Engendering homelessness: an ethnographic study of homeless practices in a post-industrial city.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The aim of this thesis is to examine the extent to which homelessness is a gendered phenomenon. In the homelessness literature direct comparisons between men and women are rare, and the ability to compare is complicated by the tendency for research to be either on 'single homelessness' or 'family homelessness'. This thesis addresses this gap and systemically explores the ways in which homelessness is a gendered phenomenon. The research for this thesis focused on homelessness practices in a specific British city. The approach was an ethnographic one and included interviews with homeless people, homeless service providers, statutory housing officers and an observational element in specialist homeless person's assessment centres.
The research found that the services provided to homeless people are not neutral in respect to gender. There were found to be differences in the treatment of men and women while homeless and in the options available to them. There were gender differences in the staff and client approaches at the homeless person's assessment centres. The use of discretion in the provision of help and support for homeless people led to different treatment for women and men. Housing officers generally viewed homeless women as more vulnerable than men, and felt that reduced options for women in terms of service provision and accommodation meant that they deserved more favourable treatment as a result. There were also found to be gendered assumptions built into homelessness legislation. Although homeless women are often seen as more vulnerable than men this was not found to translate into better service provision or options for women. In general there was less emergency and supported accommodation for women although that which was available was smaller and often better quality than men's. There were some clear gaps in provision for homeless people, especially for people with children. The uptake of resettlement services was affected by staff perceptions that women were more able and willing to move into independent accommodation than men.
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