Making do in the city : the survival tactics of London's young homeless
Youth homelessness is a pressing problem in contemporary British urban politics. The emergence of youth homelessness, in the context of wider homelessness, has been conditioned by economic, political and social changes in British society. Young people have been particular casualties of these social changes. Whilst homelessness has been the consequence of larger structural changes, the character of youth homelessness has very much been determined by the homeless themselves. The relationship between human agency and structural constraint, and the implicit power relations therein are explored by recourse to Structurationist theory. In this context, a theoretically composite approach is posited drawing on livelihood analysis and Michel de Certeau's "Science of Singularity". Livelihood analysis is developed by recourse to Grounded theory to produce an ethnography of homeless survival tactics rooted in the experience of young homeless people living on the streets in London's West End. The emergent ethnography is subjected to the insights of Michel de Certeau, who provides a means for understanding the relationship between critical action and social constraint. Recognising the implicit social criticism of homeless life, this approach posits a regime of commodities, skills and sources (the resource regime) as a basis for homeless critical livelihood. This critical livelihood contextualised by structural constraint, and explored by creative endeavour, is used by the homeless to make their lives and to forge identity. This approach is implicitly spatial because the homeless draw on urban spaces to forge livelihood, and their trajectories in the city both contribute to social reproduction and are central to the criticisms they make. Correspondingly, homeless identity, forged through the processes of critical livelihood, is at times contradictory. Homeless identity emerges as one that is purposive and critical, whilst at the same time being dependent on the very circumstances of marginality for its substance and character.