Pathways to later life homelessness
The aim of this doctoral thesis is to increase the understanding of the causes of homelessness in later life, by identifying how antecedents, states and events interact and both trigger and contribute to homelessness, and the processes and pathways involved in the transition to homelessness. Using present theories, concepts and empirical evidence as a foundation, the thesis is largely informed by an intensive ethnographic field study which lasted for 15 months and was carried out in London, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. It involved 225 respondents over the age of 55 years, the majority of whom were homeless when interviewed. Through depth interviewing and the compilation of partial life histories, it was possible to collect objective information which enabled some quantitative comparisons and statistical analysis, and qualitative data which enabled analyses using detailed case study reports. A descriptive profile of the characteristics of the respondents and their histories of homelessness identifies the distinctive features of this group. Although some had been homeless since early adulthood and were in a state of chronic homelessness, others had experienced homelessness for the first time in old age. Four commonly-reported situations preceding homelessness are identified, and these are examined in depth and provide the core of the qualitative analyses. These are mobile work histories, bereavement, the breakdown of intimate relationships, and mental illness. The thesis demonstrates that the origins of homelessness are complex, and deepseated, they are intricately related to psychological and sociological factors, and that homelessness extends far beyond a lack of housing. By increasing the knowledge of the aetiology of homelessness, the thesis also makes a contribution to the understanding of the problems and needs of older homeless people and is thus informative to welfare policy and practice.