Pathways through homelessness : the perceptions of homeless children in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Bornman, Anna Wilshire Jones.
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The primary aim of this study was to explore children’s pathways through homelessness within the South African context. Particular attention was paid to factors influencing children’s successful transitions out of homelessness, an aspect of homelessness which has not yet been specifically investigated in South Africa. The research focused on the perspectives of homeless youth on their pathways through homelessness and on their reintegration into their families. Factors influencing children’s decision throughout their homeless trajectories and factors playing a role in children transcending the adversity of their circumstances were also explored. The study adopted a qualitative exploratory design using interviews with nine children who had exited or were in the process of exiting homelessness. Drawings as a means of data collection were included for data triangulation. Interviews were conducted at a children’s shelter in Pietermaritzburg or in the children’s home environments. Interviews and drawings were analysed thematically. The results were presented within an ecological framework, and factors influencing children’s pathways in, through and out of homelessness that were prominent in the children’s narratives included institutions, relationships and intrapersonal strengths and resources. The study suggested that constructive relationships with shelter staff and parental figures as well as intrapersonal strengths were the most prominent factors in children successfully negotiating their way through their homeless trajectories. Implications for policy and practice include the need for systemic change as well as greater support for shelters and shelter staff.
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