Belonging and its Psychological Impact on Street People


A street person lays on the sidehill near Canterbury Street

Belonging can have various psychological effects on people depending on their situation, and it heavily affects street people. “A home is not just a physical space. It provides roots, identity, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional well-being. Homelessness is about the loss of all of these” (“About Homelessness,” n.d.). It is known that humans have a strong need to belong to something or someone (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). People belong to certain clubs, ethnicities, communities, countries, and various groups that they can relate to and feel a part of (Enayati, 2012). When people lose everything they once had and become homeless, they feel as if they had “lost themselves” and their identity (Boydell, Goering & Morrell-Bellai, 2000). According to Yvonne Vissing, “the need for affiliation prompts people to make friends, join groups, and develop a sense of community” (1996, 75). These natural affiliations are important for one’s well-being and most people try to keep connections throughout their lives.

There are usually serious consequences from no longer feeling as part of a community. Vissing argues that ”Without [belonging], both mental and social health suffers” (p. 75). Many street individuals are likely to feel disconnected from the larger community due to the nature of their situations. According to Ann Arbor, a low sense of belonging is a much stronger predictor of depression than evidence of a lack of social support (University Of Michigan, 1999). It has also been observed that an “increase of crime, substance abuse, violence, suicide, vandalism and alienation are related to this lack of belonging” (Vissing, 1996). When people lose their identity and sense of belonging, they also tend to become demotivated to overcome their current situation or seek a solution.

By improving the way the greater community views and treats street people and by promoting positive interactions, it is possible to create a stronger sense of inclusive community, and consequently improve the mental, physical, and social well-being of street people, reduce crime, substance abuse, and violence, and ultimately help people to overcome their current hardships.



About Homelessness. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2015, from
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.
Boydell, K., Goering, P., & Morrell-Bellai, T. (2000). Narratives of Identity: Re-presentation of Self in People Who Are Homeless (10th ed., p. 1). Sage Publications, Inc. Retrieved from
Enayati, A. (2012, June 1). The importance of belonging – Retrieved September 7, 2015, from
University Of Michigan. (1999, August 11). Low Sense Of Belonging Is A Predictor Of Depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 8, 2015 from
Vissing, Y. (1996). Out of sight, out of Mind. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky.