Stability and Crisis: Creating a Sense of Home in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside




Taylor, Sophia

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Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) is an extensively researched neighbourhood, as the nexus of the city’s affordable housing crisis. The lack of affordable apartments and houses in the area has led to widespread improvisation and adaptation among community members. Many living spaces, such as SRO hotels and streets, do not provide the same sense of privacy and control common among those with access to private, self-contained suites and houses. Despite the unique nature of these practices, the process of home-making in the DTES has gone largely ignored by ethnographies of home. This thesis presents community members’ own stories of home, shared in interviews, to argue for the broadening of the ethnographic understanding of the home. In the DTES, community members speak not only of a private, physical home in their rooms or suites, but of a broader social home consisting of friendships, family, and other interpersonal supports. These two meanings of the word “home” coexist in the neighbourhood, and often overlap to demonstrate a strong sense of place-based community. This thesis argues for the inclusion of these definitions of home in home ethnography, broadening ethnographic understandings of the home to allow for the improvisation and flexibility that are so common in contexts of housing insecurity. The DTES described by community members provides a vibrant, layered home for its residents. Although many community members struggle to find stable housing, many already have a sense of home; this sense of home is presented here at the intersection of home and urban ethnographies.



Home ethnography, Downtown Eastside, Sensory ethnography, urban ethnography, Housing insecurity, Community