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Conditionality and Homelessness Services; ‘Practice Realities’ in a Drop-in Centre

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2011

Rachael Dobson*
School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds E-mail:


This article provides insights into the client−practitioner interaction, as understood through the eyes of those working at the front-line in a Drop-in Centre for homeless clients. Through a case-study analysis of ‘official’ techniques and informal approaches, it is argued that conditional practices are present in contemporary support practices. However, the picture is fragmented, with practitioners arguing for, but also deviating from, conditional strategies that aspire to shape client behaviour. Choices about appropriate responses are occasionally permeated by ‘top−down’ policy messages that aim to responsibilise and generate change in clients. However there is evidence of ‘bottom−up’ drivers informed by experiences of working with clients at the grassroots. These ‘practice realities’ shift an analysis of conditional tactics from just a moralising and disciplining approach, and suggest a more complex set of events at the front-line. Insights add to ongoing commentary about an apparent policy emphasis on rectifying the behaviour of citizens at the sharp end. Conclusions highlight the role of complexity for understanding therapeutic and disciplining elements in policies and practices. Such debates are especially relevant where they connect to the care and control of individuals understood by practitioners as both transgressive and vulnerable.

Themed Section on Exploring Multiple Exclusion Homelessness
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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