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Tōku tūrangawaewae: Culture, identity, and belonging for Māori homeless people.

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Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, ,

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This paper explores the experiences of homeless Māori, specifically examining their cultural practices, identity, and sense of belonging within the context of homelessness in New Zealand.

The study brings to light the often-ignored intersection of indigenous histories and worldviews with the issue of street homelessness. The paper discusses the experiences of two Māori individuals who participated in a three-year research project, offering insights into the complexities of being homeless and Māori in a land that is traditionally their homeland. The paper discusses how pathways to homelessness for Māori are often rooted in vulnerability to poverty and socio-economic exclusion, compounded by traumatic life events. Māori, like other marginalised groups, are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, a trend consistent in other countries with indigenous populations like Australia, Canada, and the United States. The study emphasises the need to understand homelessness from a cultural perspective, especially considering the over-representation of Māori in the homeless population relative to their proportion in the general population. Through the detailed case studies of two Māori individuals living on the streets of Hamilton and Auckland, the paper explores the concept of tūrangawaewae (a place to stand) in the context of homelessness. It highlights how these individuals navigate their identity and cultural practices while being homeless. The paper provides a nuanced understanding of the cultural dimensions of homelessness, focusing on the significance of family ties, heritage, and belonging, even in the absence of a physical home. The findings of this research are crucial in rethinking traditional approaches to homelessness, especially in terms of policy development and service provision. It calls for culturally informed interventions and a deeper understanding of the unique challenges faced by Māori homeless people.

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