“Help Me Do It by Myself” – About the Empowered Homeless from the Socially Engaged Perspective

Małgorzata Kostrzyńska

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