Substance Use as a Strategy for Managing Stress for Homeless Women

Dr Helena Menih1, Dr  Natalie Thomas1
1University Of New England, Armidale, Australia

Previous research demonstrates that homelessness tends to be very stressful for women, yet limited studies explore how homeless women manage such stress. Based on ethnographic data collected with homeless women in Brisbane, this paper explores the qualitative dimensions of participants’ methods for coping with stress in their lives. Homeless women in this research experienced primary homelessness and were limited in their ability to engage in diversionary activities. Consequently, these women’s stories demonstrate the complexity and uniqueness of coping strategies that homeless women use to manage their lives. The women’s stories portray a struggle with stress, and for some there was a feeling that there was ‘no way out’ of their situation. While the majority of these women endured this feeling, for others, they used various additional types of coping to manage this feeling. This paper qualitatively explores these coping strategies, focusing particularly on the role of substance use in these women’s lives as a strategy for managing stress, and the affect that this coping strategy had on their lives.


Dr Menih is an early career researcher, who is interested in the areas of gender, social justice, family violence, and homelessness. She holds a Masters with Honours and a PhD from Griffith University and is currently a lecturer in Criminology at the University of New England.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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