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- Author or Editor: Paul Milbourne x
Recent years have witnessed increased interest in the geographies of poverty and welfare. This article provides a critical review of three important themes emerging from this growing body of literature. First, it explores the spatial unevenness of poverty and the persistence of poverty in particular regions and places. Second, attention is given to the complex relationship between poverty and place, and the ways in which poverty is shaped by the local contexts of place. Third, the shifting relations between central and local welfare systems are examined within the context of recent welfare reform. The article ends by outlining new geographical agendas for research on these themes.
This chapter examines the Labour government’s approach to poverty and welfare issues in rural areas in England. It highlights the adoption and implementation of ‘third-way’ policies and discusses Labour’s ubiquitous partnership approach to service provision, including rural policing. The chapter suggests that while New Labour’s anti-poverty strategies have reduced levels of poverty and social exclusion, their specific impact in rural areas is difficult to establish due to a lack of rural differentiation and an absence of appropriate indicators.
Rural homelessness: supplies evidence on the nature, extent and experiences of homelessness in rural areas; provides a wide-ranging theoretical, empirical and policy-related account of homelessness in rural areas; offers a critique of policy responses to rural homelessness.
The book is aimed at students and academics in human geography, sociology, social policy, housing studies and rural studies. It will also be of interest to individuals and organisations dealing with housing, homelessness and other social issues in rural areas.
The chapter provides a critical exploration of the situations and experiences of older people living on low income in different rural places in England and Wales. It draws on evidence from a survey of older people and qualitative materials from interviews with, and diaries produced by older people on low income. The survey evidence indicates that low income and material deprivation represent significant features of older people’s lives in rural areas. However, qualitative research highlights the ways in which poverty is largely denied by those on low income, with attachments to place – involving connections to the social, cultural and natural attributes of place - constructed as compensating for material restrictions imposed by low income.
This article traces the power of numbers in discourses relating to homelessness in Britain. It argues that enumeration has played a formative role in the recording of homelessness as a ‘problem’, and in the public policy response to homelessness in specific locations. In particular,the use of rough sleeper counts as popular defining representations of the problem of, and response to, homelessness is analysed in terms of their wider pivotal significance in political and policy discourses relating to homeless people. The article concludes that how rough sleeper counts are undertaken has clear distorting consequences for the identification and understanding of to what extent, where, and among whom homelessness represents a pressing social issue. Discursive valorisation of enumeration needs to be interconnected critically with other more qualitative forms of knowledge drawing on the experience of housing officers, local agency workers and others dealing with localised homelessness on a day-to-day basis.
According to most popular discourses, homelessness is something that wouldn’t happen in the countryside. Just occasionally, however, rural homelessness does hit a headline but then, as with this story from the News of the World cited above, normality is soon resumed. Instead of homeless people, rural areas entertain ‘happy hobos’. Instead of being socially excluded, the happy hobo is cared for by a supportive community. Instead of being forced to move on, he has his wood bought for him by kind-hearted locals for whom a supertramp somehow fits their romanticised view of the idyllic life-styles of country living. Readers can sleep safe in their beds as their rural idyll is being enhanced by the mysterious romanticism of the somehow ageless tramp, rather than being transgressed by the harsh social reality of homelessness.
In this chapter we want to argue that discourses from governments, academics, news media and many (but not all) voluntary agencies conspire to create the impression that the spatiality of homeless people is entirely encompassed by city limits. People’s everyday experiences, both televisual and ‘live’, have served to assimilate homelessness in city sites/sights, and often to conflate homelessness with concomitant ‘urban’ issues such as the supposed street criminalities of drunkenness, vagrancy and begging. Without wishing in any sense to deny or undermine the socio-political importance of homelessness issues in the city, we want to argue that homelessness is also important in rural areas, and that its significance requires special emphasis precisely because it is usually hidden from view.
It has been documented that there are four times as many animal shelters in this country as there are shelters for battered women. While emergency shelters do very important work, there are not enough of them to provide shelter to everyone knocking on their doors. For every homeless person you see on a street corner, there are another nine homeless people you don’t see. People using couches for makeshift beds in the homes of friends and relatives, two or three families sharing a mobile home meant for just one, people living in substandard housing, people living in their cars, people living outside in parks, campgrounds and primitive wooded areas. The list goes on and on. (Stoops, in Lewallen, 1998, p 9)
This book is about some of the 9 out of 10 homeless people you do not see – those living in rural areas. In terms of numbers, the hidden rural homeless cannot ‘compete’ with those in urban areas, and by adopting a rural focus in this book we in no way seek to underestimate or undermine the significance of issues faced by homeless people in various urban situations. However, we do want to claim loudly and clearly that rural homelessness exists as an important, but often invisible, social issue of our time. If you read this claim as a statement of the obvious, then you are probably one of a relatively small minority of people who recognise that homelessness is not confined to the sites and sights of the city. Not knowing about rural homelessness is entirely forgivable.
Having set out the context of rural homelessness in Chapter One, we now want to discuss some key methodological issues bound up with researching homelessness in rural areas. This chapter is divided into three sections. In the first, we provide a critical review of the methodologies associated with recent academic studies of homelessness, drawing on research conducted both in Britain and in the US. The second focuses more specifically on rural homelessness and considers the ways in which the small number of studies undertaken have approached the subject. We also set out here the approach taken by the authors in their recently completed study of homelessness in rural England, and provide details of the main objectives, methodologies and products of this research. In the final section, we present a reflexive account of a range of ethical issues associated with researching rural homelessness, based on diary notes and research summaries provided by each member of the research team.
Any review of the large number of academic books and journal articles written on homelessness will reveal that the subject does not lend itself to easy research. In many ways, the complexities of definition discussed in Chapter One carry through into the process of researching homelessness. For example, a narrow definition of homelessness as rooflessness will tend to be associated with a research methodology that is different from one that would be utilised if a broader definition – encompassing a range of different housing situations – were to be adopted. Similarly, a normative definition of homelessness based on official statistical categorisations may necessitate a different methodological approach to one that relies on a definition of homelessness produced by homeless people themselves.
In this chapter we explore some of the difficulties in bringing together the concepts of rurality and homelessness, arguing that particular cultural constructs of what it is to be homeless, and what it is to live in the countryside, serve to resist, and sometimes deny the recognition of any material reality which might be called rural homelessness. The background to this discussion is formed by the existence of privileged constructs of rural space. It can be suggested that the most identifiable and accessible group of meanings constructed and circulated about rurality in England are bound up with notions of idyll. Although it is problematic to search for any notion of a single construction of the rural as idyll1, Cloke and Milbourne (1992) have suggested a number of key meanings that have come to be associated with rurality – “a bucolic, problem-free, hidden world of peace, tranquillity and proximity to the natural” (p 361). Such constructs have become reproduced directly within the dominant imagination through a range of different cultural circulations. In other ways, notions of rural idyll, and particularly ideas of problem-free country spaces, have remained largely unchallenged within academic and policy discourses. Only a handful of academic studies have addressed issues of poverty and marginalisation in rural Britain (Cloke et al, 1994, 1997a, 1997b; Shucksmith et al, 1996; PSI, 1998), and these same issues have been conspicuous only by their absence within recent central policy documents on rural Britain (DoE, 1995;Welsh Office, 1996).
Such constructions of rurality have played a key role in reproducing dominant popular discourses on the British countryside.
Discussion of rural homelessness needs to be set within the relevant policy context. The first thing to note, however, is that there is no policy which specifically addresses the issue of rural homelessness. Consequently, in this chapter we focus on general homelessness policies and then on those rural policies which have a bearing on preventing and tackling homelessness in rural areas (see Table 4.1 for a timeline of key policy reports and developments).
In the first part, we trace the development of the homelessness legislation over the past 25 years. We begin with a brief review of the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, before looking in more detail at the events leading up to the implementation of the 1996 Housing Act – under which homelessness is currently dealt with. We then turn our attention to developments since the election of the New Labour government in May 1997, examining the proposed reforms to the homelessness legislation as set out in the Housing Green Paper (published in April 2000) and Part II of the subsequent Homes Bill, introduced into the House of Commons later that year.
These documents make little or no reference to the particular needs of rural areas. Instead, it is left to the Rural White Paper (published in November 2000) to set out the government’s policy in relation to housing and homelessness in these areas. In the second part of this chapter we provide a comprehensive account of this policy, looking in particular at government initiatives to increase the amount of affordable accommodation in rural areas.