Survival, not resilience: Young people's housing instability

Author: Choe, Jin Yi Louisa

Date: 2021

Publisher: University of Otago

Type: Thesis

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University of Otago


Young people’s experiences of housing instability need to be recognised. The extant literature tends to equate young people’s experiences with that of adults and the limited literature that exclusively examines young people tends to take a narrow lens, with a focus on running away from home and living on the streets. What is missing is an in-depth examination of other forms of housing instability and inadequacy, and how these impact on young people. The current study looks at the experiences of young people, including experiences of eviction, unhealthy homes, overcrowding, frequent housing movements, and living in liminal spaces. To explore these experiences, a mixed methods approach was used. In the qualitative strand, a collaborative approach was undertaken using ethnography to give voice to the narratives of twelve girls in their youth who were surviving housing instability. As part of this approach, a novel method was used: friendship guided by whakawhanaugatanga. This method disrupted the traditional power imbalance between researcher and participant and therefore enabled knowledge to be co-created and the experiences of young people accessed. In the quantitative strand, a statistical analysis of data collected as part of the national Youth’12 questionnaire was undertaken. The mixed methods analysis of these data elucidated that a wider conceptualisation of housing instability that includes dimensions other than homelessness and eviction is justified. For young people, the impacts of all dimensions of housing instability are severe and work in intersecting ways to produce negative outcomes. Housing instability has a detrimental effect on their life chances and wellbeing, including disruption to education, fractured support networks, poor health outcomes, and trouble with the police. For young people, housing instability creates a climate of risk where they resort to perilous behaviour to survive, and this turbulent process discounts their sense of security. To borrow from Matthew Desmond, housing instability evicted these young people from their childhoods. Rather than a rosy view of resilience, these young people were simply surviving. This thesis concludes by suggesting policy recommendations specifically targeting young people’s housing needs. These are needed to support young people with their transition into adulthood and the ensuing responsibilities. These must be informed by data that captures all dimensions of housing instability and the unique needs of young people.

Subjects: New Zealand, Youth, Housing, Deprivation, Homelessness, Poverty

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