A Qualiltative Study on Formerly Homeless People's Experiences of Escaping Homelessness: The Example of Istanbul

Akyurt M. A. (Executive), AKBIYIK M., ŞATIROĞLU A.

TUBITAK Project, 2021 - 2023

  • Project Type: TUBITAK Project
  • Begin Date: November 2021
  • End Date: November 2023

Project Abstract

According to UN World 2020 Social Report, the homeless are the most disadvantaged actors that are rendered invisible by social exclusion. Sociological studies on homelessness, which is defined as “lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence”, focus mostly on types, causes, entrance, hardships and experiences of homelessness. The uniqueness of this study is to examine the experience of "leaving homelessness", which is rarely emphasized in the literature. It aims to explore the experiences of the former homeless during leaving homelessness and describe this process in detail. In this study, becoming homeless and leaving homelessness are considered as vertical mobility at the steps of the "homelessness ladder", thus the factors that are effective in the process from the decision to leave homelessness until its implementation will be evaluated. The research focuses on the role of symbolic, cultural and social capital of former homeless people in their recovery from homelessness. The impact of the relationships homeless individuals has both before homelessness (like kinship and friendship) and also during homelessness (with actors such as shopkeepers, NGO workers, public officials and other homeless people) in the process of leaving homelessness will be examined. In this study, all stages of homelessness experience, from the moment of becoming homeless to leaving homelessness and even trying not to be homeless again, are considered as a part of a single dynamic process. For this reason, the continuous relationship between the strategies of homeless people developed in the face of the problems they experience during their homelessness and the tactics they used to leave homelessness and the risk of being homeless again will be investigated. Thus, the experience of leaving homelessness and not returning will be examined with an "appreciative inquiry" approach rather than "problem solving"."

Homelessness as a social phenomenon with various layers is studied mostly based on quantitative methods, especially with the ethnographic research dealing with the subculture of homelessness or the narrative approach that gives us the opportunity to look at the biographies of homeless individuals. In this study, the phenomenological design is preferred as it is aimed to understand the experience/process of leaving homelessness. First, it is envisaged to examine documents such as movies, novels and videos on homelessness. In the field study data will be collected from six groups: 1) non-governmental organizations with a special focus on homelessness, 2) senior public officials like district governor or district police chief, 3) public officials like social workers or security guards in parks who are in contact with the homeless in the field, 4) owners of or authorized individuals in enterprises like restaurants or hotels which are frequently visited by homeless people, 5) homeless individuals, and lastly 6) former homeless individuals. 40 in-depth interviews and six focus group discussions will be held with actors from public, civil and private sectors. Also, a total of 120 hours of observation will be done, including 60 hours of external observation in public areas with a high population of homeless and 60 hours of participant observation in NGO venues and activities. The field study will finish after 40 in-depth interviews with former homeless people. In this way, the experience of "leaving homelessness" will be tried to be described from a variety of different aspects.

Exploring the experiences of the former homeless individuals will give civil and public actors clues about reduction of homelessness. Policy recommendations and planning activities to be developed on the basis of the outputs of this research can be applied to other disadvantaged groups exposed to social exclusion, as pointed out in the 11th Development Plan, and also to homeless groups in different urban/national contexts.