Understanding homelessness through poetic inquiry: Looking into the shadows


  • Lee-Ann Fenge Faculty of Health and Sciences, Bournemouth University
  • Wendy Cutts Faculty of Health and Sciences, Bournemouth University
  • Jon Seagrave




Homeless people often have multiple and complex needs resulting in deep social exclusion. Homelessness research represents a contested arena and one in which it is important to place the human experience of homelessness at the heart of the process. This paper reports on the Seldom Heard Voices project which used poetic inquiry as a qualitative research tool to examine the experience of homelessness. A performance poet, a group of homeless people attending a homeless hostel, and academics from social science backgrounds worked together to explore the lived experience of homelessness creating insights into wellbeing, identity, and belonging. This paper presents an overview of the project and considers how ‘poetic’ writing can engage seldom heard voices, providing a context for understanding the lived experience of homelessness through the words of participants, alongside the reflective narrative of the poet working with them. The project methodology is considered and the themes arising from two poems and the poet’s narrative is discussed.

Keywords: homelessness; social services; poetic inquiry; arts-based research

Author Biographies

Lee-Ann Fenge, Faculty of Health and Sciences, Bournemouth University

Professor of Social Care

Wendy Cutts, Faculty of Health and Sciences, Bournemouth University

Senior Lecturer

Jon Seagrave

Frelance Poet


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How to Cite

Fenge, L.-A., Cutts, W., & Seagrave, J. (2018). Understanding homelessness through poetic inquiry: Looking into the shadows. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 19(3), 119-133. https://doi.org/10.1921/swssr.v19i3.1194