmonton’s panhandling bylaws and reviewing the practice of transporting homeless people to service centres.

Having completed his doctorate, Freistadt is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Manitoba. He consults for businesses and policymakers, using his research to improve urban planning, social services and policing.

“There’s so much effort being channelled into homelessness right now, and there’s a lot of great work happening,” he says. “But any responses have to be considered from the perspective of those people who are going through them.”