Being homeless in a small city : the case of the Open Arms Day Centre : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Open Access Location
Homelessness in Aotearoa/New Zealand has been a significant issue for many years, with Māori being consistently overrepresented in local and national statistics. Whether living on the streets in an urban centre, small city, or rural area, homeless people frequently experience negative health consequences, stigma, and displacement. Due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak, street homeless people have been confronted with additional challenges, such as increased prejudices and social isolation. However, non-urban street life, such as in Whangārei, has been predominantly overlooked, and responses have remained scant and narrowly focused. Nevertheless, recent estimates demonstrate a significant increase in Whangārei’s street homeless population. In order to effectively address this development, comprehensive understandings about the lifeworlds of those experiencing street homelessness in non-metropolitan areas must be sought. The present research addresses this knowledge gap in the context of the Open Arms Day Centre [OADC], a space of refuge, routine, and inclusion for Whangārei’s street dwellers. Adopting a relational Māori-centred ethnographic case study approach, the experiences and standpoints of three OADC staff members, two volunteers, and three previously homeless service users [whānau] were explored. Insights into homelessness in Whangārei and the significance of the OADC were gained through the utilisation of a reflective research journal, photographic exercises, and in-depth semi- structured interviews. Bricolage was used as a method of analysis, permitting a wide range of considerations. These included diverse personal, systemic, and Māori cultural dynamics and understandings, as well as inputs from various perspectives, disciplines and experiences. Culturally orientated services, based on relational, inclusive, and empathetic conceptualisations of whānau and their needs, such as the OADC, were identified as pivotal for people’s resilience and pathways out of homelessness. Future research on non-metropolitan homelessness is necessary to invoke transformative change.