Homeless Women and Shelter Regimes: A Glimpse of Everyday Practice through Social Workers´Narratives

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Homelessness in South Africa is a multi-faceted issue with enormous dimensions; an issue which is deeply interrelated with questions of power, human dignity and social justice. In South Africa, women have been frequently neglected and marginalized with regard to contemporary housing policy and practice. In seeking to understand the nature of this marginalization, this paper focuses on structural disadvantages faced by homeless women in relation to the shelter regimes. To illustrate the latter, I engage excerpts from four in-depth interviews which I conducted in 2014 with homelessness social workers employed in homeless shelters and the government in Johannesburg, South Africa. Social workers’ narratives present a glimpse of how inclusion and exclusion is constructed in every day practices at the shelters. The shelters under investigation are exclusively for women. The results reveal that 1) migrant homeless women are preferred by the shelters 2) homeless women construct idiosyncratic modalities to manage the perceived shame that seem to accompany the homelessness condition and 3) women who are categorized as mothers with minor children are the most vulnerable. I draw implications from these findings that in order to understand how inclusion and exclusion criterion is constructed in everyday practices it is necessary to delve into the details of the homeless women shelter regimes as presented by social workers employed at the specific shelter under investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-362
Number of pages10
JournalAsian Pacific Journal of Advanced Business and Social Studies
Issue number1
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Work


  • homelessness
  • South Africa
  • social workers
  • shelter regimes
  • homeless women


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