• Trine Lambek Frellsen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
Since the year 2007, every second year, the Danish Institute of Social Research (SFI) has made a record of the number of homeless people living in Denmark, which in 2013 was 5820. The record shows that lack of a home is not the only problem for these people. Many of the homeless people deal with numerous complex psychosocial problems besides being homeless, which encumbers the solution of homelessness as a societal problem in Denmark.
The fact that homelessness is such a complex problem has led to various efforts and strategies in order to solve it. Efforts that differ a lot from each other. Therefore, untill year 2008, homelessness was viewed upon as the final stop on a progressive social decline, which could only be solved gradually. Therefore the strategy included numerous temporary housing solutions, combined with an effort to solve the problems related to homelessness, before the state of homelessness itself could be dealt with. In 2008 that strategy was replaced. Now the Danish society looks upon homelessness as a far more dynamic state, in which a person through life can be in and out of. Furthermore the solution to solving the problem of homelessnes is now thought to be a permanent housing solution, combined with housing assistance.
That can be considered as a revolution within the view upon homelessness, including homeless people and what their problems and needs are characterized by. Also it shows that homelessness as a social problem, is not a universal phenomenon. Lokese puts it this way:
”Homelessness became accepted as a social problem only when the image of such people as winos and bums was replaced with an image of them as guiltless women and children. Stated simply, social problems claims of any sort are the most viable when victims are constructed as the type of person who deserves sympathy” (Stax 2005: 120, refers to Lokese 1992: 151).
Homelessness, including homeless people and their problems and needs can therefore be viewed as social constructions, which is the starting point of this master thesis.
I work within an interactionist, social constructivist conceptual framework and wish to investigate, how homeless people construct themselves, their problems and their needs. Besides that, I wish to investigate, how they position themselves in the interview about these subject, from a view of homeless people as rationally acting individuals. I have therefore the following problem formulation:
“What characterizes homeless people’s understanding of their problems and needs? And how do they position themselves, in the interview about these subjects?”
I have in this master thesis conducted interviews with 5 homeless or former homeless people about their problems and needs to answer my questions.
The main points in the conclusion of this study is, that the homeless people’s understanding of their problems is characterized by the fact that they describe very complex social problems, such as unemployment, alcohol abuse, financial problems and health problems combined with homelessness, which they rarely define as caused by themselves. Instead they blame coincidences, other people, or a rigid, economy-focused dysfunctional public system, that does not listen to them or help them. An important point is that all informants find the different kinds of accommodation facilities for homeless people deeply problematic because of the composition of residents that leads to an unsafe environment where threats, violence and abuse of substances are everyday phenomena.
Furthermore the homeless people’s understanding of their problems is characterized by the surprising fact that 4 out of 5 informants did not see homelessness unambiguously as a problem. Instead they saw it as a state of freedom from the rules and obligations for a life within the social norms of society. Therefore they also found it problematic to function in an apartment because of the connected obligations.
The homeless people’s understanding of their needs is characterized by numerous categories of needs that are not only connected to material and financial conditions, but also to self-actualization and meaningful social relations. Overall, the needs match the problems and they actually also match the aims of the Danish Homeless Strategy.
Finally the homeless people position themselves in various ways throughout the interviews. The most frequent positions are the position as a victim, an independent and strong person, a person belonging to a different (and better) group of people than other homeless people, and a happy homeless, which all are underlined by the use of accounts, defined as excuses or justifications to explain their overall situation and so underline their (unconscious) choice of positions.
LanguageDanish
Publication date1 Sep 2014
Number of pages111
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 201899903