“Not Homeless Yet. I'm Kind of Couch Surfing”: Finding Identities for People at a Homeless Shelter

Sachiko Terui, Elaine Hsieh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The meanings of homelessness are fluid and socially constructed, providing resources and limitations for individuals to negotiate their identities and relationships in everyday life. In this study, we examine the strategies and corresponding resources utilized by people who are homeless to cope with the labeling of a homeless identity and to redefine their identities. We used constant comparative analysis to examine in-depth interviews with 16 participants (male = 11, female = 5) who access a local homeless shelter in the southwest United States for resources. We identified three strategies that homeless people adopt to cope with the labeling of homeless identity: (a) differentiating oneself from others who are homeless, (b) prioritizing certain aspects of life, and (c) embracing the status of homelessness. Although these strategies have been identified in previous literature, the authors extend this line of research by identifying the common resources people who are homeless utilize when adopting these strategies, which entail important implications for theory development and practical implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-699
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Work in Public Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 9 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • field work
  • Homelessness
  • identity


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