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Dr Caral Stevenson Prof Jo Neale We ended up doing more rough sleeping just to be together: Homeless drug users experiences of hostel living and intimate.

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Presentation on theme: "Dr Caral Stevenson Prof Jo Neale We ended up doing more rough sleeping just to be together: Homeless drug users experiences of hostel living and intimate."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dr Caral Stevenson Prof Jo Neale We ended up doing more rough sleeping just to be together: Homeless drug users experiences of hostel living and intimate relationships

2 Background 23 (6%) of the 433 accommodation-based services in England have rooms for couples (Homeless Link, 2011) The number of rooms for couples has decreased from 392 in 2010 to 292 in 2011 (ibid.) Hostels are experiencing an increase in the number of couples presenting as homeless (ibid.) The need for more spaces for homeless couples has been documented (Randall & Brown, 2007; HM Government, 2011)

3 Literature Homeless people are committed to their partners, support each other emotionally & have sex (Nyamathi et al., 1995, 1999; Wesley & Wright, 2005; Rayburn & Corzine, 2010) Having a partner can improve health & wellbeing, plus increase feelings of support (Nyamathi et al., 1995, 1999; Wesley & Wright, 2005; Rayburn & Corzine, 2010) The key difference between the relationships of homeless & housed people is that homeless people engage in usually private activities within public spaces (Rayburn & Corzine, 2010)

4 Methods & sample Part of a bigger study looking at the role of hostels & night shelters in supporting homeless drug users (HDUs) Qualitative semi-structured interviews with HDUs who had recently stayed in hostels or shelters in London & South Central England 29 men, 11 women Recruited from: Homeless day centres Street beggars Big Issue sellers Needle exchanges (mobile & fixed) Other homelessness & drug services Word of mouth Interviews lasted 45 mins to 2.5 hrs, were digitally recorded & transcribed

5 Relationship status 39 heterosexual, 1 lesbian 26 single, 14 in a relationship ( 9 female, 5 male) Of the 14 individuals in a relationship: 7 had partners who were living in private accommodation 2 living in a hostel with their partner 2 had partners who were living in separate hostels 1 was squatting with his partner 1 had recently moved to private accommodation from a hostel with her partner 1 had a partner currently in prison

6 Wanting to be together Many went to great lengths to spend time with their partner Fiona (aged 37) lived with her boyfriend & their dog in a car until they were offered accommodation together Tanya (aged 39) described how she & her long-standing partner had bought a tent & camping equipment so that they could camp out in the park for weekends when they wanted to be alone Other participants described sleeping on the beach or street: We ended up doing more rough sleeping just to be together. (Tracy, aged 39) There was a strong desire for privacy

7 Enforced separations No spaces for couples Placed together but then separated: But they wont move us together… I dont want to go to [2 nd stage housing] because were trying to get housed together, not separated. (Libby, aged 30) Upset & stress leads to abandoned beds Difficult to relax, focus on rebuilding lives or moving on Strain on relationships: Couples seem to get separated & its really unfair… Theyll put a woman in [name of shelter] & theyll put the boyfriend somewhere else… [It] just puts a strain on the relationship. Theyre using [drugs] behind each others backs, arguing … Ive seen lots of breakups in relationships because of them separating people. (Tracy, aged 39).

8 Relationship problems Relationships which formed within hostels could be unstable, insecure, violent & exploitative There was evidence of casual sex, multiple partners & infidelity Some hostel residents were not ready for emotional commitments High levels of drug use & dealing & large male to female gender imbalances undermined trust & stability

9 Relationship benefits Improved mental health & feeling safe Q Do you feel safe? R …Yeah, Ive had my partner aint I? If I didnt have my partner I most probably wouldnt have [felt safe]. (Libby, aged 30) Reduced & controlled drug use When I moved to where I am now, I started using again… He [boyfriend] went, No, its got to stop… Come on, youve got your methadone, what do you want to take that & your methadone for? Its like a double habit… He got me off it. (Anne, aged 46) A break from hostel life & a source of social capital She [girlfriend] doesnt do drugs, she doesnt drink. When I go there, I respect her house. I dont drink, I dont do drugs in the house. So its like my little haven a few days a week...Its my getaway (Jack, aged 31)

10 Conclusions HDUs in relationships are committed to each other HDUs relationships are constrained & undermined by institutional & structural factors HDUs relationships can be unstable & insecure with a potential for violence & exploitation, but HDUs relationships can decrease anxiety & isolation, make individuals feel safe & secure, help the management, control & reduction of drug consumption, & be an important source of social capital

11 Implications for practice Despite barriers & difficulties, HDUs can & do engage in functional & positive romantic relationships Services which are unsympathetic or hostile to HDUs needs for meaningful intimate relationships may undermine one of the few forms of social capital that HDUs are able to access A key challenge for service providers is to support (through policies, attitudes & service provision) couples who are trying to establish & maintain safe & stable romantic relationships

12 References HM Government (2011). Vision to end Rough Sleeping: No Second Night out Nationwide. London, Crown Copyright. Homeless Link (2011). Survey of Needs and Provision Services for homeless single people and couples in England. London, Homeless Link. Nyamathi, A., Bennett, C., Leake, B., & Chen, S. (1995). Social support among impoverished women. Nursing Research, 44, Nyamathi, A., Wenzel, S., Keenan, C., Leake, B., & Gelberg, L. (1999). Associations between homeless women's intimate relationships and their health and well-being. Research in Nursing and Health, 22, Randall, G., & Brown, S. (2007). Review of Hostels for Rough Sleepers in London. London, Department for Communities and Local Government. Rayburn, R. L., & Corzine, J. (2010). Your shelter or mine? Romantic relationships among the homeless. Deviant Behavior, 31, Wesley, J. K. & Wright, J. D. (2005). The pertinence of partners: Examining the intersections between women's homelessness and their adult relationships. American Behavioral Scientist, 48,

13 Acknowledgements Thanks to the Sir Halley Stewart Trust for funding the research, Dr Nat Wright for acting as co-investigator, the service providers who granted access to their organisations, and our virtual advisory group who provided helpful comments and advice throughout the duration of the project. We would especially like to thank the participants who took the time to be involved in the study.


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