University of Limerick
OShaughnessy_2022_Homeless.pdf (1.56 MB)

Homeless service users’ experiences of empowerment and actualisation in homeless service settings

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posted on 2022-11-21, 12:27 authored by Branagh R. O'Shaughnessy

The stress and severe situational constraints associated with experiences of homelessness can lead to feelings of disempowerment. Although homeless services have the potential to restore service users’ empowerment, mainstream homeless service structures continue to reinforce a sense of powerlessness. In this research I combined a theory of empowering services with the  capabilities approach to identify features of homeless services that influence service users’ empowerment. The project is composed of three studies: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of empowering homeless interventions, a focus group discussion of Irish homeless  service users’ empowering and actualising experiences, and a semi-structured interview inquiry of service users’ central capabilities in eight European countries. Qualitative accounts were collected and compared via thematic analyses. Findings from the systematic review indicated  that empowering supported housing, case management, and skills and knowledge acquisition  interventions effectively contribute to outcomes aligned with emotional and behavioural empowerment, and their relational antecedents. Themes garnered from the qualitative studies indicate that the physical and affective dimensions of home, service support orientation, and relational well-being and positive community interaction shape service users’ empowering and disempowering experiences. Findings from this research identify the organisational and systemic barriers that must be removed to support individual exits from homelessness and highlights service aspects that can be bolstered to improve the empowering experiences of service users.  This programme of research produced findings that support policy and service delivery  approaches that prioritise housing-led person-centred supports over authoritarian style service  environments that undermine the development of service users’ empowerment. 



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Ronni Michelle Greenwood

Second supervisor

Eric Raymond Igou

Third supervisor

Maria Vargas-Moniz

Department or School

  • Psychology

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