The Shattered Mosaic: How Canadian Social Structures Cause Homelessness

By: Mary Ellen Donnan, PhD


Tens of thousands of people are living in Canada without safe secure shelter every night and hundreds of thousands more are precipitously close to losing what housing they have. This book looks at the expenses, options and policies impacting people in Canadian cities to create homelessness. The inadequacy of social housing support in this wealthy country, coupled with indifference to the actual costs of meeting basic needs, means the remnants of our social safety net tend to let down the people who are most in need of help. The core of this book explains how members of certain subsections of our population are made more vulnerable through social structures, prejudice and neglect so that: Aboriginal people, newcomers, people with radicalized identities, single-income families, people with serious health and ability challenges, isolated seniors and gender-queer youth (among others) are less likely to be able to house and feed themselves.

With better understanding of the structural constraints faced by vulnerable people, compassionate social policy upholds human rights and creates the context in which the beautiful diversity of people in Canadian cities can be fully appreciated. Social supports and effective economic regulation can be the metal frame work in which the brilliant colours of different cultures can be held within Canada but the last two decades of federal policy have broken and bent those supports beyond their ability to function.

  • ISBN: 978-1-926476-09-4
    Price: $33.00
    Binding: Paperback
    Date: 2016
    Rights: World
    Pages: 225
    Size: 6” x 9”

  • Table of Contents

    Dedication and Acknowledgements
    Table of Contents
    List of Acronyms
    List of Tables & Figures

    1. Introduction

    2. Life After Neoliberalism: How Poor Policy Creates Homelessness and how Sociology can Create Solutions

    3. The Violence of Women’s Homelessness

    4. Colonialism Causes Homelessness

    5. Bordering On Rejection: Housing Concerns of Newcomers, Immigrants and People of Colour

    6. Conclusions – Building the Mosaic Together

    About the Author

  • Mary Ellen Donnan, PhD

    Mary Ellen Donnan, PhD teaches, researches, and writes as an Associate Professor of Sociology at Bishop’s University in Sherbrook, Quebec. Her classes cover a wide range of sociological topics overlapping with Political Economy, Indigenous Studies and Post-Colonial Studies. Mary Ellen’s strong sense of gratitude for being born in Canada is tempered by a compelling disappointment about the deepening economic inequalities we are witnessing in this country. She shares a home in the Eastern Townships with partner, Gerry Coulter, and two white west highland terriers.

  • How is homelessness produced in Canada? Mary Ellen Donnan tackles this key question through the policies, forces and institutions that create a lack of shelter for large numbers of Canadians. Rather than beginning with the homeless themselves, she makes the case for understanding what produces those without shelter. This approach is reminiscent of C. Wright Mills’ classic distinction between ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues’. Donnan is making homelessness a public issue by seeking the structural causes of homelessness as a form of economic and social exclusion. In this way, she seeks not only to respond to homelessness as a set of personal troubles but to bring an end to it by making it a public issue. She dedicates the book to an intersectional analysis account of the context that explains homelessness. This is a deeply research monograph operating on multi-scalar evidence from Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa as well as extensive national data. Dr. Donnan provides a key historical context of the decline of social housing, essentially vanishing at the national level, and being downloaded to local levels ill-equipped to address it. The evidence is thoroughly researched with detailed chapters on the nuanced experiences of women, indigenous peoples and immigrants along with other populations impacted by public policies that make major segments of Canadian society vulnerable in terms of shelter. The book is accessible in terms of how the puzzle is addressed and the evidence presented. It is engaged in the sense of identifying faulty public policies that are producing the condition of homelessness.

    Wallace Clement, PhD

    Chancellor’s Professor
    Department Chair Sociology and Anthropology
    Carleton University

    The Shattered Mosaic compellingly traces the failed social policies that have contributed to homelessness, especially for indigenous people, and gives us a road map to move forward in integrating housing, health and social policies to address its seemingly intransigence. This is a well researched book that dispels myths and provides solutions in a compassionate manner.

    Penny Gurstein, PhD, MCIP, RPP

    Professor and Director, School of Community & Regional Planning
    and Centre for Human Settlements

    University of British Columbia

    With substantial evidence and strongly expressed conviction, The Shattered Mosaic challenges popular comfortable ideas of Canada as a caring inclusive mosaic of different social groups. This book shows the relevance of critical sociology in understanding the serious public issues of inequality and oppression. It will arouse much debate. The author demonstrates the destitution of urban homelessness in Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg arising from dominant belief structures and social relations. Impoverishment and homelessness are political constructions generated by settler colonialism, racism and gender discrimination. Informed by a human rights perspective, the book also offers an agenda of policy solutions on affordable housing.

    Michael J. Prince, PhD

    Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy
    Faculty of Human and Social Development
    University of Victoria