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Contextualizing street homelessness in New Zealand: A case study approach

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Doctoral Dissertation, University of Waikato, ,

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This thesis provides an exploration into the lives of homeless individuals in New Zealand, challenging the common urban-centric view of homelessness.

Through a detailed case-based ethnographic study, it underscores the significance of resilience, agency, and social interactions among the homeless. The research focusses on four individuals – Brett, Daniel, Joshua, and Ariā – and uses a combination of volunteer work, direct observations, biographical interviews, photo-production projects, and photo-elicitation interviews to delve into their experiences. This methodology, conducted in collaboration with the Auckland City Mission, offers a holistic view of the day-to-day realities faced by these individuals. Each case study presented in the thesis brings forth a unique aspect of homelessness. Brett’s narrative is about creating a personal space within the public sphere for respite and solitude, highlighting his efforts to maintain a sense of individuality. Daniel’s experience sheds light on his domestic practices on the streets, such as creating a personalised space with familiar objects, which echoes the essence of home-making. Joshua’s story emphasises the importance of relationships and belonging, as he finds a sense of family and purpose within a community of other homeless individuals. Ariā’s experience is particularly significant in illustrating how Māori cultural practices inform and enrich her approach to homelessness, with an emphasis on Māori values such as care, leadership, unity, and spiritual connection. A finding of this thesis is the remarkable resilience demonstrated by the participants, transcending personal struggles and extending into their social and physical environments. This resilience is a testimony to their strength and the complex interplay between individual agency and community support in the context of homelessness.

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