Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Miguel A. De La Torre

Second Advisor

M. Dores Cruz

Third Advisor

Jennifer S. Leath

Fourth Advisor

Debora M. Ortega


Care, Critical anthropology, Embodiment, Houseless, Liberation theology, Solidarity


Criminalization measures, such as Denver’s Urban Camping Ban, are an attempt to mask systemic causes of houselessness and assign blame to the personal failures of those living on the streets. Unaccompanied houseless women utilize street families to create community, survive houselessness, and fight criminalization measures. Since liberation and solidarity can become forces of oppression, this dissertation considers cultural evidence for the desire and means of liberation. Street families and the praxis of kinship form the basis of a liberative ethic that critiques systemic causes of houselessness and provides a model of relatedness that works toward social justice. The project is based on eleven ethnographic interviews and life histories from women experiencing houselessness in Denver. The ethnographic material is considered using a methodology based on the liberative hermeneutical circle, critical anthropology, and embodiment.

Street families offer material resources, protection, and solidarity to their members. They value personhood and emphasize the interconnectedness of people and systems amid laws and social services, which reinforce individualism. For houseless women, the creation of street families utilizes the praxis of kinship to critique traditional gender stereotypes while advocating for caring and just relationships. For Christian ethics, outsiders can find ethical resources in the fictive kin network established by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark to consider the theological basis of engaging with street families to promote social change. As such, the kinship exemplified by houseless women, alongside theological reflection on the fictive kin network of Jesus, can serve as a liberative ethic based on the cultural resources of the marginalized. This project argues for an embodied solidarity that promotes caring, systemic justice through ongoing relationships with the marginalized to ensure that the work of liberation does not cause further harm.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Sarah A. Neeley


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

241 pgs


Ethics, Theology