“Life in the Round” and the Homeless:
Information Flow, Human Service Needs, and Pivotal Interventions (2003-04)

The purpose of this study is to identify the informational, health and human services needs of homeless persons on the East Side of King County, WA. Working with the United Way of King County (UWKC), who will use the results to inform planning processes, the study focuses on identifying interventions via tipping points that might prevent and limit homelessness. Specifically, it examines (1) the pivotal or hinging factors that lead to homelessness and areas where interventions are highly needed, (2) the needs and uses that homeless people make of information and human services, (3) the critical factors that enable people escape homelessness and obtain stable housing, and (4) the barriers to successful help-seeking encountered by the homeless. Framed by Elfreda Chatman’s (2000) theory of Life in the Round, this qualitative study comprises field observation and interviews with approximately 50 homeless people and 10-15 multi-agency staff. UW iSchool MLIS student SJ Alexander is participating in this study for her master's thesis, while IBEC Research Associates Dr. Julie Hersberger (University of North Carolina, Greensboro) and Dr. Betty Marcoux (University of Washington) are also participating.

The Life in the Round Project is part of our IMLS-funded series, “Approaches for Understanding Community Information Use” (2002-04), which is deriving a general, multi-component model of everyday information behavior that builds upon tenets discussed by Harris and Dewdney (1994) and Case (2002). The model is based on findings from several studies—such as the Life in the Round Project—each targeted at a specific problem or set of questions. Each study’s methodology is additionally tested for how it might be adapted for use by information providers in varied organizations.