Creating a sense of place after homelessness: We are not “ready for the shelf.”

December 15, 2020

Burns, V. F., St-Denis, N., Walsh, C. A, Hewson, J.A. (2020). Creating a sense of place after homelessness: We are not “ready for the shelf.” Journal of Aging and the Environment. doi: 10.1080/26892618.2020.1858382

Full Article  


Increasingly, older adults’ perspectives are informing aging in place and Age-Friendly Cities (AFC) research, policy, and practices. However, rarely are the voices of older people who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness included. Guided by the concepts of place and home, this qualitative study used semi-structured go-along interviews and thematic analysis to explore how seven older adults (aged 50+) with homeless histories created a sense of place, and the facilitators and barriers they encountered in their place-making process after being housed. The analysis revealed two main themes: home as safety; and sense of place as purpose. Although most expressed gratitude for the safety their housing provided, it was not enough to feel in place. Sense of place was created through engaging in meaningful activities that provided them with a sense of purpose. Sense of place as purpose was facilitated by three subthemes (self-determination, employment/education, and technology), and three barriers (discrimination, transportation, and income). Recommendations are provided which can inform the development of more inclusive housing design and programming, and foster AFC for all older adults, including people with homeless histories.


Homelessness; Age-friendly cities; Sense of place; Home; Social participation