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Title: The paradox of progress : LGBTQ youth homelessness in South East England
Author: Tunåker, Carin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 129X
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines the experiences, circumstances and difficulties faced by young homeless people residing in hostels in the county of Kent, South East England, especially those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ). My research suggests that there is an increase in LGBTQ youth homelessness due to young people 'coming out' at younger ages than before and encountering difficulties in their family homes that lead to their homelessness. I refer to this as 'the paradox of progress'. Due to political advances in gay rights and an increased media presence of charismatic LGBTQ proponents, youth are changing their outlook on sexuality and gender identity, but paradoxically due to generational differences, some meet adversities at home. Yet, this research also shows that an ensuing prevalence and increase of LGBTQ youth in homeless hostels across the county is a significant concern that thus far has been overlooked. In this thesis I demonstrate that youth homelessness is distinct from adult homelessness and is often misunderstood. Using data obtained through anthropological fieldwork over a period of one year, combined with my professional experience as a support worker working in local homeless hostels for over eight years, I examine and analyse the structural violence and inequalities that young people encounter as they attempt to cope with their homelessness caused by various factors such as deprived family backgrounds, class and a housing crisis that has predominantly affected disadvantaged youth. The long-term dedicated ethnographic fieldwork approach of my research has enabled me to glean insights about current ideas about home, homelessness, and also experiences of young people who live in difficult circumstances, subsequently enabling this research to challenge contemporary understandings of and responses to youth homelessness. Homeless youth navigate their lives in localities where ideas of 'home' hinge upon idealised heteronormative family life trajectories and generalised stigmas of youth homeless as beggars, rough sleepers or substance misusers and as culpable for their own predicaments. In this thesis, I discuss how the lack of or slim options for housing and support available to homeless youth in Kent, reflect upon how the State and the general public homogenise and stigmatise youth who are from working class backgrounds, thus creating further disadvantages that subject them toward structural violence. The anthropology of youth literature (e.g. Wulff 1995, LeVine and New 2008, Peluso 2015) suggests that the agency of young individuals should not be underestimated or subsumed under broader adult studies but that their lives ought to be studied in their own right. My ethnographic data contributes to such literature and further engages the anthropology of home, gender and sexuality to understand the issues that come together to comprise contemporary youth homelessness in Britain. Ethnographic research is well suited to explore intimate topic such as sexuality and homelessness, and thus far anthropologists have not studied LGBTQ youth homelessness. To date, the monitoring of sexual orientation and gender identity in the voluntary sector uses unrealistic figures that obscure the severity of LGBTQ youth homelessness. Subsequently LGBTQ individuals are not recognised by funding bodies and the State as a significant population and therefore resources are not allocated to alleviate their challenges and/or support them. This thesis argues that a prominent reason for LGBTQ youth homelessness is the paradox of progress; that the broader political advances in LGBTQ rights are not yet resonating in the reality and lived experiences of LGBTQ individuals in Kent. Young people who are both homeless and a sexual or gender minority, experience exclusion by living outside of the norm in terms of their sexuality/gender identities, as well as living outside of normative institutions such as, the educational system, home and the family. Furthermore, I suggest that conflicting generational views toward 'alternative' sexualities and genders contribute to the increasing numbers of LGBTQ youth in homelessness services. This thesis contributes to the limited ethnographic studies available regarding youth homelessness in anthropology. It also aims to offer insights to broad literatures in social, political, economic and applied anthropology, the anthropology of youth, the anthropology of care, kinship studies, the anthropology of Britain and the anthropology of home and homelessness. Additionally, it has the potential to be of interdisciplinary interest, as it draws on insights from the disciplines of sociology, human geography as well as literature from queer and gender studies. Finally, this research will inform homelessness and housing policies and facilitate a better understanding of the under-researched topic of LGBTQ youth homelessness. The outcomes of my research suggest that policy makers in voluntary and government agencies need to employ a culturally sensitive approach to housing policy for youth and young individuals who identify as LGBTQ and those that are homeless.
Supervisor: Peluso, Daniela Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation ; H Social Sciences