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Homelessness and Supporting People

Homelessness and Supporting People

A review of recent publications which, critical of the ways faith based organisations engage with the provision of homeless services, advocate the adoption of a liberation theology approach which argues that individual charity is not enough and that effective interventions require the development of social movements which challenge the systemic causes of homelessness.(In press)

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Low pay, high house prices and a small rental sector mean that the housing market in the UK has many inherent risks. Few households have enough savings to cover their housing costs for more than a month if they lost their job. Growing numbers of households rely on the safety net to prevent them becoming homeless if they fall on tough times. Successive governments have made changes to the housing safety net so that it now provides less support to fewer people.
Mindful of these trends, Shelter commissioned the University of St Andrews to assess the gaps in the UK’s current housing safety net. The research estimates the number of households falling through the net or at risk of falling through, the characteristics of those at risk and the main risk factors leading people to fall through the net.

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In the context of a detailed examination of a recent article by Eoin O’Sullivan [ ‘Varieties of Punitiveness in Europe: Homelessness and Urban Marginality’ European Journal of Homelessness (2012), vol. 7, pp. 69-97], this paper argues that recent attempts, based in part on the notion of European exceptionalism, to diminish the links between neoliberalism and homelessness are mistaken. The evidence of such links, even in the ‘welfare states’ of western Europe, is abundant and the wholesale supplanting of a ‘punitivism’ by ‘compassion’ is to ignore the lessons of seven decades of research which if it has taught us anything is that homelessness is not just about individual behaviour and good (or bad) intentions. It is also critically about societal constrictions and impositions and possibilities which themselves are the expression of present and past economic circumstances and prevailing political doctrine.

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McKee, K. and Phillips, D. (2012) “Social Housing and Homelessness Policies: reconciling social justice and social mix”, pp 227-242, in G.Mooney and G.Scott (eds) Social Justice and Social Policy in Scotland. Bristol: Policy Press.

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[Dibben, C., Atherton, I., Doherty, J., and Baldacchino, A. (2010) ‘Differences in 5-year survival after a ‘homeless’ or ‘housed’ drugs-related hospital admission: a study of 15–30-year olds in Scotland’ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health]

Background:
Young drug misusers and the homeless both have a greater risk of death than their peers. This study sought to estimate the additional impact of homelessness on the risk of death for young drugs misusers.

Methods:
From all admissions to NHS hospitals in Scotland between 1986 and 2001, those that were: drug misuse related, for people born between 1970 and 1986 and aged over 15 years (n=13 303), were selected. All subsequent admissions and registrations of death were linked to this dataset. Each admission was coded as homeless if the health board of residence was coded as ‘no fixed abode’. 5-year survival after an admission was modelled using (1) life table and (2) proportional hazard models and then (3) differences in causes of deaths were explored.

Results:
Immediately after a drugs-related hospital admission there was no difference in survival between the homeless and those with a ‘fixed address’. However, over a 3-year period the risk for those who were homeless was 3.5 times greater (CI 95% 1.2 to 12.8). This elevated risk seemed to be particularly focused on the second year after an admission. The causes of death were similar for the two groups.

Conclusion:
Although a homeless hospital admission is associated with a greater risk of death for young drug users, it is also a point in time when a young person is in contact with public services. An attempt to link their discharge with housing services would seem a potentially productive policy.

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Doherty, J. and Edgar, B. (Eds.) (2008). In my Caravan, I feel like Superman: Essays in honour of Henk Meert. Brussels, FEANTSA pp.220

This volume is a celebration of the life and work of Henk Meert. The principal authors of the six chapters were members of the European Observatory on Homelessness during the period of Henk’s leadership (2001-2006). The final two chapters are hitherto unpublished papers written by Henk and his co-authors.

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[Doherty, J., Busch-Geertsema, V., Karpuskiene, V., Korhonen, J., O’Sullivan, E., Sahlin, I., Tosi, A., Petrillo, A. and Wygnanska, J. (2008) ‘Homelessness and Exclusion: Regulating public space in European cities’ Surveillance and Society, 5(3): 290-314]

Public space is an essential component of the daily life of homeless people, whether rough sleepers or hostel dwellers or others who are inadequately housed. During 2006 a group of researchers from the European Observatory on Homelessness2 considered the ways in which the increasing surveillance, regulation and control over public space, evident in all European cities, has impacted on the lives of homeless people. In this paper we chart the background to this latest phase in the ‘regulation of urban space’ and assemble evidence from across Europe and especially from our case study countries – Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden. We attempt an analysis of these trends using concepts of ‘border control’, ‘discipline’ and ‘deterrence’. We also consider a limited number of examples of resistance by and on behalf of homeless people to the imposition of restrictions on public space access. In the concluding section, we reflect on related wider societal processes associated with urban regulation and surveillance and their impact on the use of public space.

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[Taylor H., Stuttaford M., Broad B., Vostanis P. (2007) 'Listening to Service Users: Young Homeless People’s Experiences of Mental Health and Evaluation of a New Mental Health Service'. Journal of Child Health Care, September 2007, vol. 11, no. 3, 221-230]

The aim of this study was to investigate young homeless people's experiences of `Strong Minded', a new mental health service set up within selected homeless shelters and run by a voluntary sector organization. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 residents from five homeless shelters across the UK. All of the young people who had accessed Strong Minded had benefited from their engagement. The young people also identified several key inherent and important aspects of Strong Minded relating to both the practical, supportive therapeutic approach and the flexibility of the interventions offered, which contributed to the service's success. This service model of engaging vulnerable young people in transition could have useful implications for the future interface between voluntary and statutory mental health services.

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[Doherty, J. and Stuttaford, M. (2007) 'Preventing Homelessness among Substance Users in Europe' Journal of Primary Prevention, 28 (3): 245-263]

Prior to the 1970s, neither homelessness nor drug addiction was seen as issues of major concern in Europe. At most, they were of local interest and of particular importance only in some larger metropolitan centres. Over the last three decades they have come much more into public prominence and risen up in local and national policy agendas. At the level of the European Union (EU), however, while the use and abuse of drugs has attracted substantial financial resources and institutional involvement, homelessness, in comparison, has been relatively neglected and remains predominantly the concern of non-government and voluntary organisations. At all three levels—local, national, and European—it is only in recent years that the link between homelessness and problematic substance use has come to the fore as an issue of singular concern. This paper examines the recent emergence of policies and programmes which seek to tackle and prevent homelessness among substance users. Our investigation suggests that although new initiatives at the EU level are limited, at the national and especially sub-national level, effective programmes addressing both treatment and prevention are being designed and implemented.

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[Taylor, H., Stuttaford, M., Broad, B. and Vostanis P. (2007) 'Why a ‘Roof’ is not Enough: The Mental Health Characteristics of Young Homeless People Referred to a Designated Mental Health Service in England'.Journal of Mental Health, 15, 4, 491-501]

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