Discord and distress: a constructivist grounded theory of homelessness in austere times

Carmichael, Christina (2020) Discord and distress: a constructivist grounded theory of homelessness in austere times. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Since 2010, successive governments have pursued an agenda of austerity characterised by reductions in public spending and significant housing and welfare reforms. Taken together, austerity--‐driven policies hold profound implications for the way in which homelessness is being experienced and responded to at the ‘street level’. This thesis presents a constructivist grounded theory study that explores how austerity is being experienced by single homeless people and the practitioners who support them. The empirical element of the study consists of 40 semi--‐structured interviews conducted with three participant groups: 17 single homeless people residing in accommodation services; nine practitioners from local authority housing departments; and 14 practitioners from homelessness third sector organisations. The study offers insights into the ways in which austerity policies have translated into participants’ everyday realities, which are discussed and theorised here in relation to two overarching concepts: discord and distress. The ‘atmosphere’ of austerity was shown to be highly evident both within participants’ material practices and experiences, but also affectively through their moods, sense of self and imaginings of personal futures (Hitchen, 2016). Participants’ accounts of life within the service environment highlight how a combination of welfare and housing reforms, cuts to homelessness provision and significant strain on health and social care sectors meant that service users were at an increasing risk of getting “stuck” in the system, while practitioners spoke in terms of a system “backing up”. This study provides a contribution to what is currently a limited body of literature situating experiences of homelessness within contemporary policy contexts. Listening to the lived experiences of those at the ‘street level’ offers a far more nuanced understanding of the effects of austerity and provides important counter narrative to a policy rhetoric dominated by behavioural explanations of homelessness and of poverty more broadly.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Social Work
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2020 08:47
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2020 08:47
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/77861

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