University of Calgary

Victoria Burns

  • Associate Professor
  • Curriculum/Program Design & Evaluation
  • Disabilities
  • Homelessness
  • Mental Health

Research Interests

Health, Mental Health and Wellness:

Housing and Homelessness:

Research Methods:

Critical Disability:


Currently Teaching

 P2024 - SOWK 553.12 - Selected Topics: Fields of Practice (Addiction & Recovery)


I am a registered social worker, educator, writer, researcher, and disability and recovery advocate. In addition to these roles, I am a wife and dog mom who has the privilege to live and work on Blackfoot and Treaty 7 Territory, also home to Métis Nation Region 3.

Drawing on over a decade of social work practice and my own lived experiences, my research focuses broadly on the areas of home/homelessness, stigma, disability, addiction, and recovery. I combine my research interests with a passion for storytelling and the arts, including documentary film, to raise awareness and combat stigma for marginalized populations. 

Research and Scholarly Activity

The first arm of my research focuses on the intersection of aging, place, and homelessness.  I recently led a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (PDG) (2019-2021), Aging in the Right Place, funded under a joint initiative between the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and SSHRC. I am also the PI on a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (IDG) (2017-2022), titled Beyond Housing.  One of the key knowledge mobilization activities that emerged from Beyond Housing was a short documentary film that explored the experiences of home and homelessness among seven older Calgarians.

The second arm of my research uses a trauma-informed and anti-stigma lens to transform the way we think of addiction/recovery. I am the lead researcher on a Campus Mental Health Strategy funded Study focusing on substance use disorders, disclosure, and addiction stigma on university campuses.

I am committed to mobilizing research outside academic circles through non-peer reviewed literature, podcasts, my social media (IG: @betesandbites), film, radio, and television. 

Current Research

Moving towards Wellness: Combatting Substance-Related Addiction amongst UCalgary Faculty Members  

Beyond housing: Creating a sense of place among formerly homeless older adults in Calgary, Alberta

Scaling up Peter Coyle Place, Supportive Housing using a Harm Reduction Approach.  


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work, McGill University & Université de Montréal, QC, Canada

Master of Social Work (MSW), McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada Bachelor of Social Work (BSW),

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), McGill University, Montréal, QC, Canada

Bachelor of Arts (Hon.) University of New Brunswick, Saint John, Canada

Professional and Community Associations

I’ve involved and passionate about my work with the Campus Mental Health Strategy’s Substance Use and Harm Reduction Subcommittee. I spearheaded The Faculty of Social Work’s adoption of the Campus Mental Health Strategy (passed at Faculty Council 2019)–and look forward to being involved in it its implementation.

I’m also a member of UCalgary’s O’Brien Institute of Public Health, and have over a decade of service experience with the Canadian’ Associaton of Social Work Education’s Social Policy and Advocacy Committee 


Alberta College of Social Workers 

Alberta Fitness Leaders Certification

Media Work

Film Festivals

Burns, V.F., Kelly, J., Chapple, H., Cartledge, A. (2019, June). Beyond Housing, film screening. 2nd Annual Third Action Film Festival. Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta.

Burns, V.F., et al., (2019, May). Beyond Housing. New Filmmakers Film Festival, New York, New York.

Burns, V.F., et. al, (2019, Feb.). Beyond Housing. Tokyo Cowboys Film Festival, Japan.


Print Media 

UCalgary Magazine (July 15, 2019) for special feature on Aging (interviewer, Mike Fisher). 

CBC On-Line news (June 7, 2019) New film explores seniors and homelessness. Documentary is part of Third Action Film Fest, looking at different facets of aging (interviewer, Stephen Hunt.

Kerby News (May 2019). Celebrating Older Adults through Film (article by Sheila Addiscott)

Trinity Place Foundation Newsletter (April 2019). Older Homelessness Special Feature. 

UToday (May 30, 2018). How Calgary's homeless live, die, survive and thrive on city streets

Calgary Star Magazine (September 2018): Documentary sheds light on struggles of older homeless population in Calgary. Mary Getaneh (reporter), available at:

UToday (September 6, 2018). Short documentary shines light on invisible, older population.

UToday (April 5, 2018). Social work prof’s research into older homelessness is in the running for digital storytelling grant. Available at:

Aging Horizons Bulletin [interview] (March/April 2017). Reporting from Canada on the changing culture of aging, Shining the light on the homeless in Montreal

Yahoo News (2016, April 12). Seniors the 'new face of homelessness’ in Canada.

Senior Times (2015, June 18). Shelters not geared to special needs of older adults. Available at:

Yahoo News (April 12, 2016). Seniors the 'new face of homelessness’ in Canada.

Senior Times (June 18, 2015). Shelters not geared to special needs of older adults. Available at:



Burns, V.F., (2020, Jul. 14). Breaking the Stigma. Sober is Dope Podcast.

Burns, V.F., (2020, Aug.11). The High Cost of Anonymity.

Burns, V.F. (2020, June). Exploring the role of trauma and stigma in recovering from addiction. Sober Gratitude Podcast.

Burns, V.F. (2019, April). Homeless for the first time with Dr. Victoria Burns. The Gerontologist podcast.

Burns, V.F. (March/April 2017). Reporting from Canada on the changing culture of aging, Shining the light on the homeless in Montreal. Aging Horizons Bulletin


Radio Interviews 

CBC Radio Calgary (2019, Jun. 07).  New film explores seniors and homelessness. The Homestretch. Interview with Terri Campbell.

CBC Radio Calgary. (2019, Feb. 12). Changing the face of addiction. Interviewer, Jennifer Lee.  

CBC Radio Calgary (2 février, 2016). Itinérance : où meurt-on quand on n’a plus rien?

CBC Radio Calgary (2016, Feb.). Itinérance : où meurt-on quand on n’a plus rien?


Television / On-Line Videos 

CPAC Channel, Outburst (2018, Dec. 10). MyStory. Special on Aging.


Publications from 2015-Present

Burns, V.F., St.-Denis, N., Walsh, C.A., Hewson, J. (in press). Creating a sense of place after homelessness: We are not “Ready for the Shelf.” Journal of Aging and the Environment. 

Grittner, A., & Burns, V. (2020). Enriching social work research through architectural methods. Qualitative Social Work

Burns, V., Kwan, C., & Walsh, C. A. (2020). Co-producing knowledge through documentary film: A community-based participatory study with older adults with homeless histories. Journal of Social Work Education, 1-12. 

Burns, V., Deslandes-Leduc, J., St.-Denis, N., Walsh, (2019). Finding home after homelessness: Older men’s perspectives in permanent supportive housing. Housing Studies DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2019.1598550. 

Burns, V., Blumenthal, A., & Sitter, S. (2018). How Twitter is changing the meaning of scholarly impact and engagement: Implications for qualitative social work research. Qualitative Social Work.

Burns, V. & Mintzberg, S. (2019).  Co-teaching as teacher training: experiential accounts of two doctoral students. College Teaching, 1-6 

Burns, V. & Sussman, T. (2018).  Homeless for the first time in later life: Uncovering more than one pathway. The Gerontologist. 59(2), 251-259.. doi:10.1093/geront/gnx212

Burns, V., Sussman, T. & Bourgeois-Guérin (2018). Later-life homelessness as disenfranchised grief. Canadian Journal on Aging. 37, (2).

Burns, V., MacDonald, M. E., Carnevale, F. (2018). Epistemological oppression and the road to awakening: A boot camp, A Twitter storm and a call to action. International Journal of Qualitative Methods . 17, 1-6

Akesson, B., Burns, V., & Hordyk, S.-R. (2017). The place of place in social work: Rethinking the person-in-environment model. Journal of Social Work Education, 1-12, doi:10.1080/10437797.2016.1272512.

Burns, V. (2017). Imperfectly moving towards acceptance. Persons living with and inspired by diabetes (PLAID). Fall, 2017 doi:

Burns, V. (2016). Oscillating in and out of place: Experiences of older adults residing in homeless shelters in Montreal, Quebec. Journal of Aging Studies, 39, 11-20. 

Nagel, D., Burns, V., Tilley, C., & Aubin, D. (2015). When novice researchers adopt constructivist grounded theory: Navigating less travelled paradigmatic and methodological paths in PhD dissertation work. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 10, 365-383.

Sussman, T., Yaffe, M., McCusker, J., Burns, V., Strumpf, E., Sewitch, M., & Belzile, E. (2014). A mixed methods exploration of family members’/friends’ roles in a self-care intervention for depressive symptoms. Chronic Illness 10(2), 93-106. doi: 10.1177/1742395313500359. 

Burns, V., Grenier, A., Lavoie, J.-P., Rothwell, D., & Sussman, T. (2012). Les personnes âgées itinérantes—invisibles et exclues. Une analyse de trois stratégies pour contrer l’itinérance. Revue Frontières, 25(1), 31-56.

Burns, V., Lavoie, J.-P., & Rose, D. (2012). Revisiting the role of neighbourhood change in social exclusion and inclusion of older people. Journal of Aging Research. Volume (2012).

Lavoie, J.-P., Rose, D., Burns, V., & Covanti, V. (2011). La gentrification de la Petite-Patrie. Quelle place et quel pouvoir pour les aînés? Diversité urbaine, 11 (1), 59-80.

Burns, V. (2018). Les personnes âgées en situation d’itinérance : Sont-ils des marginaux de longue date? Le vieillissement sous la loupe : Entre mythes et réalités. Presse : Université de Laval, Quebec, QC.


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