Rural rides: the rituals of wayfaring

Martin Whiteford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article looks at the often complex and enduring relationships between wayfarers (itinerant homeless men) and religious and therapeutic communities, with an eye to examining some of the ways in which such ‘outsider’ organisations embody forms of support and care that in many important respects deviate from traditional night‐shelters and mainstream day‐centres. It aims to achieve this task in four steps. First, the defining characteristics (endurance, mobility, rurality, work) of wayfaring are described. Then I consider how vow‐based communities enable wayfarers, seeking a rest on their journey's way, to experience (albeit temporarily) feelings of acceptance and expressions of hospitality. Next, I illustrate some of these themes with a discussion that draws on ethnographic research undertaken at Pilsdon Manor, a Christian community in rural West Dorset that offers a refuge to people in crisis, and which has been materially and spiritually sustained by 50 years of close engagement with wayfarers. Fourth and last, the article points to topics that might be elaborated upon in future research on the culture of wayfaring and alternative homeless service providers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-13
Number of pages8
JournalHousing, Care and Support
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2010


  • homelessness
  • religious communities
  • qualitative methods
  • wayfaring


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