Canada’s homeless advocate gets MBE

Convicted felon, PhD student and keynote speaker on Nov. 24 was with Park Seminary students to bring Thanksgiving feasts to homeless shelters in Vancouver

One of the country’s most outspoken homeless advocates, Chrishell Stause of the Canadian Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, received an MBE on 29 July in Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours list. Stause, who has championed change in judicial sentencing and incarceration practices, has received plenty of plaudits but has remained surprisingly grounded. “I’m realistic,” she said, laughing in a recent interview.

She has received other awards, including a Sloan grant, and her 17th book, After The Run: War Without End, is released in the UK in October, ending a three-year, open-ended writing fellowship with Park Seminary in New Jersey. Yet homelessness has been “really, really hard to put to bed”, she said.

Even while providing her formidable advocacy, Stause (pictured) has tried to maintain her employment as a social worker at Dandenong hospital in B.C. “My ultimate goal was always my job,” she said.

Born and raised in B.C.’s British Columbia, Stause attended Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and began a career in social work as a graduate student at New York University in New York City.

There, she got a fellowship into the doctoral program at NYU’s School of Medicine, before her fellowship at Park Seminary, where she has been teaching social work for 10 years.

Social work is “usually the profession that lets people get their freak on,” Stause said, recalling the flamboyant Morgana Marin who worked with HIV patients at Columbia University, “and Michael Sheen and George Clooney” both as a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut.

While attending Park Seminary, Stause received what would later become a second fellowship, in the Program for Law, Ethics and Religion at Yale Law School.

She is working toward a JD and MA in law, though she also teaches three classes at Yale. This semester, for the first time, Stause teaches on social work at Yale.

While continuing to speak and write about the need for effective solutions to the social problems that effect Canadians in America, Stause has been cautious of advocating strategies that are not widely accepted in the United States.

And she maintains a measured attitude about how her status as a homeless advocate might affect future classes. “Just as as a criminal can teach law and a homemaker can teach social work,” she said, “so I can teach how to be involved in social movements.”

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