Homelessness impacts the experiences of the individual in unique and profound ways. To the individual, the experience of such an undesirable condition has dramatic social and emotional consequences. First, homeless people are continually confronted in each social interaction with the immense stigma imposed by their condition and as a result, struggle to uphold social prestige. In addition, homeless people experience a decreased sense of self­worth and social belonging because their individual identities and communities are considered to be stigmatized and disgraced by members of society. As such, homeless people engage in defensive communicative practices in order to combat these social and emotional implications. Specifically, this present study explores the practices that homeless people in Utica, NY use when speaking about their identities and relationships in order to bolster a sense of self­worth and social belonging. The findings suggest that “identity work” strategies are useful for homeless people to present acceptable individual identities and establish self­worth; however, this cohort of homeless people also highlight positive aspects of community to emphasize social belonging. Altogether, this work shows how important homeless people in Utica feel it is to be considered ‘normal’ and socially desirable.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen J. Ellingson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.