Standing in the shadows: faith, homelessness and troubled lives

Prof Doc Thesis

Gibbs, Raelton 2013. Standing in the shadows: faith, homelessness and troubled lives. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Cass School of Education and Communities
AuthorsGibbs, Raelton
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This research studies five homeless people’s experience focusing on
two key research questions - what is the place of faith and a faith based
organisation in the lives and minds of people using the service and
what does an in depth analysis of the emotional biographies of a gr oup
of homeless people tell us about the psychic, material and spiritual
needs that they bring to the centre?
Each person interviewed was of no faith or a different faith to the host
organisation. Using Biographical Narrative Interpretive Method and
Grounded Theory the research generated in depth insights into the life
experiences of some of the most vulnerable in our society, giving them
a voice.
Based on a single narrative seeking question, the interviews disclose
long histories of personal and social suffering, and a connection
between those histories and peoples’ pathways into homelessness, both
external and internal. There are traumatised people for whom literal
homelessness is not the outcome, but the path into homelessness for all
the research subjects suggests a typical picture of people balanced on a
knife-edge between a number of sets of pairings including meaning and
meaningless, hope and despair and life and death. To aid u nderstanding
I think of these subjects as distributed along a spectrum, with some
occupying positions closer to hopelessness, despair or suicide, and
some in more hopeful or connected states. All of this is both what
brings people to the host organisation, and what they bring into that
The research findings enable better understanding of key issues
affecting homeless people not only for faith-based organisations but for
all that work with social exclusion and homelessness. Noting the
occurrence of similar emerging issues over each of the case studies
what begins to emerge are a number of implications for practice. These include the importance of developing meaningful relationships; the
need to meet service users higher needs particularly spirituality from
the point of admission, the importance of a full knowledge of the
housed history, the importance of giving the opportunity to explore
important life issues and to be listened to.
A possible implication of the research undertaken relates to the
organisation itself . The way the organisation does or does not respond ,
introducing the notion that it operates defences against anxiety and
pain drawing on its own theological dogma, an ideology that functions
as a defence against being over whelmed. The organisation’s position
within the homelessness field is also consider ed. Finally there are the
defences towards the inner projections of the residents. It is how the
organisation responds to these elements that the research suggests
assists or hinders the progress of the homeless person’s route out of

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintDec 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Jan 2014
Publisher's version
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