Seeking “Home”: Personal Narratives and Turning Points in the Lives of Adult Homeless

Athena Androutsopoulou, Maria-Marditsa Stefanou

Abstract


The way homeless persons construct their self-narratives and shape their identities has recently become the subject of narrative studies in the western world. The present inquiry adopts the theoretical notion that narration is the means by which the self-constructs and re-constructs her identity. This construction is organised around life’s perceived “turning points”. Eight interviews with homeless adults living in Athens, Greece were conducted. The main question guiding the interviews was: “How did you get at the present point in your life?” We focused on their past, present and future, with emphasis on possible turning points. The interviews were combined with a story-line graph which participants believed to be representative of their unfolding lives. The narrative analysis indicated that experiences of homelessness were not marked as turning points per se. Rather, four emerging themes describe other important turning points: repeated loss, (dis)connection, new “home”, freedom. Homeless persons experienced a continuity in hardship and trauma since childhood. However, their experiences, following the loss of home, were not always negative, and they expected the future to be brighter. Discussed are implications for social caring in exploring the deeper meaning of “home”. Particular suggestions are put forward for social and counselling services.


Keywords


homeless; narrative construction of self; turning points; narrative inquiry