Older homeless women’s identity negotiation: agency, resistance, and the construction of a valued self

Although men still outnumber women among the US adult homeless population, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women, including older women, seeking shelter each night. The concept of ‘home’ is widely associated with women and serves as a source of identity and social order. Thus, homeless older women represent an intersection of stigma. This qualitative study utilized narrative analysis to investigate the intersectionality of gender, age and homelessness among six homeless urban women in their fifties and early sixties. Findings highlight how older homeless women experience stigmatization within the context of multiple marginalized identities. Data illustrate the women’s agency, resistance and resilience as they engage in ‘identity work’ to address the tension between how others view them and how they view themselves, and construct a sense of a valued life and self.