Understanding and responding to homeless experiences, identities and cultures
Edited by Mike Seal

Focussing directly on actual experiences of homeless people, this important book provides:
  • opportunities to reflect on how agencies that work with homeless people are set up and run
  • guidance to practitioners who work in them, and in social services, probation and housing
  • an agenda of action for homeless people.

  • It shows how categorising homeless people into various stereotypes, and making assumptions about their lives, mis-shapes their identities, and mis-shapes the services that we provide, so significantly that it even impacts on workers' own senses of themselves. And it shows how focussing on individuals' realities - how they cope with their environments, and make sense of their experiences - helps us work together effectively to provide appropriate support.

    In their own words, homeless and ex-homeless people, leading academics and practitioners, describe experiences of going through various homeless 'systems'; sometimes many times. They show how these experiences, alongside other powerful forces, affect not only homeless people, but also homeless workers. Reading about how, as individuals, they contest and negotiate the identities that are thereby superimposed, lets us learn from the lives of rough sleepers, people who have multiple needs, the refugee experience, denial of sexual identity, love on the streets, challenging behaviour, homeless sector culture, and the labelling of 'difficult people' and 'unresponsive services'.

    Contest and negotiation about identity also occur amongst workers and policy-makers, at the local and the political level. By understanding our part in this, we can guard against the risk of providing a potentially unhelpful service, based on assumptions and stereotypes. And we can learn how to look beyond the mere provision of access to housing, towards effective resettlement based on cognitive, emotional and practical change, taking into account individuals' needs and circumstances.

    Paperback. 192 pages. 978-1-905541-06-5. Published 2007. £19.95.


    Mike Seal
    is a Senior lecturer in Informal and Community Education and programme director for the Advanced Professional Certificate in Working with Homeless People at the YMCA George Williams College in East London. He has worked in the homeless field for 16 years as a front line worker, trainer and development worker in a variety of settings. He is the author of Resettling Homeless People: Theory and Practice (RHP 2005) and Working with Homeless People: A Training Manual (RHP 2006).


    Homelessness and identity Mike Seal
    Homeless people making sense of their experiences
    Identities of rough sleepers in Oxford Chantal Butchy
    Homelessness and the denial of sexual identity Phillip Flynn
    Love on the streets: the denial of homeless people's relationships Tony Dodson
    Organisational constructs of homeless experiences and identities
    Understanding the refugee experience Jennie Geddes
    Difficult people? - Unresponsive services! Working with people who are homeless and have multiple needs Pip Bevan
    Contesting and working with challenging behaviour John Ames
    Identities and cultures in the homeless sector and societal and personal reactions to homelessness
    Homelessness and its impact on our personal and societal identities Mike Seal
    Homeless sector culture Mick Kain and Andrew VanDoorn
    Worker identities in the homeless industry Mike Seal

    Lessons to be learnt and actions to be taken Mike Seal