Recent decades have witnessed an increasing trend towards the development of critical approaches to the study of poverty, which call upon social workers to perceive people living in poverty as active agents who resist their condition. Relatively few studies, however, have examined how women living in poverty, who embody collective-political agency, experience the encounter with the welfare services, and how their manner of organisation is shaped by this encounter. This study examines this issue based on fifteen semi-structured interviews with mothers in need of public housing in Israel who are activists in protest groups against the public housing policy. The findings reveal that the encounter with welfare services generated feelings of othering due to the meanings attributed to their homelessness and to the nature of their mothering. Conversely, activism was perceived as a practice for challenging, redesigning and reducing power relations with the welfare agencies. The findings also show that the encounter shaped the participants' manners of activist mobilisation. The study contributes to the research literature on social work with women who live in poverty, by highlighting the important role of women's activism within the encounter.
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© 2022 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.
- public housing
- social welfare services
- women's activism