Re-framing homelessness: An occupational adaptation perspective
Homeless individuals experience an increasing number of problems. There are few interventions that address the necessary daily activities and roles required for productive living. Even so, there is a currently limited role for occupational therapy with the homeless. This researcher proposes that there is a role for occupational therapy which can improve the lives of the homeless. The focus could be on facilitating adaptation, developing role competencies, and increasing the individuals' ability to function productively and independently. However, before this can happen the phenomenon of homelessness must be explored from an occupational therapy perspective. The purpose of this line of research is to explore this phenomenon. This takes the form of three studies that examined: (a) role participation and performance in adults who are homeless; (b) perceptions of homeless people as to the cause of their situation; and (c) the phenomenon of homelessness through using the theory of Occupational Adaptation (Schkade & Schultz, 1992; Schultz & Schkade, 1992).
Qualitative methodologies were used to examine the research questions with homeless individuals. The results indicated: (a) a need for an expanded view of the phenomenon of homelessness and that intervention needs to move away from only providing the basic needs, but assist in functioning successfully in life roles; (b) a lack of adaptation was the cause of homelessness and that intervention should focus on facilitating that adaptation process instead of focusing on external causes or circumstances; and (c) the theory of Occupational Adaptation was useful in identifying and understanding the factors (person and/or environment) that either facilitated or inhibited the adaptive process which allows individuals to live independent and productive lives. The results reveal that the theory of Occupational Adaptation will enable the occupational therapist to conceptualize the individuals' experience of homelessness in order to create a successful intervention plan.