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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Playing with monopoly money" : a participatory exploration of the space-time aspects of homeless social capital Cook, Shelley B.


Social capital is generally understood as the benefits received through people’s relationship with others. Although social capital is recognized as a fundamental ingredient in the psychological and material wellbeing of all people, little is known about how it functions for the homeless. Even less is known about context-sensitive accounts that consider the relevance of space and time in the production of social capital, the connection to the construction of homeless identity, and how social capital experiences of homeless people vary based on different factors, including gender. My doctoral research is an exploratory, participatory investigation of the space-time aspects of homeless social capital and the relationship to the trajectory of homelessness. It furthers theoretical and practical knowledge of homelessness, social capital, and the influence of gender through the use of Bourdieusian social capital theory and multiple methods and data sources. My research was conducted in Kelowna, BC, a mid-sized Canadian city, and involved one-year of fieldwork with time spent on city streets in locations known to be pivotal hubs of homeless activity. I conducted participatory mapping on an individual-basis with 29 street homeless adults, and on a group-basis with participants separated through a female/male binary. I used an advisory committee composed of formerly homeless people to guide research and interviews with key stakeholders with knowledge of street homelessness locally to inform my research approach. As a way to enhance policy and service recommendations, focus groups with key stakeholders and the advisory committee for the project were used to leverage research findings. Three key areas of findings were identified: 1) six distinct categories of homeless social capital with defined geographies, temporal aspects, and gender profiles; 2) three categories of fixed or variable factors with gender being the most important in shaping the space-time aspects of homeless social capital; and, 3) key themes from the thematic analysis of qualitative data, including the prevalence of negative social capital, the conscious performance of representations of homeless identity, and pronounced gender differences in the space-time aspects of social capital, including gendered survival and resistance strategies. The many theoretical, methodological, and practical implications are discussed.

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