Valuing Control over One’s Immediate Living Environment: How Homelessness Responses Corrode Capabilities

Beth Watts*, Janice Blenkinsopp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
126 Downloads (Pure)


Informed by the capabilities approach, this paper considers the importance of control over one’s environment for people experiencing homelessness. Drawing on a study of temporary accommodation in Scotland, we make four arguments. First, control over one’s immediate living environment has been insufficiently recognized as a foundational component of a minimally decent life within the capabilities literature. Second, such control is compromised, sometimes severely, in temporary accommodation provided for homeless households, with these impacts especially acute in congregate accommodation. Third, lacking control over one’s immediate environment can be understood as a corrosive disadvantage that actively damages people’s bodily and mental health and affiliation-related capabilities. Fourth, both intrinsic and continge3nt features of different kinds of temporary accommodation are implicated in constraining people’s control over their environment. This distinction enables us to identify changes to existing provision that can mitigate their negative impacts, and to clarify where accommodation models are inherently problematic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-115
Number of pages18
JournalHousing, Theory and Society
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • capabilities
  • control
  • home
  • Homelessness
  • living environment
  • temporary accommodation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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