Children now constitute the largest segment of the homeless population. Multiple studies have identified the adverse effects of homelessness on children's health, development, academic success, and behaviour. Minimal literature exists that describes homeless children from the perspective of their strengths. The purpose of this study was to investigate the meaning of hope in homeless children and to identify strategies that children use in fostering and maintaining their hope. Using the technique of methodological triangulation (semi-structured interviews and drawings) the investigator collected data on a convenience sample of 60 homeless children (6 to 16 years old) currently residing in homeless shelters. Transcriptions of the audio-taped interviews were analysed following Colaizzi's method of analysis. Transcript statements were compared with the drawings. Five themes representing hope emerged from the data: connectedness, internal resources, cognitive strategies, energy, and hope objects. School age children drew story book tale characters, pre-adolescents drew real life situations, and adolescents drew future plans to represent their hopes. An understanding of hope from the perspective of homeless children could provide a basis upon which to develop interventions that engender hope and to develop programmes that build on the hopes that children had already developed.
Hope as seen through the eyes of homeless children.