Resistance, Action and Transformation in a Participatory Action Research (PAR) Project with Homeless Youth
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Data from a 1-year participatory action research (PAR) project with 35 homeless youth reveals many flee to the streets to resist dangerous, volatile, or dysfunctional homes.
The chapter details how participatory action research (PAR), the methodology used in the study, contests “expert” research into social ills and oppression from those who are detached from the communities they study.
During the PAR project, the youth reflected on their experiences and lifeworlds as they defined them. They examined homelessness from their standpoints of parenting, self, education, and shelter. The youth prioritized stereotyping and stigmatization as critical themes to address in their struggles for integration and acceptance.
Some young people noted that at a time in their lives when they hoped to expand their social networks and opportunities, stereotypes and stigmatization shamed them into “hiding” and “retreating.” Some said that society’s shunning of them for supposed shortcomings was reminiscent of experiences in their households.
The youth conceived a number of solutions to change people’s perceptions of them. They poured their energies into individual artworks to represent their findings. Of these, they selected “The Other Side of the Door,” a searing theater play written by a youth in the project. The play depicts the dysfunctional dynamics between a volatile mother and her 16-year-old son, who flees into homelessness.
To resist stereotypes and stigmatization, the youth argued passionately for the play to be presented in a number of places and institutions, ranging from schools of psychology, social work, and education to courts and juvenile corrections, places of worship, and high schools.
KeywordsHomeless youth Resistance Stereotyping and stigmatization Participatory action research Empowerment
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