This study explores the role of informal social support networks of male homeless shelter residents. Authors utilized ethnographic methods, relationality and reflexive research approaches and key informant interviews with 10 shelter residents to investigate perceptions of belonging in overcoming social exclusion and countering the stigmatization cast onto as a result of their condition of homelessness. Study findings challenge our normative conceptions of homelessness by discerning between “rooflessness” and “rootlessness” suggesting that homelessness is more than the absence of shelter, but rather denotes the absence of support and inclusion in one’s community. This research highlights a community within the shelter characterized by notions of acceptance and companionship. The associations shelter residents developed are creative and collaborative survival strategies allowing residents to negotiate their conditions of homelessness. As a result, some residents expressed reluctance to leave the shelter and (re)integrate into the community that had cast them off.


Homelessness, Ethnography, Social Exclusion, Community, Stigma

Author Bio(s)

Meaghan Bell holds a Master’s degree from the University of Calgary and has been engaged in community-based research with marginalized populations for the past six years. Her research interests include stigma and belonging as well as barriers and facilitators to service utilization. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Meaghan Bell at, msbell@ucalgary.ca.

Christine A. Walsh, Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary has a program of community-based and participatory action research with populations experiencing poverty and homelessness. The aim of this research is to promote well-being, social inclusion and social justice among marginalized and socially excluded populations. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Christine A. Walsh at, cwalsh@ucalgary.ca.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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