by Alyse Price-Tobler (mcap)

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Results from my Master's degree research thesis on women experiencing homelessness in Sydney, Australia 2017

Posted on November 9, 2017 at 3:25 AM

Research Project by Alyse Price-Tobler September 2016

Investigate the Varied Responses from the Female Primary Homeless as Evident in Demonstrations from the General Public


Part One

Research Thesis

The research thesis has focussed on ‘investigating the varied responses from the female primary homeless as evident in demonstrations from the general public’.


This research proposes to investigate the link between the experiences of homeless women and how stigma affects their self-esteem, by identifying the theoretical tension that exists within the stigma literature and comparing it to the results from the data collected from female respondents attending The Exodus Foundation, founded by Reverend Bill Crews in Ashfield, NSW. Stigma is identified as one of the main organising principles for this study.


Six respondents who are experiencing or have experienced ‘primary homelessness’ were recruited. Face to face semi structured open ended interviews, recording of transcripts of conversations and notes were taken. Respondents were asked about their experiences of ‘direct contact’ with the public, their levels of self-esteem and any counselling they may have received. Subthemes emerging from the coded data were subsequently analysed.


Results showed that when the respondents were asked about their experience with the public, ‘positive direct contact’ elicited the highest amount of data with 19 references, followed by ‘negative direct contact,’ with 17 direct references, and thirdly, ‘indifferent direct contact’ eliciting 10 references. Sub theme two arose when the respondents were asked about their ‘perceptions’ of the public toward them, with a definite skew toward being negative. Data showed that ‘perceived no contact’ references were recorded at 17, with ‘perceived positive’ references recorded at 9 and ‘perceived undecided’ references at 10. Self-esteem results showed the women ranged from 0-2/10 while still homeless and rising to 2-6/10 when placed in housing. Currently only one woman is receiving counselling out of six. Further results reported 49 separate health concerns between only three of the women and results for counselling showed that three of the women have previously received short term trauma counselling after a serious event. Finally, the major stigma literature identified for comparison against this study did not show a similar result from data collected in all three examples.


The data reveals that the respondents’ self-esteem is relatively high when it comes to the publics ‘direct contact’ attitudes toward them, as long as the women operate under the general societal rules. This data coincides with lower levels of stigma being interpreted by the women from the public. However, when the women are alone and don’t have the publics validation, their self-esteem drops due to overwhelming thoughts about their circumstances, and their health problems, leaving them with no resilience to consider professional counselling. The study shows that due to the daily difficulties that the women face, including: a negatively ‘perceived’ view of themselves when not experiencing ‘positive direct contact,’ and numerous health and housing problems, the women continue to suffer low self-esteem overall. Sub theme data results identified a negative relationship of ‘direct contact’ stigma with the Police. The researcher hypothesises that this finding may be contributing to the women’s low self-esteem, while becoming counterproductive toward the positive contact the women receive from the public.

Key words: #homeless, #women, #public, #self-esteem, #stigma, #empathy, #mentalhealth.

In this study, the qualitative approach known as grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) has been employed to observe and record varied responses through interviews with the ‘primary homeless women’ regarding demonstrations from the general public toward them (Gerdes & Segal, 2011). Primary homelessness is defined by the ‘Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (2011, p.1) as, “people without conventional accommodation (living in the streets, in deserted buildings, improvised dwellings, under bridges, in parks, etc).” This can also be known as ‘sleeping rough.’ According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are currently 105,237 people in Australia who are homeless. 2,315 people are ‘sleeping rough’, in tents or improvised dwellings (Homelessness Statistics, 2012). The United Nations reported that there are up to one hundred million homeless people across the world. Homeless people experience high mortality rates experienced through many differing methods, generally through suicide and the practise self-harm. Homelessness is identified a “critical social problem and one that is increasing in breadth, depth, and complexity” (Mowbray & Bybee, 1998, p. 172).

The purpose of this paper is to present the results from the research into the development of a theory of stigmatisation among the homeless female population attending ‘The Exodus Foundation’ in Ashfield NSW. This is in light of any pre-existing studies on homelessness and how it connects to stigma. The general research question answered within this study is, “Do women facing homelessness experience social stigma from the general public and does it affect their self-esteem?

Thanks for reading, Alyse :)


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