Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Mary F. Ziegler

Committee Members

Sandra Thomas, Katherine Greenberg, Susan Hamilton


A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2007) concluded that in January 2005 at least 754,147 people were homeless on an average day. Families with children are the fastest-growing sector of the homeless population and comprise 40% of the homeless population. Most of these families are headed by single women and reside in shelters rather than on the streets. Loss of one’s home, the conditions of shelter life, and the physical and sexual abuse that often precipitate homelessness result in diminished self-efficacy and hope. There is an urgent need to mitigate the psychological traumas faced by these homelessness families in a tangible way to help them develop increased self-efficacy and a restored sense of hope, and lend support to their efforts to escape from homelessness.

The existing literature indicates that increased self-efficacy leads to improvements in academic work, predicts success in obtaining employment and permanent housing, promotes abstinence from alcohol and drug abuse, and supports effective parenting among homeless women. The literature also indicates that hope contributes to effective goal setting and the determination to actively pursue those goals, thereby lending support to homeless women’s efforts to escape from homelessness. Many authors have written about a garden as a place of transition, expectation, and hope and garden-based learning provides benefits in the intellectual/cognitive, physical, emotional/psychological, and social domains. However, little research has been conducted on the effects of participation in gardening and other horticultural activities on self-efficacy and hope among homeless individuals.

The purpose of this study was to determine if participation in a garden-based learning program would positively influence women residing at a homeless shelter in South Florida with regard to their levels of hope and self-efficacy. This three-phase, sequential mixed method study used a combination of survey instruments and semi-structured interviews to investigate the levels of hope and self-efficacy in eight homeless women and the ability to modify these factors through a garden-based learning intervention. The overarching research question for this study was: What are the results and experiences of participation in a garden-based learning program for homeless women with regard to hope and self-efficacy?

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