Małgorzata Kostrzyńska, a social pedagogue, an assistant reader at the Social Pedagogy Department of the University of Łódź. Her academic interests focus on the problem of homelessness,
streetworking, social inclusion and exclusion, but also on application of art therapy techniques in the process of social inclusion. She carried out research which involved homeless men: the first concerned obstacles on the way to social inclusion of the homeless who stayed outside the social assistance system (2006–2008), the second – the process of associating of a group of inhabitants of a hostel for homeless people run by the association, which they themselves founded (2010–2013). A coordinator of the project titled “Homeful-Homeless” Box2 (between 2015–2018).
OBJECTIVES: My aim was to present the homeless as an empowered group – as resourceful,
surviving, contrary to the stereotype, in a way indicating a high degree of social knowledge.
THEORETICAL BASE: This article is a reflection on participatory research that I conducted
from 2005 to 2013, among the homeless living on the streets, outside the social welfare system
and among homeless people staying in hostels and joining homeless associations there. I adopted
the perspective of symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969). Sensitizing concepts in my study were
the concepts of empowerment and participation. METHODS: I adopted a qualitative approach
to collecting data. I used the grounded theory, including its constructivist perspective (Charmaz,
2009). I had the opportunity to get to know the perspective of the Participants. Social engagement
on my part as the researcher-participant revealed areas of the Participants’ empowerment.
OUTCOMES: Interactional work undertaken by them for their survival, is divided into: work
on securing their continued existence and work on developing leisure-time activities. I show some
paradoxes of help provided to the homeless as tactics instilling helplessness. SOCIAL WORK
IMPLICATIONS: Empowerment should focus on the awareness of both the homeless and
society, becoming the purpose and effect of work for them.
empowerment, homelessness, social work, interactive work, symbolic interactionism