Researching homelessness and rough sleeping in the Scottish context

H. Third

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper offers some reflections on a number of methodological and personal issues associated with researching homelessness, particularly in the Scottish context. It opens with an examination of the political and social construction of statistics on homelessness. It highlights the limitations of official data sources, and outlines the problems in quantifying (or even estimating) the extent of one of the most extreme manifestations of homelessness-rough sleeping. It identifies some other practical difficulties in conducting research amongst homeless people, such as setting and meeting interview targets, and questions the perceived level of risk in conducting face-to-face work with street homeless people. The second part of the paper considers a range of ethical tensions, posing a series of dilemmas which can arise for an academic researching homelessness. It is suggested that these issues and concerns could be widely applied to social policy research, and are therefore of equal relevance to academic researchers involved with any groups affected by poverty and social exclusion. Drawing on recent controversial practice debates, the paper questions the role of the researcher in perpetuating the so-called 'homelessness industry'. Finally, the paper argues that the researcher should seek opportunities to enhance user-involvement policy development as well as research. The paper suggests that researchers in the field of homelessness occupy a privileged position, providing a link between homeless people, agencies responsible for policy and practice, and politicians. It concludes that research can make a real contribution to understanding and alleviating homelessness. This, it argues, is the only valid justification for making a living out of homelessness research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)448-464
    Number of pages17
    JournalSocial Policy and Administration
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


    • Homelessness
    • Rough sleeping
    • Scotland


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