Date of Award

1-1-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Social Science

School

School of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Sherry Saggers

Abstract

This is a phenomenological study of the lived experiences of homeless young people in Western Australia. Its focus is the reasons why homeless young people leave education, although many of them make a serious effort to complete post-compulsory schooling. The study was qualitative, and was designed as an in-depth analysis of the experiences of five young people aged between 15 and 17, all attending the same school. Data collection consisted of two in-depth interviews with each participant, and a focus group discussion with all five. Although the study’s focus as the issue of homelessness and schooling, it quickly expanded when it became quite clear that the issues confronting these students went far beyond the school grounds. Homelessness to these young people was not about shelter or accommodation, it was about searching for a place to belong, and a place to be at ‘home’. The study challenges the idea that schooling and housing are merely practical issues. Instead, it illustrates how the social and psychological implications of homelessness have a strong negative impact on schooling, and how the young homeless person’s physical ability to attend classes is not as important as being able to pay attention, contribute, and learn, in the face of overwhelming social pressures. The study’s results are similar to others in that it found that homelessness poses many obstacles to young people wishing to succeed in education, and that current initiatives to retain such students fall short of requirements. This study provides insight into the unique experiences of the young homeless people themselves. It demonstrates that young people need a holistic approach to support, an approach that goes beyond the instrumental needs of education to include all aspects of everyday life.

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