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Personal profile


Sarah Johnsen is a Professorial Fellow in the Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University.  After completing her PhD in Human Geography at the University of Otago (New Zealand), Sarah worked as Research Associate in the Geography Department at Queen Mary University of London.  She was then employed as Research Manager for The Salvation Army (UK & Ireland) before moving to a post as Research Fellow in the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York.  Sarah has been based at Heriot-Watt University since 2010.

Research interests

Most of Sarah’s research focuses on homelessness, addiction, and related forms of street culture (e.g. begging and street drinking).  She has particular expertise in relation to ‘deep’ social exclusion and welfare provision for people with complex support needs such as co-occurring substance misuse and mental health problems. Sarah also has ongoing interests in the role of faith communities in welfare provision, and the practice and ethics of research involving vulnerable people.

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Research Output

Homelessness and poverty: reviewing the links

Johnsen, S. & Watts, B., Aug 2014, Heriot-Watt University. 48 p.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

2039 Downloads (Pure)

Faith, values and metaphysical positionality

Johnsen, S. & Fitzpatrick, S., 2016, (Accepted/In press) How to Research Religion: Putting Methods Into Practice. Woodhead, L. (ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  • Open Access
  • 14 Citations (Scopus)
    426 Downloads (Pure)
    Open Access
    Open Access
  • 124 Downloads (Pure)


    Plenary presentation at Australasian Housing Research Conference, Adelaide

    Sarah Johnsen (Keynote speaker)

    7 Feb 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Presentation for the Humanist Society Scotland

    Sarah Johnsen (Invited speaker)

    17 Mar 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentationPublic lecture

    Invited talk at the Homelessness and Support Practice Exchange Forum

    Sarah Johnsen (Invited speaker)

    11 May 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Public lecture hosted by St John's Methodist Church, Hamilton, New Zealand

    Sarah Johnsen (Speaker)

    5 Apr 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentationPublic lecture

    Plenary presentation at Housing First Scotland Pathfinders and Leaders Connect event

    Sarah Johnsen (Keynote speaker)

    28 Nov 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk