Stories from Daniel's Den: An Analysis of the Collective Sense-making of Homeless Life in a Homeless Self-help Group
Williams, Damian T
Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, this thesis presents a collective sense-making model of homeless life in order to address a dearth of scholarly attention paid to the ways in which homeless individuals collaborate to learn, share, create, and tell stories about themselves and the nature of their life-circumstances. This model is based on 6 in-depth interviews with veterans of a homeless self-help group and over 200 hours of participant observation both within a homeless self-help group, and in other urban locations group attendees frequented. This collective sense-making model conveys the manner in which group members collaboratively construct self-narratives pertaining to the nature, causes, and grievances of homeless life. More specifically, the model shows how veteran members of this self-help group socially control and shape group newcomers’ constructions of self-narratives by invoking a subcultural narrative model comprised of an implicit group ideology centered on the life-prescription of personal accountability. Veteran group members invoke this subcultural narrative model via one or more of three basic interactive strategies—looping, doubling, and direct rebuke. Group newcomers respond to the social control of their self-narratives in one of three ways—overt resistance, silent resistance, and narrative congruence-making. The social implications of the ways in which this subcultural narrative model contains subversive elements of newcomers’ self-narratives are also discussed.