Access, barriers and role of transit for homeless shelter residents in Surrey, British Columbia




Greenwell, Peter

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In this research, I examine the mediating role of transit and the mobility needs and experience of individuals who are homeless in the suburban community of Surrey, BC. I have used Harvey’s (2005) conception of social spatial sorting as a means of understanding the suburbanization of poverty and Galtung’s structural violence (1969) as a means of understanding the experience of homeless transit access. I employed a multiple case study, using semi-structured interviews, with residents and staff of three homeless shelters, located in three distinct neighbourhoods in Surrey. A cross-case analysis of the interview data was undertaken, to draw conclusions and recommendations for policy development and research concerning the transit needs of people who are homeless. To provide a policy context, a review of existing transit access programs available for people who are homeless and/or low-income is presented demonstrating the range of criteria and best practices. Four dimensions of transit access were identified by residents and staff: physical, temporal, social and financial (Kenyon et al., 2003). Residents had the most constrained agency (Coe & Jordhus-Lier et al., 2010) in relation to the physical and temporal dimensions, so that these dimensions became the most problematic in this suburban context. The importance of considering and understanding the geographic context of shelters and potential impacts on mobility and social inclusion for shelter residents, exiting from homelessness, are demonstrated.



homeless shelter, public transit, social inclusion, structural violence, spatial-fix