Spaces of Exclusion: Safety, Stigma, and Surveillance of Mothers Experiencing Homelessness

Lack of affordable housing, poverty, and intimate partner violence are among the most common reasons for homelessness among mothers and their children in Canada. Mothers experience social exclusion in compounding and debilitating ways. In the literature on social exclusion and health, rarely is safety recognized as a prominent component of social exclusion. The purpose of this critical narrative study was to better understand the unique narratives of social exclusion for mothers experiencing homelessness in Ontario. A critical narrative methodology with an intersectional lens was used. Twenty-six (N = 26) mothers participated in the study. The overarching finding of unsafe spaces represents the unique forms of exclusion from safety participants experienced in public and private spaces. Emerging out of this overarching category are two intertwined subcategories of (a) exclusion from safety and (b) stigma: public surveillance and discrimination. Participants’ narratives of exclusion from safety signify an ecosystem of unsafe spaces. The findings illuminate and reiterate the imperative for nurses to recognize that safety is a human right and is foundational for health. Nurses can use critical self-reflection and challenge the inherent “nursing gaze” to promote spaces of support rather than surveillance and engage in political advocacy to address structural inequalities, such as gender-based violence.

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Canadian Journal of Nursing Research