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Homelessness is a complex issue that impacts families in many ways. One pathway of addressing homelessness among families has been the use of transitional housing programs. Previous research demonstrates the importance of social support among homeless parents, including their involvement in transitional housing programs. While these programs may serve as a support for families experiencing homelessness, little is known about the lived experiences of social support among homeless parents including their strengths and challenges. The purpose of this study was to understand if and how social support is an important resource for families experiencing homelessness. More specifically, this study aimed to explore the social support networks of families living in transitional housing, including their immediate families and non-homeless friends and family members, and the challenges they experience in accessing these supports. In addition, this study sought to understand if and how transitional housing programs may act as a support for homeless families and the challenges that accompany this. Finally, this study aimed to understand homeless families' perceptions of other needed supports within their housing program. Both ecological systems theory and structural family therapy were used as guiding frameworks in this study. These theories provided both a detailed look at family life and relationships and also a broader lens to view the family within their environment and larger context. Using a qualitative design, data for this study were collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews. Participants included 20 parents living in transitional housing with at least one child. Interviews were conducted to assess parents' experiences in transitional housing, their social support networks, and their suggestions for change. An ethnographic framework supported by constant comparative analysis was used to analyze the data. This included the process of open, axial, and selective coding. Trustworthiness was promoted through the use of observation data for triangulation as well as several other measures. Results revealed themes related to parents' isolation from support, parents' family as a source of strength, and the impact of the program on their support network. Parents also identified several additional support needs including employment services, interpersonal supports, increased services for children, and increased awareness of and access to supports.
ethnography, homelessness, parenting, social support, transitional housing
Date of Defense
April 22, 2015.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Family and Child Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Lenore McWey, Professor Directing Dissertation; Tomi Gomory, University Representative; Kendal Holtrop, Committee Member; Wayne Denton, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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