Date of Award

Spring 6-7-2019

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Karen Snedker

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Leland Saunders


Homelessness, Capabilities, Ethics, Mary's Place, Meso-organizational response


The purpose of this interdisciplinary project is to apply a philosophical theory on ethics to the homelessness crisis in Seattle Washington. The Capabilities approach- a philosophical ethical theory- provides the conceptual foundation of this study. I adapt the theory using five capabilities from Martha Nussbaum’s list of key Capabilities and apply them to the issue of homelessness. This is a qualitative study using case-based methods. I selected one key homeless organization, Mary’s Place, to examine ethics and capabilities. I conducted in-depth interviews with five employees from Mary’s Place to evaluate ethical issues in their organizational approach. The interviews revealed a strong focus on the particular use of language as well as the ethical tensions between the organization’s mission and its translation into practice. Homelessness is a crisis that does not seem to be ceasing in Seattle or across other West coast cities. While there is not one solution to the issue, this research highlights the importance of understanding homelessness from the perspective of human flourishing. Findings from this project can inform ethical responses to homelessness more broadly.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Honors Program.