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Contextualizing street homelessness in New Zealand: A case study approach

Homelessness is commonly associated with large urban settings. For people who sleep on the streets it encompasses experiences of stigma, regulation and displacement, marginalization, violence, loneliness, and bodily decline. This thesis addresses the lack of research into the everyday practices of homeless people in New Zealand through a detailed exploration of the experiences of four homeless people. Through critically engaging with relevant scholarly literature this study documents the importance of human fortitude, agency, and meaningful social engagements in the lives of homeless people. Attention is given to how four homeless people (Brett, Daniel, Joshua and Ariā) construct place-based identities and the relational, spatial and material dimensions of homelessness, which are central to participants’ everyday lives. Participants were recruited through experienced community workers at the Auckland City Mission. A case-based ethnographic approach was used to engage with participants through volunteer work, direct observations, biographical interviews, photo-production projects, and photo-elicitation interviews. Workshops with staff on each case study were conducted to bridge the divide between critical scholars and community groups through advocacy and joint action. The analysis considers each case in turn. Brett differentiates himself from other homeless people and works to find space for himself to gain respite and solitude. Daniel engages in domestic practices on the streets that are commonly associated with home-making, such as decorating a physical space with personal objects and cultivating a sense of place, routine, comfort, and familiarity. Joshua immerses himself in a street family and forms close relationships with other homeless people that provide him with a sense of belonging, purpose, connection, support and responsibility. Ariā exemplifies how Māori cultural practices can enrich and mould a person’s efforts to retain a positive sense of self while homeless. Māori cultural concepts relating to caring, leadership, unity, relationships, spirituality, history and place are evoked to ground understandings of Ariā’s everyday life. Strategies for making a life on the streets involves Brett, Daniel, Joshua and Ariā working to maintain a sense of self and place in the face of adversity. A core finding from this research relates to the resilience of these participants, which spans personal and relational dimensions and extends to the social and physical environment.
Type of thesis
Groot, S. A. M. (2010). Contextualizing street homelessness in New Zealand: A case study approach (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4975
University of Waikato
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