VOLUME 5 (2003) - ISSUE 10 (WINTER)

Homeless People and Social Support: The Process of Becoming Homeless

by Evanthe SCHURINK


This chapter argues that homeless people pass through a sequence of stages where their social bond (social cohesion) with conventional society becomes weaker. It stresses that homelessness does not happen overnight, and that it is not a fixed status. Homelessness is described as a process where apart from economic losses, homeless people loose a sense of belonging, a psychological sense of home. They gradually drift away from their family and community. Their links with conventional society (family, colleagues, non-homeless friends) becomes blurred and ultimately break down. They no longer have conventional informal nor formal social support systems but become part of the homeless subculture, with specific values and norms. If this process is not stopped and reversed in appropriate time, they will become entrenched in a homeless status.

It is clear that homelessness is a multi-dimensional problem evolving over a period of time. Therefore addressing this problem successfully would require a comprehensive strategy tackling the problem on a policy, structural, community, family and individual level. Preventing homelessness in a global world is an ongoing challenge.


Homeless people - Homelessness - Social Support


Evanthe M. SCHURINK was employed by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Pretoria , South Africa , from 1981 to 1998. During her career at the HSRC she acted as the manager of the HSRC Program for Child and Family Welfare, and was a leader of a variety of projects, such as effective prevention of child victimization,  social reintegration of marginalized youth, management of street children, implementation of a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).   She has been awarded the 1996 HSRC President’s Medal for her research on child abuse.

Evanthe’s fields of interest and specialization include research methodology with specific reference to participatory action research, crime prevention, crime victims, behavior change, AIDS, youth, child abuse and the development of national and regional monitoring systems.

She published notably on AIDS (1988),  black youths’ involvement in delinquency and crime and its perceptions of crime and its control  (1991, with Willem Schurink), rape victimization (1992), the development and evaluation of a support service for crime victims (1993), street children (1993, with Willem Schurink), South Africa’s Child Protection System disintegration (1996), and the reintegration of homeless people in the inner city of Pretoria (1998).


Author Name (Year), “Title”, in: The International Scope Review, Volume Number, Issue Number, TSCF Editions, Brussels.


This contribution is a chapter of the book edited by Patrick HUNOUT, The Erosion of the Social Link in the Economically Advanced Countries.


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