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Qual Health Res. 2019 Jul 25:1049732319862532. doi: 10.1177/1049732319862532. [Epub ahead of print]

Fixed Nodes of Transience: Narratives of Homelessness and Emergency Department Use.

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1 University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
2 The American University of Paris, Paris, France.
3 The University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.


Discourse in popular media, public policy, and academic literature contends that people who are homeless frequently make inappropriate use of hospital emergency department (ED) services. Although researchers have investigated the ED experiences of people who are homeless, no previous studies have examined how this population understands the role of the ED in their health care and in their day-to-day lives. In the present study, 16 individuals participated in semistructured interviews regarding their ED experiences, and narrative analysis was applied to their responses. Within the context of narratives of disempowerment and discrimination, participants viewed the ED in differing ways, but they generally interpreted it as a public, accessible space where they could exert agency. ED narratives were also paradoxical, depicting it as a fixed place for transient care, or a place where they were isolated yet felt a sense of belonging. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.


Canada; emergency department use; homelessness; indigenous people; narrative inquiry; qualitative; storytelling


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