Helping friends and the homeless milieu: Social capital and the utility of street peers
In this article, the author draws upon ethnographic data from a group of homeless and housed youth and young adults who congregated in one city square in the northeastern United States. The author applies social capital theories to understand the positive and negative aspects of street life for each group involved. In this setting, participants found commonalities and befriended one another. By maintaining and nurturing these ties, each group expanded their access to both practical and symbolic resources and provided one another with affective supports, which alleviated feelings of alienation and isolation. Participants benefited in multiple ways by participating, but also placed themselves in potentially harmful and problematic situations as a result. The author explores the utility as well as consequences of extended social ties made through these subgroup affiliations to understand the nuances of social capital and the role of diversified peer groups within homeless street settings.
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