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Home life: the meaning of home for people who have experienced homelessness

Coward, Sarah (2018) Home life: the meaning of home for people who have experienced homelessness. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

‘Home’ is widely used to describe a positive experience of a dwelling place (shelter). It is about a positive emotional connection to a dwelling place, feeling at ‘home’ in a dwelling place, where both physiological and psychological needs can be fulfilled. This portrayal of ‘home’, however, is not always how a dwelling place is experienced. A dwelling place can be a negative environment, i.e. ‘not-home’, or there may be no emotional attachment or investment in a dwelling place at all. Both circumstances receive little attention in the literature. This research explores the realities of ‘home’ by delving into the ‘home’ lives of seventeen individuals who had experienced a range of different housing situations, including recent homelessness, moving to a (resettlement) sole tenancy and then moving on from that tenancy. Participants were asked to recall their housing histories, from their first housing memory as a child up to the time of interviewing. For each housing episode, they were asked to describe the circumstances of their life at the time, for example relationships, employment and education. They were also asked to reflect on their housing experiences. Similarities and differences of experience are explored according to gender and type of housing situation. This research tells the story of lives characterised by housing and social instability, often triggered by a significant change in social context in childhood. As such, the fulfilment of both physiological and psychological needs was often constrained, and experiences of a dwelling place were more likely to be negative rather than positive, although ‘home’ could be found in the most challenging of circumstances, and often in the most unlikely of places. The participants’ constructions of ‘home’ and ‘not-home’ were largely focused on a singular feature, unlike the broader social constructions of ‘home’. ‘Not-home’ was characterised by physical insecurity, whereas ‘home’ was characterised by emotional security, with many characteristics mirroring human needs, of which ‘positive relationships’ was the most common feature. Many participants, however, had limited experience of, and/or struggled to forge and maintain, ‘positive relationships’, they lacked ‘social capital’, which meant having to navigate through a life of instability pretty much alone. As such, this research proposes a new narrative of ‘relationship poverty’, in which a lack of ‘positive relationships’ hinders the fulfilment of needs, and therefore the possibility of feeling at ‘home’ in any dwelling place.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Home, not-home, needs, context, relationships, homelessness, instability
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Sociological Studies (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.755271
Depositing User: Miss Sarah Coward
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2018 09:37
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:05
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21626

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