Dr. Julia Christensen
Research involves: Using creative, community-engaged research methods to understand the social dimensions of Arctic urbanization and homelessness.
Research relevance: This research will examine the role of northern social policy and governance and uneven rural-urban geographies in rising visible homelessness in urbanizing Arctic locales.
Finding home in an urbanizing Arctic
“Urban” is not a word often used to describe northern communities, and yet there is significant evidence to suggest the North is urbanizing. What urbanization means for the social fabric of northern communities has yet to be fully explored.
For Dr. Julia Christensen, Canada Research Chair in Northern Governance and Public Policy, urbanization not only brings about the concentration of people and resources in key northern locales; it also intensify forms of social marginalization. In response, Dr. Christensen’s work looks at a significant social phenomenon facing an increasing number of northerners: homelessness. While northern housing need has been the focus of significant attention in recent years, the ways in which homelessness and urbanization intersect have not been explored. Christensen’s work addresses this gap by exploring the challenges and opportunities presented by an urbanizing Arctic to housing, social health supports and social inclusion for people experiencing crisis.
Alaska, the Canadian North and Greenland are all responding to demographic change and homelessness in various ways, while experiencing similar social, health, economic, political and infrastructural challenges. Building on previous work in the Canadian North, Dr. Christensen adopts a broad geographical scope to address the specific role of the changing social welfare state on northern social, cultural and health geographies.
With the aim to inform social change through meaningful northern policy research, Dr. Christensen uses creative, community-engaged research methods to engage with diverse northern conceptualizations of home in order to identify new areas for culturally safe policy and program interventions to support the alleviation of homelessness.