Polin V., Bertani M. (2019).

Homelessness, Identity and the City. Un approccio multi-methods per valutare l’impatto del disagio abitativo sull’identità. Dipartimento Scienze Economiche Working Paper N. 13/2019.



This paper aims to explore, using a qualitative approach, the relationship between ‘homelessness’ and ‘city’. The empirical work took place during 2016 in Verona, a middle-size town in Northern Italy and involved 13 participants with different profiles of housing deprivation. Our methodological approach gives ‘voice’ to homeless and involves them as active social actors in the fieldwork and in the data collection. We adopt two different qualitative techniques: participant-driven-photo-elicitation (PDPE) and focus groups. Participants received a mandate to describe, through their images and words, the relationship with Verona city, using a disposable camera and talking, in a group context, about their daily life in the urban context. The data were investigated to determine whether the relationship with the city influence their identity and daily life strategies. Results suggest that the relational, symbolic, emotional and material aspects of the city emerge from the photos and from the words of the participants. The city is represented as a symbol of the need of work, as a special place that could offer peace and serenity, as beauty, as aid received by voluntary organizations, as need for ‘home’ and security about their future, as a place in which to assert their rights as citizens and to make their voices heard in the public social policies implementation. To enhance positive paths of self-help and progressive autonomy, the findings suggest that the primary need is not only ‘having a roof’, but also it is fundamental the access to labour market. This is the path they feel positive to be socially recognized as active citizens. Moreover, our research underlines the importance of place identity concept: it can be used as a framework for understanding homelessness in a wider perspective and for designing effective and innovative public policies.homelessness