McNaughton, Carol Corinne
Understanding transitions through homelessness in a risk society.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Previous analyses of homelessness have been accused of lacking theoretical and conceptual clarity. This study aimed to rectify this through an analysis of data collected using a qualitative longitudinal research methodology on the transitions through homelessness made by twenty-eight people in a Scottish city.
Three key factors were found to influence the transitions the participants made – the access to different forms of capital (the resources) they had; their social networks and relationships; and experiences of ‘edgework’ (experiences of traumatic risk situations, such as domestic violence; or of voluntary risk taking such as drug use; that encapsulate the need to negotiate risk on both emotional and physical levels). These factors may affect anyone’s lives, but only when their resources are depleted to the point they have to rely on the state in this way do they become ‘homeless’ and enter the material and emotional ‘reality ‘ of homelessness. This is the new theory on homelessness, causation and individual actions, developed here – the ‘stressed’ theory.
By the end of the research the majority of the participants (nineteen) were living in their own tenancies. It may have appeared that those who had their own tenancy had made integrative transitional passages out of homelessness, however the majority of the participants were actually found to be ‘flip-flopping’ on the edge of society, whether still homeless or not. When the fundamental structural reality they operated in had not changed, their risk of homelessness and the motivation for actions that appeared to have led to their homelessness, remained.
Actions they engaged in to assert their agency were also actions that were motivated by, and then recreated, the structural reality they operated within – a reality of marginality and a poverty of resources. This was also what provided the rationale for actions that may appear irrational, such as drug use, in the face of making a transition out of homelessness. A key aspect of these transitions however was that desp
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