Photovoice and Homelessness in Subarctic and Urban Communities: Art-based Research, Housing and Health

By Henri Pallard, Carol Kauppi and Jessica Hein.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A photovoice approach was used to enable homeless and precariously housed people to speak, through their photographs and narratives, to the community at large about their housing conditions and the effects on their health. Photographs from participants in three communities—one of European origin and two First Nations in northern Ontario, Canada—were provided with cameras. The comparison of remote Indigenous and urban communities makes this study unique. The photographs and narratives reveal similarities in their housing conditions and living circumstances. Each photograph tells its own story about couch surfing, sleeping rough, overcrowding, and substandard or inadequate housing. Notwithstanding their cultural, linguistic and geographic differences, the participants identified common themes in their photographs and narratives. This allowed for a comparison of understandings regarding the negative impacts of housing on their physical and mental health. The findings from this arts-based project are similar to results of medical studies on the effects of poverty and housing on health. An art based approach through photovoice can be a powerful tool to sensitise both health professionals working with this population and the larger community to such issues, and it can enhance the possibilities for social transformation based on social justice. The arts become a tool in the struggle for social justice by revealing hidden aspects of life at the margins, the living conditions of poor and homeless people. A photo exhibit will tour galleries in the three communities.

Keywords: Photovoice, Homelessness, Health

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 10, Issue 1, March 2015, pp.25-41. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.358MB).

Dr. Henri Pallard

Professor, Department of Law and Justice, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Carol Kauppi

Professor, School of Social Work, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Jessica Hein

Lecturer, Department of Arts, Culture and Media, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jessica Hein is a visual artist based in Toronto. She received her Master of Visual Studies (Studio) from the University of Toronto and her BFA from NSCAD University. In 2010 Jessica received the Charlotte Wilson-Hammond Award, recognizing excellence in the visual arts in Nova Scotia and was short-listed for the HRM Award for Contemporary Visual Art. Most recently, she received the 2013 MVS Award at the University of Toronto. In addition to her art practice, Jessica has curated exhibitions and worked on community arts and book projects. Jessica also teaches in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto Scarborough.