Day centres for homeless people: spaces of care or fear?

Sarah Johnsen, Paul Cloke, Jon May

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    131 Citations (Scopus)
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    It is now widely argued that the contemporary city is becoming an increasingly hostile environment for homeless people. As basic street survival strategies are criminalized and public space ‘purified’ of those whose ‘spoiled’ identities threaten to ‘taint’ fellow members of the public, city authorities seem to have turned from a position of ‘malign neglect’ to more obviously punitive measures designed to contain and control homeless people. Less widely acknowledged but equally prevalent, however, is a parallel rise in the ‘urge to care’; evident in the growing number of night shelters, hostels and day centres emerging in recent years to provide shelter and sustenance to homeless people. This paper contributes to a small but growing body of work examining the development of the ‘spaces of care’ springing up in the interstices of a ‘revanchist’ city, by examining the development and internal dynamics of day centres for homeless people in the UK. Drawing upon a national survey of service providers, and a series of interviews and participant observations with day centre staff and users, the paper argues that day centres act as important sources of material resource and refuge for a highly stigmatized group. However, it warns against the romantic tendencies implicit in the notion of ‘spaces of care’, emphasizing that what for one person may operate as a ‘space of care’ might, for another, be experienced as a space of fear. The paper concludes by noting the ambiguity and fragility of such spaces within the wider ‘revanchist’ city.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)787-811
    Number of pages25
    JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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