Homelessness and need
Homelessness and need

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Homelessness and need

3 Biographical perspective: using pathways

You will shortly be hearing excerpts from interviews with four men, who were contacted through the Swansea Cyrenians. They are all from very different backgrounds, and talk about their own experiences of homelessness.

The clips are only brief insights into life without a home, but they do demonstrate the importance of a biographical perspective in understanding the unique and diverse needs of individual homeless people.

Looking at situations from a biological perspective is known as the ‘pathway’ approach, and is a useful way of exploring and understanding the experience of homelessness (Fitzpatrick and Clapham, 1999). The pathway approach uses biographical interviews to obtain people's accounts, in their own words, of their progression through housing and homelessness. Qualitative research of this kind helps to understand better how people experience homelessness, and how their needs might best be met. It is a way of understanding individual needs, as well as a way of identifying common circumstances.


In the next four sections, you will be presented with four audio clips. Each will be accompanied by some background information. Together, these accounts provide a wealth of information about the experience of homelessness. Some of the issues you might pick up on as you listen are:

  • the diverse routes into homelessness;
  • exclusion from mainstream health and welfare provisions;
  • views on different types of temporary accommodation;
  • the hidden nature of women's homelessness;
  • people's reactions and responses to rough sleepers.

Read the background information about each person, and then listen to the audio clip in which they talk about their situations.

While you're listening, identify the needs of the person talking. You may find it useful to make notes.

When you have listened to each clip, make some notes on who you think should be responsible for meeting the needs you've identified.

In Section 8, you will be provided with a commentary on all four of the audio clips.


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