Alison Smith

Event information

Guest speaker:

Alison Smith, associate professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto.


Despite decades of efforts, billions of dollars, and multiple plans to “end” homelessness, more people are unhoused in Canada than ever before. Previously thought of as a big city problem, communities in all sizes across Canada are now grappling with crises of a lack of affordable housing and homelessness. This research seeks to understand why a country that is as rich, and as cold, as Canada fails to provide adequate, safe, affordable housing to everyone.

My work seeks to understand the homelessness crisis from a governance perspective by asking what explains different patterns of governance of homelessness across Canada. Looking at homelessness from this perspective uncovers some significant challenges, but also opportunities, posed by the distribution of powers and responsibilities in the Canadian federation. The presentation will begin with a close look at the country’s biggest cities – Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary – but will also present early results from the next stage of this project, which studies homelessness governance in small, mid-sized, and northern communities. Drawing on interviews with key policy-makers at all levels of government and in all sectors of society, and with a focus on ideas and institutions, this work shows important shifts in how homelessness is understood, and how homelessness is governed in the past five years. Local and regional governments in particular are taking a much more active role in the production of social protection for some of the most vulnerable people living in Canada, a fascinating development that has important implications for social policy governance more broadly.

If you require accommodation, please contact the event host as soon as possible.
Date and time
Nov 23, 2023
1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Format and location
In person
Social Sciences Building (FSS), room 4004
General public, Researchers, Graduate students, Undergraduate students
Organized by
Centre on Governance, Research Centre on the Future of Cities, Jean-Luc Pepin Research Chair