Urban nomads: the concept of para-home of homelessness survivors and narratives of their identity

Authors

Keywords:

survivors of homelessness, invisible homeless, para-home, narrative, identity reconstruction

Abstract

This article presents data from a qualitative study that reveals how people living in shelters or experiencing invisible homelessness create a kind of alternative narrative to society’s dominant understanding of “home” and the concept of the “homeless”. The selected narrative-biographical study
involved 8 shelter service users. The criterion of maximum variation sampling was applied. The data from the study were analysed within a narrative paradigm. The reconstructed narratives allowed to explore that those living in unstable life situations create an alternative narrative of the home that is the para-home: overnight stays in random places, the use of semi-private spaces, the phenomenon of squatting, and the phenomenon of cohabination. Rehabilitation centres and related para-social and religious organisations are becoming, in some cases, para-homes too. All of them, often with an institutional drift function, maintain a certain culture of “dependency on support”. A concern was the reconstructed narratives of the future, which highlighted the significance of the “cycle of insecurity”, characterised by the cycle of debt, passivity, lack of motivation, lack of trust and loss of control over life. The study helped to understand that survivors of homelessness creatively adapt the social insecurity and create a new identity as urban nomads, as if they disagree with the dominant societal “truth” about the homeless. They create strategies of detachment and distancing, to maintain an identity of “normal human”. Although the self-esteem of those experiencing invisible homelessness is declining, they construct the identity of a free urban nomad, resisting uncertainty as much as possible.

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Published

2024-04-12

How to Cite

Vizgirdė, L., & Malinauskas, G. (2024). Urban nomads: the concept of para-home of homelessness survivors and narratives of their identity. Socialinis Darbas: Patirtis Ir Metodai / Social Work: Experience and Methods, 1(31), 9–41. Retrieved from https://ejournals.vdu.lt/index.php/SWEM/article/view/5983