Understanding how engagement in a self-managed shelter contributes to empowerment

Max A. Huber*, Louis D. Brown, Rosalie N. Metze, Martin Stam, Tine Van Regenmortel, Tineke N. Abma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Participant empowerment is a foundational goal of self-organised homeless care. We aim to understand how a self-organised setting contributes to participants' empowerment. The data we analysed (56 interviews, both open and semi-structured) were generated in a longitudinal participatory case study into Je Eigen Stek (Your own place, JES), a low-cost shelter for people experiencing homelessness in the Netherlands. JES participants experienced the freedom of choice and influence on their living environment. JES' fluid structure allowed participants to adapt the program to their desires and needs, though participants were sometimes negative about having to live together. Most participants preferred JES over regular shelters. Unlike empowerment literature, participants mostly emphasised freedom of choice over capacity development. JES offered opportunities for social and organisational engagement, through which participants developed roles, skills and self-image. However, a limited number of participants developed leadership roles through self-management. Literature suggests setting aspects to be either enabling or entrapping. We found some aspects (e.g., size, freedom of choice) could be entrapping or enabling, depending on personal factors. Our analysis revealed individual freedom of choice, balancing freedom of choice with support, offering opportunities for engagement and maintaining fluidity in program management as core aspects of how JES contributed to participants' empowerment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-529
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020

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