Biografische Verläufe und Ressourcen wohnungsloser Frauen

Dr. Carla Wesselmann

Lecturer at the Alice-Salomon Hochschule Berlin


The present qualitative case study examines the biographies of women before, during and partly also after homelessness as well as their ability to cope with this phenomenon of extreme poverty. Thereby, it is mainly about questions, which deal with social conditions that lead into homelessness also with regard to unknown, not existent or not adequate aid and social work.
The author presents on a basis of narrative interviews and biographic case studies, at one hand, the various dimensions of homelessness, and on the other hand, the precise interchanging dynamics between social conditions, subjective life experience and resulting action structures
The results demonstrate that the women became homeless, after lengthy periods of relationship-related problems and experiencing feelings of humiliation, violence and helplessness, in addition to the effects of social exclusionary practices. They act in making use of their accostumed behaviour patterns and problem solving habits under the new circumstances when living a homeless life. In order to categorize these results, a typology with regard to biographical behaviour patterns of homelessness has been developed. It underlines that trying to leave the homeless situation, is often affected by biographical ambivalent structures.
In these biographic ambivalent structures, contradictory social structures are reflected, including social work with the known dual mandate of aid and control, and difficult biographical experiences that the women, who have been interviewed, have experienced during certain relationship stages with an extreme imbalance with regard to power constellations.
The meaning of these and further results has been reflected from a biographical and figuration-theoretical perspective. Hereby, a special chapter is dedicated to dynamics and forms of ambivalence which emerge in these womens' biographies and their implications for social work practice and theory.
The case study combines current questions of theory and praxis of social work with discussions about poverty and inequality research as well as biographical, figurational and gender research. The study concludes with a result that reflects the meaning of empirical findings with regard to initial questions and their relevance for the field of social work.

Verlag Barbara Budrich