Giving homelessness a home in social work, education, training & practice

By Gerry Skelton

It has been a personal and professional contention for most of my social work career (as practitioner and lecturer) that homelessness has been something of a taboo in social work education, training and practice.

Homelessness is an increasing problem, with an average of 18-19.000 households presenting as homeless annually in Northern Ireland and almost doubling in this millennium. So much of what causes or results from homelessness is obviously rooted in what is surely the general reason d’être of social work and what it seeks to alleviate. This includes interpersonal violence, abuse, relationship breakdown, mental illness, self-harm, addiction and leaving care. Unfortunately more often than not, any focus on homelessness is generally subsumed in academia within the broader theme of addictions and criminal justice; further exacerbating the inevitable labelisation and stereotyping associated with homelessness.

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