Kerstin Stuerzbecher

GLS/SAR PhD Candidate


  • Langara College Diploma Nursing, 1986
  • BA, SFU, 1990
  • MA, GLS, SFU, 2002


Kerstin Stuerzbecher worked for more than twenty years attempting to bring about profound change and reshape housing and support services for marginalized people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

She was instrumental in taking an approach based on a set of values and applying these into practice.  For instance, offering and operating housing for people often considered ‘undeserving’ due to active drug use, mentally illness and survival sex work.  She ensured medical and dental care was provided to people who did not fit into mainstream programs, created access to banking services for people excluded from traditional financial services, and offered job training and employment to people often deemed ‘valueless.’

Struggling to change drug, health and housing policies for the most vulnerable people in the city, Kerstin balanced a complex position of providing services funded by government while also resisting and fighting against government or “dominant” narratives, and simplistic solutions, by participating in advocacy and activism to address inequality.  This included such controversial campaigns as the fight to open the only public supervised injection site in North America.

Originally from Germany, Kerstin engaged as accordionist with the performing arts and ‘avant clown’ scene when she arrived in Vancouver and still plays Edith Piaf’s songs for her dog Linus.

Research Description

Empathy, Care and ‘Redundant Humans’ – Limits and Possibilities

Stuerzbecher’s interdisciplinary research project aims to participate in and contribute to current discourse on society’s care for those of its members who are suffering from social exclusion due to poverty, mental illness, addiction and homelessness. It will explore notions of care within moral philosophy and virtue ethics, sociology, as well as religious studies, and investigate their contributions to a more nuanced societal approach to and understanding of the care of the marginal.

The social institutions that have been established to address the needs of the marginal often appear to work in ways that leave the circumstances of many marginal persons unchanged, and at times made worse, raising questions as to how society is to move forward and address the issues that contribute to marginalization in progressive ways.

Central to this investigation is how “care” is defined.  Traditionally care of the marginal has been focused on meeting the basic needs of a person such as food and shelter, and been increasingly expanded to include access to a variety of services.  However, is care about offering services or is care to be understood as a more complex concept, establishing social relations that assist people to feel connected to society as active contributors and make engaging in daily life a more rewarding experience? In short, how broadly is the concept of care to be conceptualized?

Research Assistantships

  • 2015 - ongoing:  Assistant to Dr. Eleanor Stebner, Department Chair, Humanities.  
    Subject of study: Neighbourhood Houses in Vancouver

Community Presentations

  • ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ – Reason and Passion and their Discontents in Beethoven and Tolstoy - Shadbolt GLS Big Idea Seminar Series, Spring 2016
  • Feeling Alienated? What Marx Can Still Teach Us - Shadbolt GLS Big Idea Seminar Series, Winter 2016
  • Compassionate Citizenship: Why We Care  - Shadbolt GLS Big Idea Seminar Series, Fall 2015