Description Parallel Stream Session B.3

Description Parallel Stream Session B.3

Parallel Stream Session B (11:15-12:30)
Stream B.3: Social work and homelessness.

Nienke Boesveldt (Utrecht University) and Lia van Doorn (University of Applied Sciences Utrecht).

The Session focuses on persons with an extreme housing need, also referred to as homeless persons, whilst the reasons for being so tend to be related to other areas such as being discharged from institutionalized care (youth-, health- or mental health-), prison or being evicted from housing.  This results in persons being referred to as rough-sleepers, beggars, regulars at private charities providing temporary shelter or housing, which is a situation that risks being permanent since large proportions (50 to 80%) relapsing into this situation repeatedly – the situations these persons find themselves in constitute a (moral) challenge to the welfare state by exposing its ineffectiveness in providing an appropriate safety net and/or enhancing social inclusion of all.

The specific questions to be addressed in this session touch upon:

  1. the position (formal and symbolic) of homeless persons, incl. their legal status and their construction by policy makers, social work and themselves and/or evaluation of the moral challenges they form and face; including approaches including perspectives on sameness/ the other and the challenges this poses to social work more specific;
  2. their survival strategies (incl. busking, begging, hiding and  being less visible for street/ rural homelessness and/ or self-stigma, hospitalization for those homeless persons that are (repeatedly) institutionalized) and the social work interventions (e.g. housing first, outflow focused support, integrated support, ‘presence’, strength based etc.) and policy responses to those strategies (incl. stigmatisation, criminalisation and medicalisation but also (inherent) encouragement or solidarity-initiatives);
  3. the evaluation of social work interventions and policies at all levels of governance (both vertical in global, EU, state, insurance regional and all municipalities, and horizontal between parties such as housing associations, policy makers, mental health service, substance abuse services) that address homelessness;
  4. the mechanisms that (inadvertently) contribute to or diminish their (further) marginalisation, such as the increased regulation of public space or gentrification and the role of social work professionals and/ or policy makers (limiting available hours, continuity of support) in this.

We give no preference to either theoretical or empirical papers or to any specific method of social scientific inquiry. All papers touching upon the “homeless” and social work and/ or policy response to it are welcome, and especially those that employ a comparative lens and/or an interdisciplinary perspective. We also welcome methodological papers, including ones that address the issue of the invisibility of this group and the challenges this invisibility poses for knowledge acquisition.