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Working with homelessness

A multi-site European photovoice project

  • Autore: Massimo Santinello,Marta Gaboardi, Francesca Disperati, Michela Lenzi, Alessio Vieno
  • ISBN: 9788867879984
  • Collana: Scienze psicologiche
  • Data Edizione: 2018
  • Numero pagine: 96
  • Illustrato: a colori
  • Stato: disponibile in Creative Common Free
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The pictures shown in this report are the result of scientific research carried out in eight European countries. I would like to underline the term scientific research to provide the readers the key to interpreting this series of images.

For a couple of years now, visual language has been one of the tools of psychosocial research.

In particular, the methodology used in this case, photovoice, has its roots in the work of documentary photography and in the theories of Paolo Freire. According to Wang, the use of photographic language allows the emergence of common problems through group discussion.

What are the common problems for groups of social workers working with homeless people in very different countries and cultural contexts? We chose the photovoice technique to try to find the answers to this question. In particular, we asked social workers to take pictures from their points of view that answered the following question: What are the characteristics of the work organization that facilitate/hinder proper functioning?

The social workers from each organization identified specific issues. Thanks to the shooting and sharing of photographs, each staff member was able to increase his or her awareness of the strengths, problems, and aspects that can improve his or her working environment, develop possible proposals, and positively encourage change through individual and group action. Therefore, the photovoice method represented an opportunity for expression and comparison to promote organizational change at the local level.

We aggregated the pictures in the report to identify transversal themes in the eight countries (France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden) that go beyond the strengths or weaknesses of the individual operational units. In particular, we chose to start from the theme of interpersonal distance: distance/closeness as a characteristic of human, social, and institutional relationships. Distance is an ingredient that characterizes the various relationships in which the social workers are immersed:

• distance in the helping relationship between social worker and client (finding the right balance is fundamental so that the accompaniment can be regarded as a success);

• distance in relationships within the work group (the team is the first protection network able to perform the function of support for the social workers);

• distance from institutions, citizens, other services (these relationships are less immediate but equally important in producing efficiency).

Therefore, we grouped the photos according to these three forms of distance, giving voice to European social workers and showing how, in the end, a unique “European” identity can be traced, in which the relationships constitute a system with similar denominators.

We dealt with one other question in our research: the difference between various working models, which can be summarized as the housing first model versus the traditional form of homelessness assistance (shelter). It is evident from the images that the housing first model is more effective than the traditional model.

We offer two warnings, without which analysis of the images is likely to lead to erroneous interpretations. The first warning is that the reading and production of images was not tied to aesthetic criteria. These photos are not the result of a creative photography workshop or a course for amateur photographers attracted by the discreet charm of poverty and the condition of homeless people. The second warning is that the photographs are not social reportage or punctual documentation of a phenomenon carried out by information or communication professionals, but simply the result of a collective debate, of collected voices, from Europe that express a cohesive perspective.

We believe that for the most attentive observer it will not be difficult to grasp the various implications that emerge from the images, which are able to suggest ways to promote social change to social workers, citizens and administrators.

Il libro è Creative Common Free e scaricabile gratuitamente

Collana: Scienze psicologiche
Autori: Massimo Santinello,Marta Gaboardi, Francesca Disperati, Michela Lenzi, Alessio Vieno
Edizione 2018
Stato: in Creative Common Free


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