Journal of Community Psychology

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Social networks of unaccompanied women experiencing homelessness

Abstract

This study explored strengths, barriers, and role of social networks among unaccompanied women experiencing homelessness. Twenty women from two local shelters participated in semistructured, face‐to‐face interviews. A constant comparative analysis revealed 4 themes: support as a coping mechanism, loss of support as a path to homelessness, support as a drain, and support as a way to give. Almost universally, women experienced considerable barriers to housing, including physical health, mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence. Despite precarious circumstances, women showed optimism, interest, and readiness to move forward and exit homelessness. Most women utilized social networks to cope with their difficult situations. Their networks, however, were limited such that abusive relationships and substance abuse commonly contributed to homelessness and delayed entrance into secure housing. Together with identifying unaccompanied women as a subgroup in the homeless population, targeted interventions can help women capitalize on healthy relationships to promote housing security and well‐being.

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