Recreation as Empowerment for Homeless People Living in Shelters

Once viewed as a response to an "emergency" situation, many shelters for homeless people now operate on an ongoing basis to serve what has apparently become a permanent underclass in North America. While individuals fall into and usually eventually escape the state of homelessness, the social category of "homeless people" continues to get larger (Rosenthal, 1994). In the past, homeless shelters only opened their doors in the evening, and people had to leave after breakfast to often spend the day walking the streets, 'hanging out,' panhandling and otherwise searching out scarce resources needed to survive in a hostile and unforgiving social environment. Increasingly, however, social service providers are recognizing that the temporary, episodic and long term users of emergency housing need access to experiences that enrich their daily lives and provide some measure of stability and self-esteem while they endure or struggle with their condition and hopefully return to normal housed lives. There is now greater acceptance of a holistic, multi-pronged, integrated approach to addressing the social, emotional and physical problems of homeless individuals and families (Kunstler, 1993).

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Journal of Leisurability