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Avoidance strategies: stress, appraisal and coping in hostel accommodation



Living in temporary accommodation (TA) can impact negatively on social and emotional well-being, particularly where it is poor-quality, large-scale, or congregate in nature. None-the-less, the ‘avoidance’ of TA, where an individual will sleep rough or squat when a bed space is available for their use, often provokes puzzlement on the part of the public, service providers and policy makers. Homeless people who abandon or avoid TA are often viewed as holding beliefs, characteristics or traits that render them unable or unwilling to make choices which prioritise their own well-being. Drawing on cognitive appraisal theory, and qualitative testimony from those with direct experience of TA in Belfast, this article challenges these perspectives, arguing that the avoidance of TA is better understood as a rational and reasoned response to an environment where intolerable levels of stress often pertain and individual control over stressors is extremely limited.
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Housing Studies
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Avoidance strategies: stress, appraisal and coping
in hostel accommodation
Lynne McMordie
To cite this article: Lynne McMordie (2020): Avoidance strategies: stress, appraisal and coping in
hostel accommodation, Housing Studies, DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2020.1769036
To link to this article:
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa
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Published online: 23 Jun 2020.
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Avoidance strategies: stress, appraisal and coping in
hostel accommodation
Lynne McMordie
Institute for Social Policy, Housing, and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE), School of Energy, Geoscience,
Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK
Living in temporary accommodation (TA) can impact negatively
on social and emotional well-being, particularly where it is poor-
quality, large-scale, or congregate in nature. None-the-less, the
avoidanceof TA, where an individual will sleep rough or squat
when a bed space is available for their use, often provokes
puzzlement on the part of the public, service providers and policy
makers. Homeless people who abandon or avoid TA are often
viewed as holding beliefs, characteristics or traits that render
them unable or unwilling to make choices which prioritise their
own well-being. Drawing on cognitive appraisal theory, and quali-
tative testimony from those with direct experience of TA in
Belfast, this article challenges these perspectives, arguing that the
avoidance of TA is better understood as a rational and reasoned
response to an environment where intolerable levels of stress
often pertain and individual control over stressors is
extremely limited.
Received 19 July 2019
Accepted 29 April 2020
Homelessness; hostel;
temporary accommodation;
rough sleeping
Evidence has consistently demonstrated that living in temporary accommodation
(TA) can impact negatively on social and emotional well-being (Boyle and Pleace,
2017; Credland, 2004; Mitchell et al., 2004; Watts et al., 2018). Where TA is of good-
quality, self-contained and close to established support networks, these impacts may
be lessened; however, the sense of temporal instability associated with TA may con-
tinue to have a negative effect on well-being, irrespective of TA quality or type (Boyle
and Pleace, 2017; Credland, 2004; Ellison et al., 2012; Mitchell et al., 2004; Watts
et al., 2018). That said, it is widely accepted that negative impacts are felt most
acutely where the form of TA is poor-quality, large-scale, or congregate in nature
(Boyle and Pleace, 2017; Bush-Geertsema and Sahlin, 2007; Credland, 2004;
Fitzpatrick et al., 2010; Mackie et al., 2017; Mitchell et al., 2004; Watts et al., 2018).
CONTACT Lynne McMordie Institute for Social Policy, Housing, and Equalities Research (I-
SPHERE), School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Campus,
Boundary Rd N, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK.
ß2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in
any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Hostel and shelter accommodation, in particular, can exacerbate the impacts of
homelessness and may, in fact, function as an organisational barrier to permanent
housing, rather than its intended purpose of facilitating exit from homelessness
(Bush-Geertsema and Sahlin, 2007; Grunberg and Eagle, 1990; Johnsen and Teixeira,
2010; Mackie et al., 2017). In this context, the development of smaller-scale or self-
contained TA is often viewed as an improvement in provision (Bush-Geertsema and
Sahlin, 2007). However, such accommodation is frequently set within a transitionary
continuum where access is determined by housing readiness(Mackie et al., 2017;
Sahlin, 2005; Stewart, 2019). The treatment firstphilosophy which underpins such
provision, emphasises stability or recovery as a prerequisite of movement toward
independent living (Bush-Geertsema and Sahlin, 2007; Ellison et al., 2012; Johnsen
and Teixeira, 2010; Mackie et al., 2017; Stewart, 2019). Available evidence indicates
that the staircasing of services around a transitionary pathway can function to divide
the homeless population into two distinct groups: those who can evidence change
and progression and those with more complex needs who become entrenched within,
or excluded from, the transitionary pathway (Benjaminsen, 2016; Johnsen and
Teixeira, 2010; JRF, 2016; Kuhn and Culhane, 1998; Mackie et al., 2017).
In contrast, there is a robust body of evidence which supports the efficacy of
Housing First and housing-led approaches to homelessness, where the rapid provision
of permanent housing coupled with access to flexible support, bypasses or signifi-
cantly reduces the need for TA in the first instance (Boyle et al., 2016; Johnsen, 2013;
Padgett et al., 2016). Despite this evidence, public opinion (particularly in response to
observable increases in homelessness) will often sway toward the expansion of hostel
and shelter accommodation, including the opening of vacant buildings for congregate
use by those rough sleeping (ONeil et al., 2017). This phenomenon is especially evi-
dent in public responses to street deaths, perhaps unsurprisingly so given the highly
visible and urgent need for shelter of those affected (Bush-Geertsema and Sahlin,
2007). The phenomenon of avoidance, that is, where an individual will sleep rough or
squat when a bed space is available for their use, complicates the simplicity of these
narratives, particularly in light of a growing consensus that some users view hostel
accommodation as a frightening and intimidating environment (Homeless Link, 2013;
Johnsen and Teixeira, 2010; Mackie et al., 2017; NIHE et al., 2016).
Attempts to account for the phenomenon of avoidance tend to lean toward one of
two broad categories: namely, individual or environmental explanations. Individual
explanations focus on the personal characteristics and behaviour of those who aban-
don or refuse accommodation, often emphasising the centrality of individual path-
ology or complexity of need (see, for example, Homeless Link, 2018).
Environmentally oriented accounts, on the other hand, locate the causes of abandon-
ment in broader structural factors, placing a particular focus on the unsuitability/
negative impact of available accommodation and barriers to wider health and social
care services (see, for example, Mayday Trust, 2018). More recently, the concept of
Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) has brought together knowledge of
individual factors (such as adverse childhood experiences and complex trauma) and
environmental factors, placing considerable emphasis on awareness of how one may
interact with the other (Breedvelt, 2016; FEANTSA, 2017; Keats et al., 2012). While
such approaches seek to actively avoid or counter the direct blaming of difficulties on
the individual, they often continue to see hostel accommodation (albeit modified) as
an appropriate site to focus in depth on the emotional needs, and capacities, of
homeless people(Johnson, 2010, p. 48). This has given rise to the (re)development
of hostels with the specific purpose of addressing the systemic exclusionary practices
of otherhostels (Homeless Link, 2018). Access to such services often requires evi-
dence of repeat placement breakdown: that is, service users progress through the pro-
cess of placement and exclusion before obtaining access to those services that are
suited (at least in theory) to their needs (Homeless Link, 2018). In attempts to explain
the continued occurrence of abandonment within these specialist services, we see a
degree of leaning back toward individual pathologies: in a recent report, for example,
Homeless Link (2018) argue that [abandonment] generally occurred most often in
the high support hostels, which can to some extent be attributed to the chaotic lives
of some of the residents(p. 22).
Drawing on understandings of stress developed in psychological research and the-
ory, I aim to demonstrate that homeless peoples avoidance and abandonment of hos-
tels and similar accommodation represents a rational and reasoned response to
unmanageable stress and threats. It is structured as follows. First, a model of stress is
outlined through a consideration of cognitive appraisal theorywith a particular
focus on Lazarus and Folkmans(1984) seminal study, Stress, Appraisal and Coping
before the methods used to generate the empirical data in the paper are described.
The paper then proceeds to apply the model of stress to experiences of hostel and
shelter accommodation use as articulated by participants in this research. In the con-
cluding discussion I argue that abandonment and avoidance is, firstly, informed by a
desire to assume control of outcomes and to do so in a way that promotes well-being,
albeit in a very immediate sense and, secondly, reflective of the very limited control
that homeless people have over the stressors and threats that often pertain in this
The conceptual framework
Participants in the study that informs this paper consistently reported experiences of
stress in the hostel environment and the adoption of various coping strategies as a
means of mastering, tolerating or reducing its psychological impacts. Stress has sig-
nificant implications for human wellbeing, in the direct sense of occasioning physio-
logical alterations in the body (see, for example, Tawakol et al., 2017) and in the
indirect or psychosocial sense of influencing cognition and social interaction (see, for
example, Paulmann et al., 2016; see also, DeSteno et al.,2013 for an overview of dir-
ect and indirect emotion-related effects). This article is largely structured around an
exploration of the latter, arguing that cognitive appraisal theory allows for an under-
standing of the psychosocial effects of stress on decision making strategies, coping
behaviours and the building of social supports (see Moors, 2014 for an overview of
cognitive appraisal theory).
Cognitive appraisal theorists are divided with respect to whether distinct states (such
as stress) should be held as the principle phenomena to be explained (see, for example,
DeSteno et al., 2013 and Reisenzein, 2019); or whether (sub)emotional components
should be the primary object of study, with the labelling of distinct states being of
lesser or secondary concern (see, for example, Scherer, 2009 and Scherer and Moors,
2019). The analysis presented here purposefully seeks to tread a middle course, suggest-
ing that the exploration of stress (as a discrete state) yields important insights into the
causal mechanisms of abandonment and avoidance, while also insisting that such
exploration demands particular regard for the emergent nature of stress and, thus, its
(sub)emotional components and the process of interaction between the same.
This is possible, I would argue, where stress is conceptualised as being contextual
meaning that it is determined by the interaction of components at the level of the
person and the environment (DeSteno et al., 2013; Folkman, 2010, p. 901; Lazarus
and Folkman, 1984; Moors, 2014); and, as a process, meaning that it is dynamic and
emergent in nature, changing across environments and over time (DeSteno et al.,
2013; Folkman, 2010, p. 901; Lazarus and Folkman, 1984; Moors, 2014; Scherer and
Moors, 2019). This conceptualisation allows for an analysis of the process by which
multiple components (both internal and external) interact to produce the (emergent)
experience of stress and associated phenomenon of avoidance for a given individual,
in a given environment, at a particular point in time (Bhaskar, 2008; Fitzpatrick 2005;
Sayer 1992).
Although certain componentssuch as expectancy, goal relevance and control
are proposed with notable frequency (see Moors, 2014 and Reizenstein, 2019), the
precise form of the individual components involved in the generation of stress, and
the nature of the construal process by which they are appraised as stressful by the
given individual, are in essence working hypotheses open to empirical correction
(Moors 2014, p. 304). It is in this spirit, that I utilise the work of psychologists
Richard S. Lazarus and Susan Folkman (see Lazarus and Folkmans(1984) conception
of stress, Lazarus(1999) synthesis of stress and emotion, and Folkmans(2010)
account of stress and coping) as an under-labouring framework for the exploration
and analysis of experiences of stress as articulated by participants in this research.
Lazarus and Folkman (1984) describe the process of cognitive appraisal as occur-
ring in two interrelated, non-linear stages: namely, primary appraisal and secondary
appraisal. Primary appraisal is concerned with the individuals evaluation of the given
situation in terms of whether or not they have anything at stake in the transaction:
that is, what (if anything) they stand to gain or lose. Lazarus and Folkman propose
three forms of primary appraisal: irrelevant, where the individual holds no vested
interest in either the transaction or the results of the transaction; benign positive,
where the individual perceives the transaction as positive with no potential for nega-
tive outcomes; and, stressful, where the individual perceives a transaction as having a
potentially negative result or an outcome detrimental to well-being.
Secondary appraisal refers to the further evaluation of demands considered stress-
ful, with three forms again being proposed, namely: a challenge appraisal, where a
transaction is evaluated as holding potential for mastery or gain; a threat appraisal,
where a transaction prompts anticipation of future loss or harm; and a harm/loss
appraisal, where material, physical or emotional harm or loss has already been
endured in the transaction (for a summary of evidence on the differing influence of
threat versus challenge appraisals, see Scherer and Moors, 2019).
Both primary and secondary appraisals are influenced by the extent to which the
individual perceives their inner and outer resources as enabling effective coping: with
coping being defined as behavioural efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the stressful
demand (see DeSteno et al., 2013 for an account of emotion regulation and coping).
Lazarus and Folkman categorise the components influencing appraisal (and by
extension the adoption of coping strategies) under two broad headings: namely, situ-
ation-level components and person-level components. Situation components may be
understood as the properties of situations that make them potentially harmful, dan-
gerous, threatening, or for that matter challenging(Lazarus and Folkman, 1984,p.
82). Person-level components refer to the individuals understanding of the given
event and the characteristics that determine what holds importance for them in a
given encounter. I especially draw on Lazarus and Folkmans exploration of predict-
ability and uncertainty (as situation-level components), and commitments and general
beliefs about control (as person-level components).
In applying Lazarus and Folkmans framework to the phenomenon of avoidance, this
article draws upon qualitative data from a research study on temporary accommoda-
tion and chronic homelessness in Belfast, Northern Ireland (McMordie, 2018). The
study sought to explore the experience of a sub-group within the Belfast homeless
populationoften with more complex needswhose housing history is marked by
cyclical temporary accommodation placements, episodes of rough sleeping and vari-
ous forms of institutional stay. The existence of this group is well evidenced in the
Northern Ireland homelessness literature (Boyle and Pleace, 2017; Boyle et al., 2016;
Ellison et al., 2012; NIHE, 2005,2017; NIHE et al., 2016), across the United
Kingdom (Fitzpatrick et al., 2012), Europe (Benjaminsen, 2016) and the United States
(Kuhn and Culhane, 1998). As such, the findings of this study, although explicated
through the lived experience of people in Belfast, are intended to have wider
Participants in the study were selected purposively from among those with a his-
tory of repeat homelessness, serial temporary accommodation placement and episodes
of rough sleeping. Recruitment was facilitated by an organisation which provides sup-
port to individuals who are resident in temporary accommodation, sleeping rough, or
living in settled accommodation after a prolonged period of homelessness.
Pseudonyms are used throughout this article to identify participants.
The study purposefully sampled a small, homogenous group, with eight partici-
pants in total, all of whom were adult males. The intended purpose of the study was
not to establish the frequency of avoidance or patterns of occurrence across seg-
mented groups, but instead to uncover and understand the components at play in
hostel accommodation at the level of the environment and the level of the individual.
Of particular interest was how these components interact to produce the phenom-
enon of avoidance for a given individual, in a given environment. Such exploration
requires research that has particular regard for intraindividual comparison, that is,
research that seeks not to evaluate individual actions against a normative standard
but, rather, to contextualise and compare intraindividual action across time, events,
environments, and actions (DeSteno et al., 2013; Lazarus and Folkman, 1984; Wynn
and Williams, 2012). This approach necessitated an in-depth focus on each partici-
pants housing and homelessness history and, as such, the sampling strategy priori-
tised depth of exploration over the breadth of the sample. Given that the sample
focused exclusively on the experience of male participants, the study cannot be taken
to reflect the specific experience of women in temporary accommodation.
Participant interviews used a life history methodology to enable the development
of a physical timeline of each participants housing and homelessness history (for
discussion of life history timelines see Freedman et al., 1988; Gramling and Carr,
2004; and, Harris and Rhodes, 2018: and for discussion of biographical approaches
to housing histories see May, 2000). The timeline was constructed using visual
prompt-cards that listed the various temporary accommodation services in Belfast,
other forms of homelessness (such as rough sleeping and sofa surfing), types of
institutional stay (such as prison and hospital), and other forms of accommodation
(such as private and social lets). The interview then made use of a second set of
prompt-cards listing a range of experiences arising from, or contributing to, the
experience of social exclusion (such as being the victim of a violent crime or having
used hard drugs). The categories used in developing the experience framework were
derived from the UK Multiple Exclusion Homelessness study (Fitzpatrick et al.,
2012). The first occurrence of each relevant experience was then located in the
homelessness timeline. This approach facilitated the development of a clear under-
standing of complex housing histories and allowed for in-depth representation of
service user experience and perception (Bryman, 2016; Freedman et al., 1988; Harris
and Rhodes, 2018; May, 2000). In the process of construction, service users spoke
at length about their experience of homelessness, providing an account of their
housing history and its impact on their physical, social and emotional well-being.
Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and subsequently coded using an
inductive approach.
Primary and secondary appraisal
I now move on to apply Lazarus and Folkmans concept of primary appraisal (that is,
the process by which the individual evaluates what, if anything, is at stake in a given
transaction) to experiences of temporary accommodation use as articulated by partici-
pants in this study. The three outcomes of primary appraisal identified by Lazarus
and Folkman are: irrelevant; benign positive; and stressful.
In this study participants described access to temporary accommodation as holding
relevance: they articulated a strong sense of having a vested interest (a stake) in
obtaining access to shelter and support. The consequences of not attaining access
were described as highly impactful in an immediate sense: often leading to episodes
of rough sleeping or squatting, with an associated deterioration in physical and
mental health, increased contact with the criminal justice system, and significant
experiences of victimisation and self-harm:
I got a bad, bad, kicking just for no reason, bottles broke on my head. (Sam)
The stake held in avoidance of rough sleeping was such that it functioned to
incentivise engagement with TA services, over-and-above other disincentivis-
ing components:
I dont like being around other people. Id rather be on my own. But sure, if you need a
bed, you need a bed, dont you? (Mark)
Yet, hostel accommodation was also (indeed simultaneously) described as occa-
sioning harm and loss. People spoke of instances where they were exploited, victi-
mised, or threatened by others, and articulated a more generalised experience of
anxiety/unease within the hostel settingone arising from the congregate nature of
such services.
Most of the hostels I was in youve always been wanting to get wasted off your head
because you dont like it. You dont feel settled, so you try and blank things out. (Kyle)
Indeed, participants described the experience of using hostel and shelter accommo-
dation as one marked by stress and spoke colloquially about their head being done
in,about feeling fuckedor melted.Use of hostel accommodation, then, was eval-
uated as neither irrelevantnor benignly positivebut instead as stressful: a transac-
tion that was necessary to obtain access to shelter yet fraught with potential for
outcomes detrimental to well-being.
Lazarus and Folkman suggest that a stressfulappraisal may be further evaluated
through the process of secondary appraisalas a challenge, a threat, or as having
already occasioned harm or loss. Challenge appraisal (that is, where a transaction is
evaluated as holding potential for mastery or gain) holds particular relevance to
housing readymodels of temporary accommodation, where the prospect of promo-
tion (i.e., gain) is expected to act as a motivating factor for compliance, engagement,
stability and personal growth (i.e., mastery of environment and self).
Participants articulated an understanding of hostel accommodation as being prem-
ised on this very basis: that is, they sought to master the demands of hostel accom-
modation in the hope of gaining access to shelter in the first instance and, thereafter,
of obtaining access to better forms of accommodation or an exit from homelessness
entirely. That said, they often described available gains as being markedly fragile
and uncertain:
Ive done that [detox] to go into [a hostel] and then [a move-on apartment] It was
allI dont know everything was good and all, thats why I went to a place of
my own, but it didnt work out what happened was I ended up drinking That
was me straight to rough sleeping. (Kyle)
Here, Kyle describes his movement toward gainin terms of access to increasing
levels of privacy and security (a place of my own) as being staged, incremental and
dependent upon his capacity to demonstrate stability and sobriety. In contrast, his
movement toward loss(it didnt work out) was presented as sudden and complete,
with the associated impact (straight to rough sleeping) being immediate and highly
detrimental to well-being.
Alongside the fragility of potential gain, participants also described significant diffi-
culty in attaining any sense of mastery over stressful demands. Indeed, research on
the impact of hostel accommodation on well-being (such as Bush-Geertsema and
Sahlin, 2007; Ellison et al., 2012; Mackie et al., 2017; McNaughton Nicholls, 2009;
Sahlin, 2005; Watts et al., 2018) has demonstrated that, far from enabling a sense of
mastery, the rules and routines of hostel and shelter accommodation often function
to curtail individual autonomy and capacity for self-determination. Here, Darren
describes the difficulty he experienced in adhering to the rules of a particular hos-
tel placement:
You cant hand your drink in. Thats a problem as well because then what are you going
to do with your drink? You stash it, some other cunt finds it, they take it, then youre
left with no drink. Then youre rattling [i.e. withdrawing from alcohol] the next
day. (Darren)
For Darren, part of the challenge of sustaining a hostel placement rested in the
intersection between alcohol dependency and rules that prohibit the storage of alco-
hol on premises (you cant hand your drink in). The available alternatives (you
stash it) present a significant risk of loss (some cunt finds it) and associated harm
(youre rattling).
Yet, even where environmental components act to constrain control, as they do for
Darren, some sense of mastery may still be attained where the individual perceives
the demand as one that is tolerable, particularly where access to social supports act to
mitigate against stress and enable effective coping. However, the support available to
participants in this study was most often attached to accommodation services, render-
ing access to support conditional on successful retention of placement or precarious
based on continual transfer between services. Here, James explained why he had not
even got on the list yetfor substitute prescribing, despite having actively put his
hands upand requested support.
I overdosed, and they threw me out of here Thats what I dont understand. You
would think they would want to help me in here but they asked me to leave I
was out for three weeks Trying to keep up with [support referrals] is hard as
well, you know? Cause you move from place to place, like, you dont know where youre
going to be the next day. (James)
Participants capacity to sustain a challenge appraisal was radically diminished,
first, by the ambiguous nature of what was available for gain and, then, by environ-
mental components that enfeebled the individuals capacity for mastery over demands
while simultaneously disrupting access to social supports. In response, participants
described adopting a range of coping strategies. These included covert behaviours
whereby people would hide or disguise substance use as a means of avoiding negative
outcomes, particularly those associated with exclusion or eviction; or, muting behav-
iours whereby they increased substance use to sublimate symptoms of psychological
distress, particularly where hostel accommodation was perceived as requiring a con-
stant state of hypervigilance.
In describing covert and muting coping strategies, participants continued to evalu-
ate hostel and shelter accommodation use as retaining aspects of a challenge appraisal,
albeit one that co-existed alongside appraisals of threat, harm or loss and, as such,
necessitated sublimation or circumvention of stressful demands. In contrast, where
participants described the use of avoidance strategiesthat is, where they refused or
abandoned placements entirelythey appeared (at least ostensibly) to move away
from an appraisal of challenge, rejecting their interest (stake) in obtaining access to
shelter and support. I will now go on to explore the role of situation-level compo-
nents and person-level components in this movement away from a challenge
appraisal toward avoidance of temporary accommodation.
Situation-level components: Predictability and uncertainty
Lazarus and Folkman suggest that predictable stressors may be preferable to unpre-
dictable stressors, in that predictability allows the individual time to prepare (the pre-
paratory response hypothesis) or relax during periods of safety (the safety signal
hypothesis) (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984; see also, Matthieu and Ivanoff, 2006). Both
concepts hold relevance to hostel and shelter accommodation where services are often
premised on the provision of shelter and support: i.e., a safe space where people may
engage, at some level, in preparatory activities for move-on. Yet, there was a consen-
sus among participants in this study, that accessing and retaining temporary accom-
modation was marked by an absence of the kind of predictability that might allow for
such preparatory undertakings. Here, Joe provides an overview of the accommodation
he accessed over approximately one and a half years:
This [hostel 1] was like a year or so sometimes they would throw me out for a bit
and then Id have to go to the night shelter. But then, the night shelter doesnt let me in
So, I sleep out [Then] the police brought me in there [hostel 2]. They didnt
want me to freeze to death They asked me to stay but then they said to me, with
my mental health they cant. So, they asked me to leave [Then] I was in [hostel
3]. I was only there for about three days [Then] they put me there [hostel 4] for one
night. But they said to me, Im drinking too much and …‘youre not allowed to
Joe describes access to shelter (and security of tenure where access is gained) as
being fraught with instability. Even in his most consistent placement (hostel 1), access
was sporadic and interspersed with periods of precarious night shelter use and rough
sleeping. Recalling a single instance where access was gained and (for a period) sus-
tained, the experience was described as inextricably linked to loss of positive predict-
ability, with established expectancies regarding personal safety and care suddenly no
longer met:
I loved it. They didnt care [about my ethnicity] and they looked after me. They checked
on me every hour I got a lot more help. I went into town to pick up my money. I
came back a few hours later and [they] wouldnt let me in. [They] said, you dont live
here anymore.And I said, what do you mean, I dont live here anymore.[They
responded], A van came and picked all your stuff up out of the room.The whole place
cleared out. (Joe)
Whether viewed from the perspective of a preparatory response or a safety signal
hypothesis, the absence of predictability within the hostel and shelter setting, was per-
ceived as severely inhibiting capacity to either institute preparatory coping strategies
or to relax during periods of purported safety. On the contrary, hostel accommoda-
tion was most often described as giving rise to a profound and continuous sense of
[Its] the atmosphere in them for a start youre always waiting on somebody calling
you, or somebody moving in who youve argued with Youre always on edge, youre
always, constantly, on guard. (Kyle)
Yet, where participants provide an overview of their experience of chronic home-
lessness, there was a consistency in outcomes that allowed for some form of predict-
ability. That is, the experience of chronic homelessness was one of consistent
transition between various services and forms of acute homelessness, and as such sub-
jective or lived experience was described as negatively and unbearably predictable.
Im exhausted. Im fucked. Im burnt out. I am. Still sleeping rough. It always stays the
same. It does. (Mark)
Rough sleeping. Thats all Ive ever known. Thats all Ive ever had. Ive never had a year
that I havent slept rough. (Kyle)
Although participants often expressed confidence in predicting the outcome of a
given placement (namely, harm or loss) they articulated deep reservations about their
capacity or ability to exercise control over predicted outcomes.
They put me in a hostel. A hostel I dont want to be in I hate it. Id rather stay on
the streets but I cant with my [health condition]. Im paying [money] for a bed I cant
sleep on, a mattress thats broken Theres another three people [in my room].
Theres stuff going missing all the time, and they [hostel staff] do fuck all about it, they
dont care Here, Ive no privacy. Ive nothing. (Joe)
Here, Joe perceives his current placement as one that he has been put incontrary
to his wishes (I dont want to be here). In this context, his preferred coping strategy
would ordinarily be avoidance (Id rather stay on the streets), but he feels compelled
toward engagement on account of a health condition. His endeavours to tolerate the
stressful demands of hostel living are premised on a challenge appraisal: the prospect
of gain in the form of sustaining shelter and avoiding further deterioration in phys-
ical health. Crucially, his appraisal of challenge must be sustained alongside concur-
rent and pressing threat and harm: no privacy,’‘a bed I cant sleep on,and stuff
going missing. The mastery or reduction of threat, harm or loss through the mobil-
isation of coping strategies aimed at altering the environment are perceived as being
of very limited utility (they do fuck all about it, they dont care). Even where repeat
use of temporary accommodation produces negative outcomes with a degree of con-
sistency that allows for predictability, Joe lacks access to the forms of control that
might allow for effective coping: sustaining a challenge appraisal is based entirely on
his capacity to endure threat, harm, and loss.
In the context of such enduring threat, Lazarus and Folkmans concept of event
uncertainty holds particular relevance. They use event uncertainty to refer to
probabilistic evaluations regarding the likelihood that a harmful event will occur.
Conditions of maximum uncertaintyare proposed as maximumly stressfulin that
the individual must engage in preparatory coping for two different outcomes: that is,
both the occurrence and non-occurrence of the harmful event (Lazarus and Folkman,
1984, p. 92). In temporary accommodation, where provision is often marked by inse-
curity of tenure (i.e., residents may be subject to temporary exclusion or eviction
without court action), probabilistic evaluations emerge as both important
and necessary.
Institutional control of access (i.e., where staff control resident and visitor entry to
premises) was described as weaving insecurity of tenure into the comings and goings
of everyday life. Here, Darren explains:
[Access] depends on whoson and how much [alcohol] youve had. If youre kind of
compos mentis and you get an all right one thatson theyll go away you on in.
You have other [staff] thatll be, no, have you been drinking?’‘Aye, and what, you
know Im a fucking alcoholic.And then: youre not getting in, come back
The act of seeking entry to accommodation was perceived as demanding signifi-
cant preparatory coping, including the capacity to understand and negotiate access
criteria that were subjectively applied and thus continuously shifting. Where access to
emergency night shelter accommodation was sought, this uncertainty was com-
pounded by the arduous nature of having to endure exposure to adverse wea-
ther conditions:
[Access is granted] depending on whos on, or whats said, or how many people there
are Youre standing outside in the pishing rain, you know, hail, fucking
everything. (Darren)
For Darren, preparing for one outcome (access) while simultaneously preparing
for another outcome (refusal of access), created feelings of confusion and helplessness
that he sought to resolve through the abandonment of attempted access:
Thats why I changed it. I was just like, look; Ill tell you what it is Ill not be in
Others described attempts to reconcile themselves to the probability of failure:
I come [to the night shelter] quite late. But if I dont get in, I dont get in. I just sleep
rough. Im used to it but its taking its toll on me My heads done in I
havent got sleeping for three days. (Mark)
In splitting individual resources between preparation for competing and often
incompatible outcomes, the mechanisms of day-to-day access were described as shift-
ing the balance of appraisal from one of challenge, to one of threat, harm or loss.
Crucially, where participants attempted to occupy a position outside the arena of
competing outcomes, they were exposed to equal or greater harm in the form of
rough sleeping.
Person-level components: commitments and beliefs
Lazarus and Folkmans framework also steers attention to person-level components as
important determinants of appraisal. This section first explores the role of individual
commitments: that is, what holds meaning or importance for the individual.
Sam described an extended period of rough sleeping and night-shelter accommo-
dation use; an experience he defined as being characterised by feelings of
hopelessness.He spoke of his initial feelings of appreciation and contentment upon
gaining access to a hostel. Securing accommodation represented the achievement of a
long-held and important goal. He continued:
Then when I found out where I was and whats around me, I was in for a week, had to
get out of there The people are there for things theyve done, sexual abuses, and
what happened in my family, around me, affected me big time I couldnt have
stayed there, rather the streets in case there was one of them people next to me
there was always a lot of aggression in me but it was also, I was in control of myself, I
wasnt going to attack one of them or anything like that. (Sam)
Here, Sam gave primacy to his commitment to avoiding circumstances that repli-
cated or evoked earlier childhood trauma and did so without equivocation. He
described how the interplay between environmental components (whats around me)
and person components (what happened in my family) gave rise to intolerable levels
of psychological distress. Sams description made clear that the level of threat posed
could not be managed or tolerated through emotion-focused coping: the person fac-
tor (the trauma of adverse childhood experiences) could not be reframed or altered
within the given environment (proximity to people who have sexually abused others).
His means of coping was emphatically problem focused: he altered his relationship
with the environment by abandoning his placement (had to get out of there).
Mark also described giving primacy to avoiding replication of circumstances that
evoked earlier experiences of trauma. Describing his experience of victimisation as a
result of a paramilitary attack, he explained:
They beat me when I was [an adolescent], so they did Blood squirting up the walls
and all. I thought I was dead and all. Scary isnt it? They [hostels] work for some
people, I would say. For me? No. Because people go into the hostels and they want to
get stability or whatever. Then they see Im not coping and that there. I dont like being
around too many other people. That cracks me up. I cantdoit If I squat, nobody
knows. Nobody sees me. I feel safer squatting. (Mark)
Here, Mark described the impact of a highly significant person factor (the trauma
of physical assault) in light of an environment factor (being around other people in a
hostel or shelter setting). He evaluated the risk posed by the interplay of these com-
ponents as intolerable (I cantdoit). Like Sam, he concluded that problem-focused
copingwhere action taken in the form of avoidance altered the relationship he had
with the environment (I feel safer squatting)was the most salient and appropriate
coping strategy. Taken in conjunction with additional environment componentsthe
need to evidence progress (they want to get stability) and feelings of exposure to
judgement (they see Im not coping)Sam evaluated hostel and shelter accommoda-
tion as being fundamentally incompatible with his commitment to the avoidance of
further trauma.
Marks appraisal that squatting was his safest option was an appraisal that occurred
in the context of a specific environment (the hostel or shelter) and bore little resem-
blance to his stated or overall preference. Here, he explained:
All I know is, I just want a quiet life. Thats all I want. I just want to be settled down
and relax. Go out and do what you have to do, come back thats all I ever want. Im
exhausted. Im fucked. Im burnt out. I am. Still sleeping rough. It always stays the
same. It does. (Mark)
What Mark aspired to was settled housing. His evaluation of risk and his use of
avoidance was not presented as fixed or immutable, but instead as a situational
response generated by the interplay of person and environment components.
Likewise, Sams utilisation of problem focused-coping in the hostel environment dif-
fered markedly from his evaluation of what would assist him to achieve a greater
sense of well-being: counselling is the big thing,he explained, definitely, counselling
is one [of the] main things.What Sam aspired to was emotion-focused coping, a
means of altering or understanding the inner meaning of the trauma he had experi-
enced. He was prevented from doing so, not as a result of a belief that the impact of
trauma was fixed but, rather, by the urgency lent to key person components within
the given environment.
In adopting avoidance strategies, Sam and Marks decisions were influenced by
their beliefs about control in the hostel and shelter environment. If we return to Sam
and his decision to abandon a much sought-after placement, we can see how proxim-
ity to particular others produced emotion (aggression), with the coping strategy
deployed (abandonment) enabling a sense of control (over himself). Control in this
sense was primarily related to the avoidance of a specific outcome (I wasnt going to
attack one of them). So too for Mark, where proximity to general others produced
emotion (fear), with the coping strategy deployed (avoidance) enabling a sense of
control (no one knows, no one sees me) and the prevention of a specific outcome
(that cracks me upi.e. causes severe mental distress). Both were unequivocal in their
assertion that they were unable to assert control over outcomes within the hostel
environment: Sam had to get out of thereand Mark cant do it.
Abandonment and avoidance are often interpreted as markers of disengagement
with services that might facilitate stability, progress, personal growth or other simi-
larly positive outcomes. In this figuring of the phenomenon, people who abandon or
avoid hostel placements are often perceived as holding fixed beliefs, characteristics or
traits that render them unable or unwilling to make choices which would improve
their own well-being. Yet, what we see in Sam and Marks account, is the figuring of
abandonment and avoidance as, firstly, an active and considered choice and, secondly,
as a choice which is informed by a desire to assume control of outcomes, and to do
so in a way that promotes well-being, albeit in a very immediate sense. Avoidance
and abandonment, then, are a reflection of the extent to which Sam and Mark per-
ceived the environment (the hostel) as one that precluded control over outcomes and
not, as might be assumed, a general dispensation toward disengagement
Discussion: implications of a transactional understanding of
avoidance strategies
When we conclude that avoidance and abandonment of shelter are indicative of inef-
fective coping, we often do so on the basis of an interindividual comparison: that is,
the act of avoidance is evaluated against a normative or ideal standard of functioning
(DeSteno et al., 2013; Lazarus and Folkman, 1984; Parsell, 2018). However, where the
environment in which the individual functions is one that poses extraordinary or
unusual challenges, interindividual comparison is of limited (if any) utility: the person
who abandons hostel accommodation may be assumed to be coping chaotically or
ineffectively when in fact their actions are rational in the context of demands arising
in the hostel environment (DeSteno et al., 2013; Lazarus and Folkman, 1984;
McNaughton Nicholls, 2009; Somerville and Bengtsson, 2002). This is particularly
relevant in the context of temporary accommodation in Belfast where participants
often had limited access to, and control over, the external resources which might
allow for the mobilisation of effective coping strategies. Many of the stressors they
described stem from practices that are deeply embedded in traditional responses to
homelessness. These practices exert a profound influence on their lives and, yet, are
often unresponsive to their individual coping efforts: poor outcomes (such as avoid-
ance and abandonment) are interpreted as evidence of individual failure or inability
to cope, without considering the onerous demands of the environment in which the
individual is enmeshed. In this way, the failings of homelessness service systems are
actively displaced onto the individuals those systems purport to serve (Lazarus and
Folkman, 1984; Parsell, 2018).
Cognitive appraisal theory offers housing studies a framework for nuanced explor-
ation of what exactly it is about hostel accommodation that causes people to act and
react as they do. In turn, increased knowledge of the nature and form of the compo-
nents (and associated interactions) that actualise particular outcomes, for particular
people, allows for clearer identification of the challenges that impede the delivery of
effective solutions to homelessness. I would contend that addressing these challenges
demands purposeful intervention by service providers and policy makers; not further
adaptive coping on the part of the individual. Existing evidence would suggest that
solutions to chronic homelessness are achievable, particularly where provision is
offered in the form of Housing First and housing-led accommodation models (Boyle
et al., 2016; Johnsen, 2013; Padgett et al., 2016). The experience of the participants in
this research suggests that an approach to homelessness service provision that fully
recognises the role of environmental stressors in abandonment and avoidance of hos-
tel accommodation, demands a radical reconsideration of the physical and service
environment within which services are offered.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to those who participated in this study for sharing
their experiences. I am also grateful to Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Dr Beth Watts, and the
anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful advice and comments on an earlier version of
this article.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).
This work was supported by Oak Foundation (OCAY-16-107).
Notes on contributor
Lynne McMordie has worked in the homeless sector in Northern Ireland for over ten years
and has managed a range of homelessness services, including: temporary accommodation,
drop-in centre and street outreach services. She has worked extensively with marginalised
adults, particularly in the areas of destitution, complex needs and multiple exclusion. More
recently, Lynne has commenced a PhD with I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University, on the
design, use, and impacts of temporary and supported accommodation models for homeless
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... In keeping with European homelessness research literature, environmental stressors were most frequently associated with EA that was sub-par quality, highly regimented or surveilled and/or large scale or congregate in nature (Busch-Geertseema and Sahlin, 2007;Mackie, et al., 2017;McMordie, 2020;Watts and Blenkinsopp, 2020;Sanders and Reid, 2018). Service settings of this kind often engendered a strong sense of unpredictability, with many parents describing a perceived lack of control over their immediate environment and, in particular, whom they shared spaces with on a daily basis. ...
... with programme requirements and those with complex needs who become entrenched in, or excluded from, homelessness services because they are unwilling or unable to 'comply' with service standards (Benjaminsen, 2016;Kuhn and Culhane, 1998;Mackie et al., 2017;McMordie, 2020). In this study, however, the continuum of care approach appeared to stratify families into three distinct groups that aligned strongly with their patterns of transitional, chronic and episodic service use, respectively, including: 1) those who 'fit' service expectations and were able to secure a public or private tenancy relatively quickly; 2) those who 'fit' service expectations but were unable to exit due to structural forces and thus felt "let down despite good conduct and patience" (Sahlin, 2005: 125); and 3) those who did not 'fit' service expectations and, as a consequence, demonstrated considerable movement in and out of, as well as between, service settings. ...
... More specifically, it was shown that this sub-group faced greater challenges in fitting the expected construct of how service users should 'be' and 'behave' within linear models of homelessness service provision; that is, where progress and adherence to a strict set of rules is rewarded, while ambivalence and 'disobedience' can lead to sanctions or eviction (Sahlin, 2005). Consequently, these families reported distinct patterns of shelter 'abandonment' (McMordie, 2020) and exclusion from the very systems designed to resolve their homelessness and, as such, faced greater barriers in their efforts to "break the cycle of their complex lives" (Prestidge, 2014: 214). Where people with no usual place of residence are using emergency shelters on a night by night basis ...
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Available data in many European countries, Australia and the United States indicate that family homelessness has increased, generating intense discussion and debate about the emerging nature of this phenomenon and how it can be explained. Over the past 20 years, homelessness research has focused increasingly on the temporal character of shelter utilisation by analysing large-scale and longitudinal sources of administrative data. Most notably, the seminal work of Dennis Culhane and colleagues in the late 1990s and early 2000's demonstrated that a majority of individuals and families use homelessness services on a short-term basis, with much smaller numbers going on to experience prolonged or recurrent shelter stays. While statistical evidence of these three service use profiles has since been found in shelter populations across Denmark, Canada and Ireland, understanding of why (and how) these patterns emerge has, hitherto, not been fully interrogated. Initiated in 2016 against a backdrop of exponentially rising numbers of families experiencing homelessness in Dublin, this study examined the dynamics of family homelessness in the Irish context. Adopting a mixed methods approach, a primary goal was to fill a gap in the homelessness research literature by extending beyond a descriptive statistical account of families' shelter entries and exits, towards a deeper explanation of service use patterns derived from their lives as lived. The research objectives were as follows: 1) determine to what extent patterns of short-term, long-term and recurrent shelter use exist in the Irish context; 2) identify risk and protective factors related to families' prolonged and repeated shelter stays as well as those which facilitate lasting exits to alternative housing; and 3) generate in-depth understanding of the individual, contextual and structural drivers that influence families' differing shelter system trajectories over time. Situated in a Critical Realist paradigm that equally values and validates multiple perspectives in the production of knowledge, the research employed a sequential (explanatory) mixed method design. Quantitative analysis was first undertaken to interrogate a large-scale data set (N = 2533) assembled from administrative records pertaining to all families who had accessed Dublin-based State-funded emergency accommodation over a six-year observation period (2011 - 2016). A cluster analysis was performed to test the prevailing three-fold typology of transitional (short-term), chronic (long-term) and episodic (recurrent) homelessness service use using variables derived from the entry and exit dates of families' shelter stays. The emergent groupings were then compared by available demographics, family-level characteristics and service background data. These results fed directly into the development of the qualitative arm of the research and informed the selection of theoretically relevant cases for participation. Twenty-six parents whose families exhibited transitional (n = 7), chronic (n = 12) and episodic (n = 7) service use histories were recruited and in-depth interviews were conducted with these mothers and fathers. These data were analysed thematically to generate rich insights to help explain, elaborate and contextualise the broader patterns of shelter utilisation observed. This research mobilised a complex-realist explanatory framework that fused the ontology of Critical Realism with complex systems theory to advance understanding of families' homelessness service use patterns. With analytic emphasis placed on families' interrelationships with the multiple parts of the shelter system, the conceptual constructs of non-linearity, adaption, self-organisation and emergence were used to identify mechanisms, contexts and circumstances that helped to explain why certain families exited emergency accommodation quickly, while others went on to experience prolonged or repeated shelter stays. The results of the quantitative analysis revealed three distinct shelter system trajectories - linear, uninterrupted and circuitous - that broadly corresponded to Culhane and colleagues' typology of transitional, chronic and episodic service use, respectively, though notable proportional differences were observed amongst the sub-groups. While cluster membership was not related to parents' age or gender, significant inter-cluster differences were found on the basis of household composition, migrant status, race/ethnicity and the number and type of emergency accommodation services accessed over the study period. From these patterns of association, episodic service users emerged as having the most distinctive profile, while transitional and chronic service users demonstrated a number of similarities across several metrics. The study's qualitative data were analysed according to families' macro- and micro- level interactions both with and within homelessness service (and other related) systems. 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... There is compelling evidence of the harmful effects these communal environments can have on vulnerable people (Keenan et al., 2020;McMordie, 2020), though there are also indications of successful longer-term housing outcomes for some of those who can manage to 'stay the course' (Crane et al., 2011). Generic hostels and shelters are frequently deemed unsuitable for particular population subgroups who might be especially vulnerable in these settings. ...
... As elsewhere in the global north, larger-scale hostels and communal shelters are still sometimes relied upon in emergency situations in the UK (Fitzpatrick et al., 2021a;Mackie et al., 2017), particularly for single homeless people without statutory entitlements to rehousing (temporary furnished flats in the social or private rented sectors is much more commonly used to meet the emergency and temporary accommodation needs of those assisted by local authorities in pursuit of their statutory duties (Watts et al., 2018)). Longstanding evidence that many homeless people would rather sleep rough than stay in these intimidating congregate environments (Jackson, 2018;McMordie, 2020) has been a key prompt for the development of alternative models. One example is 'host homes' schemes offering placements with private households by way of emergency and/or respite accommodation for young people at risk of exclusion from the family home (Watts et al., 2015). ...
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... Although this study was undertaken in Sweden 26 years ago, the findings of the recent research indicate that TEA often holds the same function in Ireland currently. Indeed the negative impact of this form of temporary accommodation on wellbeing has been illustrated in research(Boyle and Pleace, 2017;Harris et al, 2020;McMordie, 2021).There are two important considerations in light of the thesis findings. Firstly, presenting the accommodation in this deterrent way could potentially result in a person remaining in an unsafe living situation as they believe that TEA would be more unsafe.Secondly, if these deterrent actions of frontline workers are warranted due to TEA being as poor a form of accommodation as it is described to be by some of the interviewees, questions need to be addressed around why such accommodation is being provided by the state to some of the country's most vulnerable people? ...
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The number of people experiencing homelessness in Ireland has increased significantly in recent years, with almost 11,000 currently using homeless accommodation. In order to access services, people are required to present to their local authority as homeless. Subsequently, frontline workers are required to make decisions around whether a person is considered homeless, as well as the level of service that they will be offered. Despite the high numbers of people presenting as homeless, little is known about this process of assessment and placement. To guide determinations of eligibility, the statutory definition of homelessness is outlined in the Housing Act, 1988. However, owing to the legislation’s ambiguity, local authorities can widen or narrow the definition as they see fit. As the definition is based on ‘the opinion of the local authority’ to determine whether someone is in accommodation which they can ‘reasonably occupy’, assessment staff must use substantial discretion when determining eligibility for services. In addition to the ambiguous statutory definition, the opacity of this area of welfare administration is compounded by the lack of additional formal guidance around determining eligibility. Likewise, this informal approach extends to decision-making around the type of accommodation offered to those who are eligible. Due to the informal work environment, a high level of discretion is granted to these frontline workers. Accordingly, Lipsky’s (1980) conceptual framework provides a useful means to examine the use of discretion among assessment and placement staff. Lipsky (1980) coined the term ‘street level bureaucrat’ to describe public service workers who have direct interaction with citizens and substantial discretion in the execution of this work. Through in-depth qualitative interviews with frontline workers based around Ireland, the research examined how discretion is used by these street- level bureaucrats to make decisions around rationing of homeless services at both a primary (assessment) and secondary (placement) level. The research found that although the frontline workers had a high level of discretion available to them in making decisions, management could influence how this discretion was used in some circumstances. This was mainly done through applying scrutiny when discretionary decisions resulted in offers of services to people whose eligibility was unclear, and through inattention when discretion was used to gate-keep services. Additionally, the research found that a narrow interpretation of the statutory definition of homelessness is being used by most of the frontline workers involved in the research, with rooflessness constituting homelessness that they described as genuine. People who presented to the local authority from living situations described as grey, for example couch surfing, were more likely to experience gatekeeping and denial of access to services. In some cases the frontline workers avoided the need to deny access to services through using an approach of covert deterrence. This involved presenting emergency accommodation in a negative way to an applicant so that they may be deterred from entering it, thus rationing demand for these services. Furthermore, significant differences were found in the approach of frontline workers towards homeless families and single people. Singles were more likely to experience gatekeeping behaviours than families were. This was most notable with regards to access to private emergency accommodation which the frontline workers stated was no longer available to single people except for in exceptional circumstances. As the first piece of research in Ireland examining homeless service administration from this perspective, the thesis is a starting point to fill a gap in knowledge around this subject. As such, it has begun the process of making an opaque area of public service delivery more transparent and therefore makes a significant empirical contribution to knowledge in the fields of street-level bureaucracy and the administration of homeless services in Ireland.
... Research has shown that service users in staircase settings often negotiate capabilities in complex ways, often trading one capability for others to meet basic shelter and sustenance needs [18,19]. Thus, the structure of staircase service settings is not typically organized in ways that restore service users' capabilities, and in extreme cases they may undermine service users' capabilities [58]. Housing First (HF) is an alternative to staircase services that holds promise as a capability-enhancing setting [10,19,59]. ...
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Abstract Background Purposeful participation in personally meaningful life tasks, enjoyment of positive reciprocal relationships, and opportunities to realize one’s potential are growth-related aspects of a meaningful life that should be considered important dimensions of recovery from homelessness. The extent to which homeless services support individuals to achieve the capabilities they need to become who they want to be and do what they want to do is, in turn, an important indicator of their effectiveness. In this study, we developed a measure of achieved capabilities (MACHS) for use in homeless services settings, and assessed its construct and concurrent validity. Methods We analysed data collected from homeless services users at two time points in eight European countries to assess the factor structure and psychometric properties of the new measure. Participants were adults engaged with either Housing First (n = 245) or treatment as usual (n = 320). Results Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses yielded a four-factor structure of the capabilities measure: community integration, optimism, safety, and self-determination. We obtained evidence for construct validity through observed correlations between achieved capabilities and recovery, working alliance and satisfaction with services. Moreover, we obtained evidence of the measure’s concurrent validity from its positive association between HF and personal recovery, which was fully mediated by achieved capabilities. Conclusions Findings demonstrate that the MACHS is a valid and reliable measure that may be used to assess the extent to which homeless services support their clients to develop capabilities needed for growth-related recovery. Implications for practice and future research directions are discussed. Keywords Capabilities approach, Housing First, Homelessness, Recovery
... Such data suggest that interventions that help survivors actively accept and address the experience of trauma and related symptoms may help reduce the stress response and promote sustained recovery. Of note, the complexity of stressors experienced in the context of multiple disadvantages suggests some avoidant coping strategies (e.g., avoiding temporary housing situations that may lead to re-traumatisation or feelings of helplessness or stigma) may, in fact, be adaptive (McMordie, 2021). ...
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This multi‐method study examined perspectives on mindfulness and coping strategies used by trauma‐exposed women experiencing homelessness (WEH), residing in a state‐funded residential drug treatment site in Southern California (United States). Questionnaires and in‐depth focus group interviews were utilized to examine traumatic experiences over the lifespan, probable‐posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and coping strategies. Mindfulness was explored as a potential way to improve coping; potential benefits and challenges associated with implementing a mindfulness‐based intervention (MBI) with trauma‐exposed WEH were also investigated. A Community Advisory Board (CAB) was formed to identify key issues experienced by WEH and to develop a semi structured interview guide (SSIG). Using the SSIG, women participated in one of four focus groups (total N=28; n=7 per group). Quantitative data on demographic indicators, probable‐PTSD, and trauma exposure were collected. Over 90% of women met criteria for probable‐PTSD; trauma exposure was exceedingly high; most women had experienced multiple traumas throughout their lives. Four main themes emerged from qualitative analyses, which drew from Grounded Theory and used open, selective, and axial coding: 1) ways of coping with trauma; 2) perspectives on mindfulness; 3) prior experiences with mindfulness; and 4) challenges for conducting a mindfulness program. Overall, WEH used a variety of coping techniques to deal with their trauma, had some familiarity with mindfulness, and were optimistic an MBI would be helpful, despite identifying several challenges to implementation. MBIs may be helpful adjuncts to traditional care for trauma‐exposed, WEH, recovering from substance use disorder. Population‐specific considerations may improve implementation and participation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Unsettled housing histories and long-term episodes of repeat homelessness were also common, as was experience of rough sleeping, begging and reliance on free food services. Accounts of experience of physical violence, intimidation, theft and/or exploitation whilst sleeping rough or staying in hostel accommodation were common in participants' narratives, echoing the findings of a wider body of research documenting the harms associated with street homelessness and temporary accommodation (see, for example, McNaughton, 2008;Cloke et al., 2010;Parsell, 2018;Watts et al., 2018;McMordie, 2020). ...
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This article reflects on the contribution of qualitative longitudinal research (QLR) to understandings of homeless peoples’ experiences of support service interventions in an era of austerity in the UK. It brings into ‘analytic conversation’ data from qualitative longitudinal evaluations of homeless support projects operated by voluntary sector organisations in Scotland. With fieldwork spanning 2014-2019, the analysis expands the analytical potential of pooling small-scale studies through an interrogation of individuals’ ‘journeys’ through homelessness services and their rough path to ‘home’. By reflecting on our substantive findings, the article explores the added value and challenges of a longitudinal approach. It concludes that while QLR can deliver deep insight into lives lived by vulnerable populations and potentially reduce the distance between policy makers and those affected, its benefits must be balanced against pragmatism and the ethical responsibilities associated with the method.
Technical Report
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Against the backdrop of the state’s deteriorating housing situation, this study was commissioned by QCOSS to develop policy options for tackling Queensland’s identified housing policy challenges; in particular, as these relate to low-income households with limited capability to compete for adequate accommodation in the private market.
Technical Report
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Australian Homelessness Monitor (AHM) 2022 presents an independent analysis of this important social problem. Its overarching purpose is to better inform housing and homelessness policymaking. To this end the report investigates the changing scale and nature of the problem and assesses recent policy and practice developments seen in response.
Introduction: Minimum unit pricing (MUP) may reduce harmful drinking in the general population, but there is little evidence regarding its impact on marginalised groups. Our study is the first to explore the perceptions of MUP among stakeholders working with people experiencing homelessness following its introduction in Scotland in May 2018. Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 41 professional stakeholders from statutory and third sector organisations across Scotland. We explored their views on MUP and its impact on people experiencing homelessness, service provision and implications for policy. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Participants suggested that the introduction of MUP in Scotland had negligible if any discernible impact on people experiencing homelessness and services that support them. Most service providers felt insufficiently informed about MUP prior to its implementation. Participants reported that where consequences for these populations were evident, they were primarily anticipated although some groups were negatively affected. People experiencing homelessness have complex needs in addition to alcohol addiction, and changes in the way services work need to be considered in future MUP-related discussions. Discussion and conclusions: This study suggests that despite initial concerns about potential unintended consequences of MUP, many of these did not materialise to the levels anticipated. As a population-level health policy, MUP is likely to have little beneficial impact on people experiencing homelessness without the provision of support to address their alcohol use and complex needs. The additional needs of certain groups (e.g., people with no recourse to public funds) need to be considered.
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Autistic people appear to have a higher risk of becoming and remaining homeless than people without autism. This article is based on a wider research study exploring diverse homelessness experiences in Oxford, UK. Using life mapping, a visual research method, we gained verbal and visual accounts of participants’ housing and homeless histories. These accounts support past evidence of higher than expected levels of autism among homeless people, while highlighting for the first time specific, additional risks of homelessness among autistic people. This group also appeared to have fewer means to reduce the risk of homelessness, and faced multiple challenges to resolving their homelessness. Our findings extend existing understandings of autism and homelessness, and of the disabling practices that autistic people may face within the diversity of homeless experiences, while adding valuable biographic detail to the factors leading to homelessness and attempts to exit homelessness. We also discuss potential policy interventions.
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Much emotion research has focused on the end result of the emotion process, categorical emotions, as reported by the protagonist or diagnosed by the researcher, with the aim of differentiating these discrete states. In contrast, this review concentrates on the emotion process itself by examining how (a) elicitation, or the appraisal of events, leads to (b) differentiation, in particular, action tendencies accompanied by physiological responses and manifested in facial, vocal, and gestural expressions, before (c) conscious representation or experience of these changes (feeling) and (d) categorizing and labeling these changes according to the semantic profiles of emotion words. The review focuses on empirical, particularly experimental, studies from emotion research and neighboring domains that contribute to a better understanding of the unfolding emotion process and the underlying mechanisms, including the interactions among emotion components. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology Volume 70 is January 4, 2019. Please see for revised estimates.
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Ending rough sleeping: what works? An international evidence review iii ii About Crisis Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. We are committed to ending homelessness. Every day we see the devastating impact homelessness has on people's lives. Every year we work side by side with thousands of homeless people, to help them rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind for good. Through our pioneering research into the causes and consequences of homelessness and the solutions to it, we know what it will take to end it. Together with others who share our resolve, we bring our knowledge, experience and determination to campaign for the changes that will solve the homelessness crisis once and for all. We bring together a unique volunteer effort each Christmas, to bring warmth, companionship and vital services to people at one of the hardest times of the year, and offer a starting point out of homelessness. We know that homelessness is not inevitable. We know that together we can end it.
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This research evaluates the Homelessness Strategy for Northern Ireland 2012-2017. The Strategy was designed to place homelessness prevention at the forefront of service delivery, reduce the duration of homelessness by improving access to affordable housing, remove the need to sleep rough and to improve services to vulnerable homeless people. The Strategy was intended to progress Northern Ireland towards a vision of eliminating long-term homelessness and rough sleeping by 2020.
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Background: Emotional stress is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. We imaged the amygdala, a brain region involved in stress, to determine whether its resting metabolic activity predicts risk of subsequent cardiovascular events. Methods: Individuals aged 30 years or older without known cardiovascular disease or active cancer disorders, who underwent (18)F-fluorodexoyglucose PET/CT at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA, USA) between Jan 1, 2005, and Dec 31, 2008, were studied longitudinally. Amygdalar activity, bone-marrow activity, and arterial inflammation were assessed with validated methods. In a separate cross-sectional study we analysed the relation between perceived stress, amygdalar activity, arterial inflammation, and C-reactive protein. Image analyses and cardiovascular disease event adjudication were done by mutually blinded researchers. Relations between amygdalar activity and cardiovascular disease events were assessed with Cox models, log-rank tests, and mediation (path) analyses. Findings: 293 patients (median age 55 years [IQR 45·0-65·5]) were included in the longitudinal study, 22 of whom had a cardiovascular disease event during median follow-up of 3·7 years (IQR 2·7-4·8). Amygdalar activity was associated with increased bone-marrow activity (r=0·47; p<0·0001), arterial inflammation (r=0·49; p<0·0001), and risk of cardiovascular disease events (standardised hazard ratio 1·59, 95% CI 1·27-1·98; p<0·0001), a finding that remained significant after multivariate adjustments. The association between amygdalar activity and cardiovascular disease events seemed to be mediated by increased bone-marrow activity and arterial inflammation in series. In the separate cross-sectional study of patients who underwent psychometric analysis (n=13), amygdalar activity was significantly associated with arterial inflammation (r=0·70; p=0·0083). Perceived stress was associated with amygdalar activity (r=0·56; p=0·0485), arterial inflammation (r=0·59; p=0·0345), and C-reactive protein (r=0·83; p=0·0210). Interpretation: In this first study to link regional brain activity to subsequent cardiovascular disease, amygdalar activity independently and robustly predicted cardiovascular disease events. Amygdalar activity is involved partly via a path that includes increased bone-marrow activity and arterial inflammation. These findings provide novel insights into the mechanism through which emotional stressors can lead to cardiovascular disease in human beings. Funding: None.
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This report focuses on the challenges in seeking to make greater use of the private rental sector to meet the needs of the vulnerable homeless in Northern Ireland. The study is intended to stimulate discussion and engagement with this important issue and to inform policy debate around how best to meet the housing needs of the vulnerable homeless in a private sector context. The report has a particular focus on the most vulnerable “chronic exclusion” homeless clients with complex needs, whose voices are not often heard in public debate, but seeks to place the issues for this client group in the wider context of the potential role of the private rental sector in addressing homelessness. The report brings together existing evidence, original research with homelessness service users, perspectives from Government and other stakeholders, research with private sector landlords and consultation with domain experts in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
This study tests a typology of homelessness using administrative data on public shelter use in New York City (1988–1995) and Philadelphia (1991–1995). Cluster analysis is used to produce three groups (transitionally, episodically, and chronically homeless) by number of shelter days and number of shelter episodes. Results show that the transitionally homeless, who constitute approximately 80% of shelter users in both cities, are younger, less likely to have mental health, substance abuse, or medical problems, and to overrepresent Whites relative to the other clusters. The episodically homeless, who constitute 10% of shelter users, are also comparatively young, but are more likely to be non‐White, and to have mental health, substance abuse, and medical problems. The chronically homeless, who account for 10% of shelter users, tend to be older, non‐White, and to have higher levels of mental health, substance abuse, and medical problems. Differences in health status between the episodically and chronically homeless are smaller, and in some cases the chronically homeless have lower rates (substance abuse in New York; serious mental illness in Philadelphia). Despite their relatively small number, the chronically homeless consume half of the total shelter days. Results suggest that program planning would benefit from application of this typology, possibly targeting the transitionally homeless with preventive and resettlement assistance, the episodically homeless with transitional housing and residential treatment, and the chronically homeless with supported housing and long‐term care programs.
Research on cognition and emotion during the past 30 years has made reasonable progress in theory, methods and empirical research. New theories of the cognition–emotion relation have been proposed, emotion research has become more interdisciplinary, and improved methods of emotion measurement have been developed. On the empirical side, the main achievement of the past 30 years is seen to consist in the reduction of the set of serious contenders for a theory of emotions. Still, several important issues are not fully resolved, including the computational implementation of appraisal processes, the nature of emotions, and the link between emotions and actions. Also, quantitative theories of the cognition–emotion relation need to be refined and tested, and improved theories of the link between emotions and bodily and facial expressions need to be developed. To counter the dangers of theoretical fragmentation and knowledge loss, more efforts should be devoted to the analysis, reconstruction, comparison and integration of important theories and hypotheses in the field of emotion, as well as to the systematization of arguments in favor and against these theories and hypotheses.
Since devolution, Scotland has been perceived as an international trailblazer in homelessness policy. This is principally due to The Homelessness Etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 which led to the ‘priority need’ category being abolished in 2012, thus placing a statutory duty upon local authorities to provide settled accommodation to nearly all homeless households. This has been widely praised for extending citizenship rights to those experiencing homelessness. In contrast to this, this paper examines the experiences of young people (aged 16–24) where judgements on whether they were ‘housing ready’ delayed them being provided settled accommodation. Drawing on Bourdieu's writing on rites of institution, it is shown how the symbolic categories deployed by support services and landlords operated as a means of ‘vision and division’, creating new social positions that lengthened the pathway out of homelessness. In a complimentary move, there was a fusion of support with control mechanisms to determine a person's readiness for settled accommodation.
A life history approach enables study of how risk or health protection is shaped by critical transitions and turning points in a life trajectory and in the context of social environment and time. We employed visual and narrative life history methods with people who inject drugs to explore how hepatitis C protection was enabled and maintained over the life course. We overview our methodological approach, with a focus on the ethics in practice of using life history timelines and life-grids with 37 participants. The life-grid evoked mixed emotions for participants: pleasure in receiving a personalized visual history and pain elicited by its contents. A minority managed this pain with additional heroin use. The methodological benefits of using life history methods and visual aids have been extensively reported. Crucial to consider are the ethical implications of this process, particularly for people who lack socially ascribed markers of a “successful life.”