Individuals experiencing homelessness and housed residents have increasingly been in conflict over the use of public spaces, which has led to efforts to regulate how individuals experiencing homelessness use public spaces. However, the discourses around the use of public parks seem to value housed residents over homeless individuals. How individuals experiencing homelessness construct meanings of public spaces has not been given adequate attention in the literature. Drawing on a symbolic interactionist theoretical framework and grounded theory methodology, the researcher conducted 10 semi-structured interviews on how individuals experiencing homelessness construct meanings of a public park. Participants ascribed instrumental and intangible meanings to the park by describing it as a homeless safety hub, a homeless resource hub, and a homeless network hub. This study suggested that homeless individuals’ constructed meanings of public parks may be motivated by their interactions with their peers and housed residents. This study recommends policy makers to make an effort to understand factors that force people experiencing homelessness to congregate in public parks and to discontinue regulations that criminalize how individuals experiencing homelessness use public parks.


Homelessness, Public Park, Symbolic Interactionism, Place

Author Bio(s)

Reuben Addo is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern Maine, Portland. Reuben earned his Master of Science in Social Administration from the Case Western Reserve University and a PhD in social work from Colorado State University. Reuben previously worked with individuals experiencing homelessness. Reuben’s research interests include international social work practice with children and homelessness and communities. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: reuben.addo@maine.edu.


I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Dr. Malcolm E. Scott for assisting with the institutional review process.

Publication Date


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.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.