Transformative Mediation and Social Justice: Can the Model Work for Homeless People?

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Gerlinde Bothin Transformative Mediation and Social Justice: can the model work for homeless people? Synopsis Transformative mediation is held up by proponents as an effective tool for “social change [on a micro level but has repercussions that surpass the individual with the] capacity to change society for the better” (Bush & Folger in Etcheson 1999:394). Does this claim stand up to the critique of social justice theorists, who contend that the practice of conflict resolution serves the status quo and blunts the “only effective weapons […] disadvantaged groups in our society have” (Schoeny & Warfield 2000:258)? In this essay I will investigate whether and how the transformative mediation model can contribute constructively to the quest of homeless people for human rights recognition and social justice. I have chosen the ecological perspective to obtain a comprehensive analysis of the complexities, interaction and interdependent relations of individual and contextual systems affecting homeless people. Homelessness amid affluence: a disturbing contradiction “Homelessness is a universal journey, and is not necessarily by definition just about shelter, it is an intrinsic state of unrest”. (I. Archibald 2004) Homelessness is characterized by the deprivation of an “essential human experience – the possession and maintenance of home space” (LaGory, Fitzpatrick, Ritchey 2001:633). Homelessness raises unwelcome questions. The persistent presence of homeless people in affluent Western societies lays bare inherent discrepancies and contradictions pertaining to the economic rationalist model that forms the hub of and drives most of these nations. Why does it exist amid our steadily rising affluence? Why seem governments incapable to eliminate the problem? Who is at fault? Does homelessness only happen to ‘other’ people, those who ‘deserve’ it or have

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