Homeless Individuals’ Social Construction of a Park: A Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
The Qualitative Report
Homelessness, Public Park, Symbolic Interactionism, Place
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.
Addo, R. (2018). Homeless Individuals’ Social Construction of a Park: A Symbolic Interactionist Perspective. The Qualitative Report, 23(9), 2063-2074.