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Exploring the ‘spoiled’ and ‘celebrated’ identities of those who are homeless, drug users and young

Hoolachan, Jennifer ORCID: 2019. Exploring the ‘spoiled’ and ‘celebrated’ identities of those who are homeless, drug users and young. Social Inclusion 8 (1) , pp. 76-85. 10.17645/si.v8i1.2311

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Young people experiencing homelessness and who use drugs are vulnerable to being attributed with ‘spoiled identities’ due to stigmatising attitudes by wider society. This paper is underpinned by a symbolic interactionist account of self-identity and stigma. It draws upon ethnographic research in a UK-based supported accommodation hostel for young people and explores how the residents in the hostel related to the labels of ‘homeless’, ‘drug user’ and ‘youth’ and how these were expressed through their self-identities. Over a period of seven-months, in-depth participant-observation, semi-structured interviews and a focus group were conducted involving 22 hostel residents, aged 16-21 years old. The data highlight how the residents engaged in processes of ‘distancing’ or ‘othering’ by making disparaging remarks about other people in similar situations based on stereotyping. These processes reinforced spoiled identities while enabling the residents to disassociate from them. However, residents also appeared to embrace and celebrate certain features of each label, indicating an acceptance of these more positive features as forming a part of their self-identities. The paper concludes by arguing for a nuanced approach to understanding stigma and identity among homeless people, one that accounts for more than just a person’s housing situation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Uncontrolled Keywords: drug use; Goffman; homelessness; spoiled identity; stigma; youth
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.
Publisher: Cogitatio Press
ISSN: 2183-2803
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 October 2019
Date of Acceptance: 18 October 2019
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 16:51

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