For the purpose of my ethnography
project, in thi...
Ethnographic essay on a study of homeless people within the local area
For the purpose of my ethnography
project, in this case, I chose to study the life of the homeless people within
the local area. For the purpose of the project, I will use the name “street
dwellers” referring to the homeless people and will also not use their real
names for the case of those that I interviewed to avoid causing any harm to
them or being insulted (Moore, 143). I also promised them of nondisclosure and
therefore, am keeping their identities and also the name of the street and town
withheld to avoid any information being linked to them directly. It is because
the street dwellers that I engaged with were of a small cohort at one of the
corners in the local area. The principal purpose of the ethnography is to have
a better understanding of the lives, survival, and reasons that drove the
individuals to end up as street dwellers and also to understand the reason why
they live in small cohorts (Moore, 144-146). For the purpose of this, paper,
the street dwellers are defined as those individuals and families that live in
the streets, cars, abandoned buildings, train or bus stations and other areas
not meant for human habitation. The major questions are “how and what is the
experience of being homeless? What are the challenges faced? How did they end
up as street dwellers? Do they live with their families or not? Why do they
live in small groupings?” The primary aspect, I wanted to ascertain in the study
was as to whether the street dwellers are ever happy, fulfilled and have a
purpose in their lives or do they just lead a life of misery as the places they
called home and their dressing suggested.
The observation and engagement with the
street dweller spun over a period of 3 days and four nights that we spent with
them. I had to observe and then later engage them on their day to day lives. I
observed that in the morning they would wake up very early in the morning and
as if it was a ritual or regular practice ensure that they are all awake before
they set out for their daily lives. There were also clear boundaries that
existed between cohorts and as Johnnie informed me, they have their boundaries
as well. Members of one group could not cross the border and go unpunished.
They also had a young lady and mother to two and was surprised how she evaded
the social services officers to remain with the children on the streets. It was
clear that it was the combined effort and protection that the other groups members
of whom out of 15 there were twelve men offered the protection. The
demographics of the street dwellers were also diversified; the group had
individuals of all descent that lived together and in peace as long as one
belonged to the in-group. They would also share the spoils that they took home
for the day and took time before bed to tell stories, others pray.
The majority of the dwellers ended on
the streets because of lack of papers. They were immigrants that lacked legal
papers hence the need to evade the authorities in avoidance of deportation.
Malcolm was fast to let me know that he would rather remain on the streets than
go back home. Others were ex-convicts that had no families to take them back or
faced the abject rejection of society due to their past transgressions (Howard,
60). Ahmed was bitter narration how he was abandoned by his mother and other
siblings even after serving a ten-year sentence for child molestation. They now
considered the groupings that they lived in the new families that they never
could have and protected each other at all costs.
While watching the street dwellers, it
was clear that despite any living, social relationships are fundamental. They
were able to come together, accept one another and harness their energies and intelligence
to remain alive on the streets. It was also clear that rules among human beings
can never lack for there to be peaceful co-existence (Moore, 149). Even the
cohorts had to set rules on territory and also engagements within the groups.
For example, Brian informed me that they took the time to watch Mary and the
babies at night and also during the day it is their responsibility to ensure
that she is not caught by the authorities to avoid losing the baby (Howard, 60).
To my surprise majority of them ended up on the streets due to past mistakes
and others were there as a result of having broken laws. It was ironical that
the streets were the safest places for the immigrants and the recovering
addicts and ex-cons. Even more ironically, the street dwellers lived in very
tight family units that were of diverse races and demographics while at the
same time the well-off neighbors in our neighborhoods cannot stand living with
a colored neighbor without raising false alarms of feeling threatened (Moore,
In conclusion, the street dwellers are
leading a healthy life. In fact, they proved to be happier than anticipated.
The absence of a stable physical shelter does not stop them from having
substantial mental, emotional and spiritual homes in one another. The street
dwellers sleep with a family on their face because the day came to an end
without either of them being deported, taken back to jail or their child being
taken away. They find escape and solace as being street dwellers and therefore,
it is how they lead their lives of fulfillment. Contrary to what I formerly
believed in, they are happy, fulfilled and have a purpose in their lives.