With homelessness being one of the issues increasingly at the forefront of policy discussion, The Medium sat down with Dr. Alison Smith, an assistant professor in political science at the University of Toronto Mississauga, to learn more about her current research on chronic homelessness in Canada’s major cities, and to gain insight about policies surrounding homelessness and the current capacity of the welfare state.

Chronic homelessness, as Smith described, is a smaller part of the much larger issue of homelessness. She explains that in some definitions, a person living in a shelter wouldn’t be considered homeless because technically, they have a roof over their head. The issue however, with operationalizing a label, is more complicated than simply drawing a line of separation, because often, the manifestations overlap and intersect. In Smith’s research, she focuses more on what having a home means. “A home is generally a legal space […] you have rights to. It’s a private space you have some type of control over, […] a social space that you have access to.”