Make-work methodology

Canadian homelessness research and its role in austerity

Sophia Ilyniak

Published in Issue 4.2 // The Long Read

Keywords: Homelessness, research, austerity, non-profit sector


Observations from the frontlines of the Canadian homelessness research community demonstrate that it largely constitutes ‘make-work’: activities carried out to keep busy and thus perpetuate the non-profit sector and maintain the status quo. It achieves this through its conceptualization of socio-economic issues and selection of acceptable questions—essentially, through its methodological decisions—which do little to challenge the forces that dispossess and displace people. The resulting policy and programmatic responses promote widely-accepted cost-saving ‘solutions’ to homelessness, and thus, state austerity, which ultimately deepens poverty. The cycle of make-work continues. Instead of upholding a private, competitive ‘population management industry,’ how can we produce knowledge that directly supports resistance to the common struggle of housing deprivation? Inverting the dominant methodology means accounting for who created, perpetuates and benefits from the housing crisis, not accounting for austerity’s sake.

Sophia Ilyniak is a doctoral student in Geography at York University, Toronto. Her research interrogates the political economy of the third sector, its intersections with processes of sub/urbanization and neoliberal restructuring, and the possibilities of organizing for political and social change outside of it.

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