The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.

Date Permissions Signed

11-17-2017

Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Bruna, Sean

Second Advisor

Loucky, James

Third Advisor

Fisher, Josh

Abstract

This thesis examines how community develops and is experienced among staff and residents of St. Mary’s House, a single-site permanent supportive housing program modeled in the Housing First approach. Supportive housing modeled in the Housing First approach has been gaining prominence in recent decades as an effective resource for managing chronic homelessness nationwide. Despite this, limited attention has been given to the experiences of those being housed. In particular, there is a dearth of research on the experiences of community within single-site supportive housing and the perspectives of residents remain marginalized in the policy discourse.

My thesis begins with a critical examination of chronic homelessness. I argue that federal level neoliberal policies produce the structural circumstances for chronic homelessness to exist as well as housing interventions that displace attention from these structural causes. Within this frame, the rise of the Housing First approach is complexly enmeshed within a rationale that problematizes the visibility and costs associated with chronic homelessness rather than basic commitments to the poor.

Utilizing a collaborative methodology founded in the principles of participatory action research (PAR), I conducted four months of field work at St. Mary’s House. I spent the majority of this time participating and observing in the daily milieu of St. Mary’s House and conducting interviews with supportive services staff and residents. In addition, I utilized photovoice as a visual tool to explore community from the perspectives of residents. All project data was analyzed through a grounded theory framework with feedback from the program director of St. Mary’s House. Emerging themes were then theoretically developed by concepts of sense of community, place making, and habitus.

Findings from this research are developed three different ways. First, I examine the processes of community organization at St. Mary’s House. This analysis sheds light on the ways in which the service arrangement between staff and residents structures the parameters with which social interactions are organized and community participation is produced. Second, I analyze the dimensions of experiences at St. Mary’s House and the structural challenges to building community through four aspects that I distinguish as (1) surveillance, (2) resident proximity to one another, (3) resident “exits,” and (4) the service provider/recipient paradigm. For each aspect I demonstrate how the tensions that impact residents’ experiences stem from components of the service arrangement. Third, I present resident generated photovoice material through three themes: (1) depictions of home, (2) participation in neighborhood, and (3) solidarity in homelessness. I discuss how these themes illustrate the capacity of participants as active and resilient community members. I argue that residents’ lived experiences, largely unfamiliar to service providers, are valuable for more broadly conceiving what constitutes community at St. Mary’s House, and could be used for informing related services and programming.

This thesis concludes with recommendations for building community at St. Mary’s House and considerations for permanent supportive housing programming.

Type

Text

Publisher

Western Washington University

OCLC Number

1013543759

Digital Format

application/pdf

Geographic Coverage

Whatcom County (Wash.)

Genre/Form

Academic theses

Language

English

Rights

Copying of this thesis in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this thesis for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Included in

Anthropology Commons

Share

COinS