A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experience of Homeless Men

Kelsey, Steve (2020). A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experience of Homeless Men. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012157


Homelessness is a complex issue, one that is noticeably visible within the public spaces of our cities, something that many look away from and move quickly past. This study endeavours to provides insight into a phenomenon that demands better understanding, and in so doing offers the possibility of not averting our gaze and instead seeing homelessness for what it really is.

Through an approach informed by Max van Manen’s (1990, 2007, 2014) hermeneutic phenomenology, the lived experience of nine homeless men was examined and revealed a lived experience that is multifarious, where paradox, hope and despair are mixed in equal measures. This study illustrates the hardship and loneliness of homeless lives, which are frequently blighted by boredom and shame and involve limited personal agency. The study also reveals the fierce desire for intimacy and friendship with others who are not homeless, a desire frequently beyond their reach. It shows that the intersubjective world of homeless men is complicated, nuanced and impacted heavily through being homeless. Finally, this study challenges the view that homeless people are unwilling to work, showing instead that they undertake many types of work that require determination and effort, leading on occasion to self- improvement and the writing of new more positive narratives about their lives.

This is a study that seeks to provide a picture of homelessness that is beyond the typical social policy concern with accommodation or common generalisations. It reveals lives of complexity and nuance, where there is often grinding hardship and unhappiness, punctuated on rare occasions by moments of happiness and transformation. It is a study that reveals the experience of homelessness and shows a lifeworld in need of proper and thoughtful understanding.

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