Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 3rd 2015 Contents SUNDAY 3rd may, 2015 -- UWI TODAY 9
"When we can understand what areas people have
come from, what villages, what circumstances in life, and
how long people have been without stable housing, the
pathways to homelessness can become routes for exiting
street-life," she says.
Starting as a small project funded by this campus,
Dr. Kissoon has interviewed approximately 100 street
dwellers in Port of Spain, San Juan, and San Fernando.
e research re-conceptualizes street dwelling along
a continuum of housing types and circumstances and
addresses homelessness by situating people's present housing
conditions in the context of their whole housing histories,
including personal vulnerabilities and structural factors that
contributed to their homelessness and that keep them from
attaining and retaining stable housing.
Dr. Kissoon's study builds on the work of other
UWI researchers, including Dr. Ronald Marshall and
Professor Ralph Premdas, who have provided a snapshot
of homelessness around the Caribbean, with a focus on
youth. According to Dr. Kissoon, previous research has
shown that homeless adults who have experienced child
or youth homelessness are harder to house than homeless
people who have never experienced homelessness in
their youth. Furthermore, the more times a person has
lived on the streets, the harder it is to nd a solution to
their homelessness because the streets have become a
home. In other words, the two preconditions for long
term or "chronic" homelessness are early rst incidents of
homelessness and episodic or repeated homelessness.
With a deeper understanding of the individual
geographies of homelessness predictors of "chronicity"
may become apparent, in combination with other factors
such as poverty, family instability, early drug use, and
school under-achievement or dropping out. Improving a
holistic understanding of homeless histories as a part of
people's overall housing experiences reveals opportunities
for preventing street dwelling through timely intervention,
particularly in the lives of youth and young adults. By
exposing the roots of street-dwelling, Dr. Kissoon's research
sensitizes the public and policy makers to the trajectories
that precede homelessness, which should make it easier
for stakeholders to respond with both care and attention.
Regarding ameliorating patterns of repeated street-
dwelling, housing supply is a major issue in urban
infrastructure, and even if street dwellers were willing
and able to pay for low-cost accommodation, a ordable
alternatives to the streets do not exist in either the private
or public rental sectors.
Trinidad and Tobago may have shelters, but it does not
have supported transitional housing to assist in stabilizing
and rehabilitating the lives of street dwellers, although
there are good examples of State interventions in the
Piparo Empowerment Centre and New Horizons. While
considering how to tackle housing supply issues through
partnerships in the government and not-for-pro t sectors,
trained social workers can mediate with existing family and
friends to take in willing candidates from the streets. While
homeless people may have some social capital on the streets
that have contributed to their survival, Dr. Kissoon argues
that the bridging nature of this capital to support returns to
home is extremely weak for street dwellers, particularly if
they struggle with addictions, mental or physical disabilities,
or if the cause of their homelessness was family-related.
erefore, successful exits from street-life may be more
likely amongst those people who have been able to maintain
ties to a social support network that is housed (usually old
friends and family)
e stark income reality is that street dwellers face
a double-edged sword when it comes to employment;
while they may be willing to tote and sweep and perform
other tasks to subsist, some small employers are unable to
compensate street-dwellers su ciently for savings, while
other employers take advantage of the marginalization of the
homeless in order to exploit their cheap and ready labour.
Even if they were paid, the lived experience of
homelessness is characterized by insecurity, vulnerability,
and substance abuse, which places them at high risk of being
victims of the , and violence.
As part of Dr. Kissoon's research, she has begun to
map her participants' street-dwelling locations in relation
to resources available for homeless persons, as well as
street-dwellers' communities of origin. is can be used to
link homeless persons to nearby resources and to illustrate
the distance of people's social displacement from their
communities to the streets, thereby indicating the place
of rural homelessness and residential mobility in people's
housing histories. In e ect, the mapping has a dual role: to
illustrate sites of intervention that could have kept people
housed before the pavements seemed like their only resort;
and also to reveal cities as sites of benevolence for people
living in the darkest recesses of the margins of society.
Until more permanent solutions to street-dwelling
are researched and assessed for their feasibility in a local
context, there is a network of charitable, faith-based, and
government-supported initiatives to feed, clothe, bathe,
heal, and temporarily shelter homeless people. Recognizing
the present limitations in housing supply, outreach and
programs to keep homeless persons healthy, clean, and
active can reduce the stigma of street dwelling by improving
the everyday conditions of street dwellers' lives.
Complementing Dr. Kissoon's research activities, Mr.
Leevun Solomon is an MPhil candidate in Geography at
the St. Augustine campus. He is proposing to examine the
process of acculturation to "street-life" amongst homeless
persons. With Dr. Kissoon as his supervisor, he will explore
the ways in which living on the streets a ects a person's
identity over time, so that the streets themselves become
"home." Mr. Solomon hypothesizes that integration to street
life, and the homeless identity, are barriers to rehabilitating
the hardest to house and chronically homeless persons.
e pavements are just one dwelling place in a housing
trajectory that consists of many other places, and locating
the transitional points from housing to homelessness will
contribute to a holistic multi-stakeholder strategy to reduce
the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness
in the future in this country.
How is this Geography? Social justice is closely related
to spatial justice, just as housing is related to both mobility
and status. Geographers are fundamentally preoccupied by
the relationship between humans and their environment,
and that includes various population groups and the built
environment. As an urban social geographer, Dr. Kissoon
analyses the relationships between space and belonging
through scale, location, site, situation, and the meaning
of places. Research in urban social geography and the
meanings of space and place follow a long tradition in
For more information about projects and opportunities in human geography Dr. Kissoon can be contacted at: the Department of Geography,
e UWI, St. Augustine campus at 662 2002 ext 82699 or email@example.com
Have you ever wondered who street dwellers are or where they are from? Dr. Priya Kissoon, of the Department of Geography,
at e UWI, St. Augustine campus has been interviewing street dwellers in Trinidad and Tobago to nd out just that.
She would like to see research conducted on a national scale to help reduce the numbers of homeless people on the streets.
of the housing
histories of socially
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