The Reconstitution of 'Home' among Shelter-Homeless LGTBQ Youth




James, Jonathon

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Geographic studies on the conceptualization and constitution of 'home' among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons have largely focused on the setting of the private domestic dwelling (Gorman-Murray 2007a, 2007b). In addition, our scholarly and popular understanding of 'homelessness' paints homeless subjectivities as devoid of spatial attachment and meaning (Jackson 2012; Kearns and Smith 1994). The purpose of the present study is to examine the gaps in these two veins of research and tell the stories of homeless LGBTQ youth who actively remake their home following a severance from the family unit. This ethnographic study was carried out at Thrive Youth Center, one of only a handful of homeless shelters in the country designed specifically to house and care for LGBTQ youth. I interviewed and observed residents within the space in order to shed light on the complex homemaking processes that the youth attempt to commit within a non-traditional and communal domestic environment. I found that while many meanings associated with home such as heart, abode, hearth, and even privacy (Somerville 1992) are recaptured in a shelter setting, the homemaking journey seems to remain unresolved among this population. There is a great need for shelter programs like Thrive at this time, and their example can aid in making shelters safer and more accommodating for all identities.


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home, homeless, homemaking, LGBTQ, shelter, youth



Political Science and Geography