Revolving or evolving doors: women's homeless pathways

Martin, R 2012, Revolving or evolving doors: women's homeless pathways, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Revolving or evolving doors: women's homeless pathways
Author(s) Martin, R
Year 2012
Abstract This thesis explored 35 women’s lived experiences of homelessness in Perth, Western Australia. The project has relied on feminist informed frameworks, which were underpinned by critical post-modern social work theories and practices. Women aged between 18 and 67 years with at least one experience of homelessness in the previous 10 years contributed through in-depth interviews. A further 30 stakeholder participants (comprising service providers, policy influencers and policy makers) shared their knowledge and ideas through in-depth interviews.

The majority of women in the study experienced homelessness as a result of the behaviours and choices of other people they shared a relationship with. This led to the development and application of a relational category to the commonly applied concepts of structure and individual agency found in most homelessness research.

Six pathway types were used to explore the different processes associated with a lived experience of homelessness. The pathways reflect the age at which women first experienced homelessness and the reason why they entered homelessness. These pathways include a youth category involving the first experience of homelessness before the age of 18. Youth pathways were applied to 21 women and are categorised as escape, eviction and ‘choice’. A further 14 women were defined as belonging to adult homeless pathways involving domestic and family violence and substance misuse. The sixth pathway type relates to the 17 women who transitioned from youth to adult homelessness.

The pathways represent significantly different experiences of entering homelessness, living homeless, and creating a sustainable pathway out of homelessness. All 11 women who entered homelessness as a result of escaping violence and abuse before the age of 18 transitioned to adult homelessness. Transitioning to adult homelessness signalled the beginning of long-term iterative homelessness, problematic substance use patterns, mental illness, and engagement with homeless social networks. Women who transitioned to adult homelessness were found to be least likely to have created a sustainable pathway out of homelessness.

Women who entered homelessness as adults on a domestic and family violence pathway were most likely to create a sustainable pathway out of homelessness. Leaving homelessness behind was supported by: stable housing; engaging in education, employment, and training; developing high-level awareness of personal safety; supportive personal and professional relationships; and recovering from the experiences of domestic and family violence and homelessness.

Analysis of the homelessness policy, program, and service delivery landscape shows that while new initiatives will assist some people experiencing homelessness, it is unlikely to register with women who experience homelessness for reasons other than domestic and family violence. This means that women who transitioned to adult homelessness after escaping or being evicted, and women who experienced homelessness due to substance misuse are likely to continue to experience revolving doors and repeatedly move in and out of homelessness. Most of these women have extensive histories of violence and abuse and it is proposed that trauma-informed responses while currently uncommon are necessary within the specialist homelessness service system.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Urban and Social Studies
Keyword(s) Women’s homelessness
homeless pathways
service delivery
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Created: Tue, 11 Dec 2012, 15:18:58 EST by Brett Fenton
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