“The System is Built to Exclude Them”: Using Sociality to Manage Health Amongst Women Experiencing Homelessness
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The lives of women experiencing homelessness are often invisible from both statistics and the public eye. Yet, to support the population, specifically their health, their lived experiences must first be understood. Practicing engaged anthropology, this research uses a combination of non-participant observation, a focus group, and semi-structured interviews with both residents and staff at a shelter open to women, families, and trans and non-binary individuals. The shelter, Valdridge House, is in a medium-sized city in Southern Ontario. Using anthropological understandings of structural violence and gendered dynamics of homelessness alongside the data collected, this research explores how women experiencing homelessness manage their health through sociality within the shelter. Adapting to the perceived inaccessibility of the healthcare system, the residents use sociality to narrate their mental health and trauma, placing blame on their environment for their situation rather than individual fault. Here, they create support amongst residents without any perceived judgement. However, alongside this supportive dynamic, it is shown that structural violence still impacts the shelter sociality negatively, where theft and tensions are still present alongside the group bonding.
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Kate, 1996- Elliott (2020). “The System is Built to Exclude Them”: Using Sociality to Manage Health Amongst Women Experiencing Homelessness. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15528