Warren Nairn MPH 2015
Homelessness is a broad and somewhat blunt term to describe a complex concept. Beneath the concept and many varied definitions are people who are living with inadequate, insecure or no housing at all; these are often among the most marginalised and vulnerable in society. Although there are an increasing number of studies on homelessness using a qualitative methodology and a small number using a participatory approach of some kind, there has typically been more of a focus on the concept and causes of homelessness rather than studies that give an opportunity for those impacted by homelessness to present their perspective. In response to a call for a more participatory approach to public health research this study has employed Participatory Video (PV), a visual method that fits within a participatory or advocacy worldview with links to critical theory. PV has been used predominately in the community development setting but is increasingly being adopted as a research method in other social sciences.
The purpose of this study is to increase understanding of how homeless men in Christchurch use city spaces and how they understand that this might impact their wellbeing. Alongside this is an exploration of the use of PV as a method for Public Health research. The video resulting from the PV sessions was shown to the participants at each stage of the process giving them control over what was included in the final edit and the opportunity for comment which was included in the data for analysis. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse these data along with a transcript of the video and field notes. This analysis resulted in three main themes, ‘place’, 'nourishment' and ‘daily activity’. The theme of place raised questions about the attribution of meaning and construction of purpose in and through place. The participants' quest for nourishment was addressed in relation to several aspects of emotional and nutritional nourishment. Exploration of the theme of daily activity highlighted the considerable effort required to be nourished and maintain quality and consistency of activity in the environment of the predominantly outdoor city spaces; challenges that are amplified for these men by a lack of options or control over their environment.