Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Marshall Carrie A.


Introduction: Individuals with lived experiences of homelessness report social exclusion and struggle to belong in their communities. I conducted this research to fill a gap in existing research by addressing the research question: “What are the experiences of belonging for individuals as they leave homelessness?” Methods: I conducted this research in two phases: 1) a systematic review and meta-aggregation of qualitative literature using the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology; and 2) a secondary analysis of existing qualitative data from a study focusing on the experience of transitioning from homelessness using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Findings: The findings from both of these studies indicate that attaining belonging following homelessness is a difficult process; yet having housing, social networks and engaging in meaningful activities facilitates this experience. Conclusion: Belonging is critical following homelessness and supporting individuals in supporting this outcome is a key homelessness prevention strategy.

Summary for Lay Audience

Belonging is a basic need closely linked to well-being and is an experience where individuals share mutual care, concern, and support. However, individuals with experiences of being unhoused have been, and still are, excluded in society. Belonging is a necessary component of community integration and is a necessary outcome for preventing further homelessness. This thesis explores the question, ‘What are the experiences of belonging of individuals as they leave homelessness?’ The research was completed in two phases. In Phase I, I completed a systematic review and meta-aggregation. In Phase II, I analyzed existing interviews from a study conducted with persons who had transitioned to housing following homelessness to answer the research question: “How does engaging in meaningful activities influence experiences of belonging following homelessness?” The results of Phase I indicate that belonging is a difficult process that is shaped by participating in meaningful activities, changing relationships, and structural factors including: stigma; low-income; mental illness; physical health issues; disability; difficult past relationships; and trauma. In Phase II, my findings indicate that meaningful activities facilitate the process of developing a sense of belonging. Participants indicated that belonging develops in three key ways: through spending time with people who care; through participating in meaningful activities that align with being a ‘regular member of society’; and by interacting with pets and nature. These studies may guide future research, practice, and policy emphasizing the importance of meaningful activity for supporting belonging during the process of leaving homelessness.

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