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Garden Place: Who Belongs Here? Individuals' Attitude Towards Hamilton's Homeless Population

Like many other countries, it was during the 1980s that homelessness emerged as a social problem in New Zealand. It first became a prominent issue in cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. However, in later years surveys and census readings indicated that the homeless population increased in many other cities throughout New Zealand - including Hamilton. As years passed, the number of homeless individuals increased in Hamilton, along with their tendency to congregate within the Central Business District - specifically in the popular town square known as Garden Place. Subsequently news articles emerged highlighting the congregation of the homeless in Garden Place. Media portrayals labelled these homeless men and women as a ‘problem’ for businesses and city users’ alike. As a result many expressed a need for a solution to the homeless who congregate within Garden Place. Garden Place was thus chosen as the prime area of study within this research. In addition, although conscious of the potential emergence of the contestation of this public space, and irrespective of media portrayals, this study was developed to further examine the expressed (through interviews) and observed attitudes that individuals have towards Hamilton’s homeless in Garden Place, and to gain an understanding of why individuals held such views. It is proposed that an important barrier to resolving or dealing with the issue of homelessness is our attitudes towards homeless individuals. These perceptions and attitudes are important because they determine the way we think about social problems and the solutions we offer to solve them. To gain an understanding, and tap into the emotional and textual aspects of responses on how individuals perceived this particular issue, the qualitative approach was chosen for this research. Participant observation of Garden Place, and semi-structured interviews with approximately twenty willing pedestrians and four business managers within Garden Place were also conducted. As a result, findings showed that participant responses conveyed more negative attitudes towards the congregation of the homeless in Garden Place, as compared to positive attitudes. Such attitudes were based on the construction of homeless people as non-deserving of the right to this public space because they either do not ‘fit’ into the normal activities for which this space is intended or they do not live up to the imagined depictions of such spaces. In addition, solutions offered suggested that the homeless be ‘moved along’, out of Garden Place, which favoured what to do about the homeless rather than what to do for them. Therefore this research also aims to offer additional approaches to addressing this issue of homelessness within Garden Place, which can be implemented and achieved with a more positive stance on the issue.
Type of thesis
Barrow, S. F. C. (2015). Garden Place: Who Belongs Here? Individuals’ Attitude Towards Hamilton’s Homeless Population (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9904
University of Waikato
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