Moving Towards Experience: The Process and Significance of Identity Reclamation Among Sheltered Women Experiencing Homelessness
Underwood, Rachel R
Women experiencing homelessness face specific challenges when attempting to manage their identity and ascribed social status while simultaneously navigating homelessness. This study used a combination of participatory action research (PAR) and visual methodology to investigate this process of identity management over a 5-month period with 18 women living in a supportive housing program. Through participation in an ongoing Photovoice group, co-researchers (women participating in the study) shared that they were 1) hopeful individuals, 2) women of God, and 3) mothers. The central finding in this study was that co-researchers’ expressed identities did not center their experiences with homelessness, but focused on reclaiming their individual identity from their ascribed social status. The process of identity reclamation was found to be an imperative piece of navigating homelessness for women living in a supportive housing program. This study also explores how PAR and visual methods benefit social research by including novel and varied approaches to qualitative investigation.