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By : Ayona Datta

This paper is a post disciplinary study of homeless women in Casa Florence, a Phoenix shelter through an ethnographic method. It investigates how they are affected by gendered stereotypes in the built environment, what their experiences of living in the city tell us about the underlying power structures and the gender ideologies that they themselves may be embedded in and how their experiences in turn point towards a global situation. The study involved open ended questions with the women about a conscious discussion of their experiences through direct questions; indirect questions about cultural and ideological givens that influence them, such as the house they grew up in; specific questions related to their built environment such as the experience of living in the shelter and the neighborhood and finally cognitive questions by asking them to sketch their ideal home. The research found that the location and the internal arrangement of Casa Florence symbolized the power that the social welfare system exerted on the women. With the rise of a post-industrial society in America, patriarchal bases of policy and planning and changes in occupational structure many such women become homeless due to reduction in service-sector jobs. The spread of capitalism that has sanctioned exploitation in the South has also silenced the voices of the 'others' in the North. Till we have had a total rethinking in our value systems, it seems that many shelters such as Casa Florence will continue to marginalize homeless women from our society.

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