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Some research has explored perspectives held by the homeless on technology use (Borchard, 2010; Eyrich-Garg, 2010, 2011; Harpin, Davis, Low, & Gilroy, 2016; Hersberger, 2002/2003; Pollio, Batey, Bender, Ferguson, & Thompson, 2013). Few studies have however focused on understanding this population’s use of technology for literacy purposes (Hendry, 2011; Muggleton & Ruthven, 2012), as distinct from their more general technology use, such as acquiring the skills to improve their station in life or to enhance their health, or utilize social services. Employing symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969) as a conceptual framework and using semi-structured interviews, this qualitative study examines technology use for literacy purposes by the homeless. It also investigates the meanings that these participants direct toward technology. The findings suggest diverse technology uses that enhance the participants’ access to social services. Other responses indicate differences in the conceptions and uses of technology for literacy purposes. The participants also made recommendations to us for the state and the nearby state university to support their literacy practices and access to technology. The insights from this study should be of value to educators, policy makers, city governments, and social and community personnel in improving adult literacy and social services programs.


Originally published in

McGrail, E., Tinker Sachs, G., Lewis Ellison, T., Dukes, N., D., & Zackery, K. (2018). Homeless adults, technology and literacy practices. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 19(2), 50-98.