How did we end up here? A qualitative exploration of the experiences of homeless men and women on a small but affluent island
Being homeless is stressful and often challenging. A number of negative life events have seen an increase in the homeless population in the UK and other parts of the world. Jersey is no exception, and yet homelessness is often hidden on the island, with little known about the general experiences of its homeless population. Therefore the aim of this study is to explore the lived experiences of homeless individuals in Jersey In this exploratory study nine semi-structured interviews were conducted at a homeless service in Jersey. Lived experiences leading to homelessness and being homeless were recorded, the data transcribed and analysed using Colaizzi’s method of phenomenological analysis. Themes emerged and were presented as findings. Eight themes emerged showing that despite participants being a homogeneous group, they generally described homelessness as a lonely experience due to feeling excluded from society. Their experiences were characterised by poor health, substance misuse, a positive forensic history and unemployment. The data showed that there was a history of childhood abuse amongst the Jersey-born participants. The participants were found to be poorly education. It is unclear whether the prevalence of substance misuse problems amongst the participants was a cause or consequence of the homeless experience. The findings confirmed the social disaffiliation theory in that there was a progressive detachment from society. Regardless, there was a perception that being street homeless in Jersey was safer, and that the homeless service offered a positive experience and engendered hope in the participants. The impact of Jersey’s housing laws on homelessness needs further exploration.