Finding Home in an Urbanizing Arctic
“Urban” is not a word most of us associate with northern communities—yet there is significant evidence to suggest the North is urbanizing. What that means for the social fabric of northern communities has yet to be fully explored.
Dr. Julia Christensen, Canada Research Chair in Northern Governance and Public Policy, has noticed that urbanization not only results in higher concentrations of people and resources in key northern locales, it also intensifies some forms of social marginalization. Her work is responding to this by looking at a significant social phenomenon now facing an increasing number of northerners: homelessness.
While housing need in the North has been the focus of much attention in recent years, we are less familiar with the ways in which homelessness and urbanization intersect. Christensen’s work addresses this gap by exploring how an urbanizing Arctic presents both challenges and opportunities in housing, social health supports, and social inclusion for people in crisis.
Alaska, the Canadian North and Greenland are responding to demographic change and homelessness in various ways while experiencing similar social, health, economic, political and infrastructural challenges. Building on previous work in the Canadian North, Christensen and her research team are adopting a broad geographical scope to study how the changing social welfare state affects Northern people’s experience of society, culture and health.
Christensen’s work will inform social change through meaningful northern policy research, and will identify new areas for culturally safe policy and program interventions to address homelessness.