Eric Weissman Ph.D. has been studying homelessness, housing and social policy in Canadian and US cities since 1999. Having recovered from the lived experience of episodic homelessness and addictions, over 23 years ago, he is well familiar with the difficulty people have when trying to find and keep safe and stable housing, which is essential to addressing other health concerns. His current academic work began in 1999 in tent camps and shantytowns like Toronto’s Tent City, which was the subject of his first film, “Subtext-real stories” (2005; 2012). He lived for a short time at Dignity Village Oregon, the first legal shantytown in US history, and the main site for his dissertation fieldwork completed at Concordia University in Montreal.
In 2014 his dissertation was awarded the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies Distinguished Dissertation Award. His work is comparative and critical. He looks at the provisions that make a range of housing models, from Housing First to tiny home communities, which he calls Intentional Homeless Communities, feasible in the context of widespread homelessness in North American cities. He uses photos, video, and visual elicitation practices to understand the narratives impacting how social policies are designed, experienced and critiqued. His work is a form of community based critical and pragmatic ethnography that asks stakeholders of various kinds in the areas of housing, homelessness, mental health and addictions, “how do you see the world, and how might you change it?”
He has led a number of community based research projects examining policies governing housing for vulnerable populations, published two books, presented at many international conferences and speaks publicly about issues related to his research and lived experience. In 2017, he was honoured to be a contributing author of the Canadian Definition of Indigenous Homelessness (Thistle, COH 2017), a policy piece now adopted widely by governments across Canada.