Exploring the Paths to Homelessness: An Ethnographic Study of How Disability, Educational Achievement, Gender, Foster Care and Poverty Impacted the Lives of Two Towns' Homeless Shelter Residents
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Teaching & Learning
This qualitative study explored and described the lived experiences of residents of two homeless shelters located in the Upper Midwest. Through testimonies of participants, common themes associated with homelessness were revealed, such as disability, domestic violence, food shortages, foster care, insecure housing, and poor educational achievement. Since education, or a lack thereof, sometimes played a part in the residents’ inability to make a living wage, participants were queried about their schooling.
The public has a tendency to blame homeless people for their condition and assume that their plight is self-imposed due to substance abuse and a refusal to work (Diversi & Finley, 2010). While substance abuse was a factor in the lives of some of the residents and their parents, a more universal finding was that eight of the nine participants lived in foster care when they were growing up. Indeed, contrary to some popular beliefs, several participants had jobs, but they did not earn enough money to afford an apartment; hence they rented a room at the shelter. Other participants had a disability, which qualified them for a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the federal government, which they used to pay for their accommodations at the shelter.
This study found that there were forces beyond “free will” that were responsible for the participant’s homelessness. It also offered recommendations for ways to help emancipated foster care youth transitioning to adulthood, which may help decrease the rate of homelessness in the United States.
Arnau-Dewar, Sandra, "Exploring the Paths to Homelessness: An Ethnographic Study of How Disability, Educational Achievement, Gender, Foster Care and Poverty Impacted the Lives of Two Towns' Homeless Shelter Residents" (2011). Theses and Dissertations. 3764.