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Sixteen - Towards an integrative theory of homelessness and rough sleeping

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 April 2022

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Summary

Introduction

The reasons why people become and remain homeless are complex; this is perhaps why, in the 21st century in a highly developed industrial society, we still have people living and dying on the streets. A single solution has not yet been found; nor is it likely to be, given the wide range of factors implicated in rough sleeping specifically and homelessness generally, as well as the multiple populations who are considered to make up the ‘homeless’.

Referring to ‘homelessness’ itself is an issue. There is a danger of oversimplifying the understanding of the issue in terms of a single population of people and therefore a single set of causes and effects. There are, of course, many issues that lead people to become homeless, the differences being idiosyncratic depending on the people and circumstances involved. For many, deprivation, poverty and financial issues may conspire to make sustaining housing all but impossible. For others, it may be that the housing situation was untenable because of domestic violence. For others, it may be that an inability to sustain rent payments due to funding drug addiction results in eviction. The term ‘homeless’ is therefore applied to a highly diverse group of people who are defined only by where they are, or are not, found.

This chapter will briefly cover a number of the main psychological factors theorised to be implicated in the causation and maintenance of homelessness. It is not possible to cover all factors in depth, but the point is to highlight them in enough detail that a model may be developed, which is presented near the end of this chapter. First, however, we need to consider what a good theory or model may do.

A useful theory

Any useful theory or model in this area needs to be useful enough to have predictive as well as explanatory power, but also needs to be loose enough to encompass the diversity of experience leading to homelessness, including different levels of factors, from genetic to societal influences. This chapter develops such a theory, which may then be useful in unpacking the psychological factors and concomitant interventions that may be useful in enabling people to break out of behavioural patterns that maintain a cycle of rough sleeping and homelessness.

Type
Chapter
Information
Social Determinants of Health
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Social Inequality and Wellbeing
, pp. 227 - 240
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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