Dignity and indignation: How people experiencing homelessness view services and providers

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The Social Science Journal, ISSN: 0362-3319, Vol: 45, Issue: 2, Page: 207-222

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https://works.bepress.com/lisa_hoffman/2; https://works.bepress.com/brian_coffey/1; https://digitalcommons.tacoma.uw.edu/urban_pub/4
Hoffman, Lisa M.; Coffey, Brian
Elsevier BV
Psychology; Social Sciences
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article description
This article examines how people experiencing homelessness view their interactions with service providers. Drawing on a database of more than 500 transcribed interviews with people experiencing homelessness we find that descriptions of interactions with staff and providers were predominantly expressed in sharply negative terms, with experiences of objectification and infantilization being commonplace. In response to these experiences, nearly all were angry, and many simply opted out of the social service system in order to maintain a sense of dignity and self-respect. We argue that these responses should not simply be analyzed as an individual psychological or cognitive response, but rather as a result of the power relations and social inequities in the provider-client relationship. This suggests that the perpetuation of homelessness is not internal to the homeless individual as many claim, but rather may be embedded in the service industry itself, which subjects both clients and providers to bureaucratic forms of authority and experiences of disrespect. These negative descriptions are juxtaposed with positive comments, which offer potential solutions from homeless individuals themselves. We conclude that qualitative research, in contrast to a reliance on statistics and best practice assessments, is an important tool in developing socially just policies and programs serving those in need.