Shirley Smith

Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

Rick Zoucha

Committee Member

Emma C. Mosley

Committee Member

Joan Such Lockhart


African-American Women, Collaboration, Commitment, Community-based intervention, Empowerment, Walking Exercise


The purpose of this study was to discover the health promoting needs of homeless women, residing in a shelter. A qualitative participatory action research (PAR) approach was used to solicit a deeper understanding of the women's health promoting needs. PAR is designed as a systematic inquiry, including collaboration with those affected by the issue being studied for purposes of taking action, empowerment, and effecting change. The specific aims for this study were 1) describe the health promoting needs of homeless women in the context of their lives as homeless women; 2) develop and implement a plan for meeting the health promoting needs of homeless women in the context of their lives as homeless women. The research questions for this study were 1) What are the health promoting needs of homeless women?; 2) What does the homeless woman need in order to maintain or improve her health and well-being?; 3) What are the health promoting activities identified by homeless women that promote their health and well being within the context of living in a shelter for homeless women?; and, 4) What is the process developed and adopted by homeless women living in a shelter to promote their health and well being?

Participation in this study was voluntary, totaling twenty-one (21) women who were recruited at various stages of the study. All women residing in the shelter met the inclusion criteria. The research team consisted of the homeless women and the researcher in the roles of co-researchers and co-participants.

The PAR approach consisted of four (4) phases, planning, acting, observing and reflecting, and evaluating. The data were collected through group and individual interviews. Each interview was audio taped and documented. Open-ended questions were utilized to elicit a deeper and comprehensive view of the women's health promoting needs and solutions to identified problems. The management of the data was completed manually by the researcher by entering data in to a computerized Word document. The analysis and interpretations of the data were presented to the research team who then validated the accuracy of the analysis and interpretation of the researcher. The team selected the activity to develop as an intervention.

The findings from this study indicated that a group of homeless women who resided in a shelter identified exercise as their health promoting need. They planned and developed a six (6) week walking class to meet self determined group outcomes. The concept of commitment emerged from the data. The women began to understand how this concept impacted on their likelihood of participating in the walking classes. They took leadership roles throughout the study period. The findings of this study will be utilized to guide the development of culturally appropriate, community-based education/health promotion programs for homeless women at this shelter currently and in the future.