Hostels and Homelessness

Year Published:  1984
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX3019

The Single Displaced Persons Project (SDP) is a network of individuals "who are fostering change in the way churches and social agencies respond to people living at the margins of our society in what has been called "skid row."

The introduction of this paper states the authors' purpose succinctyl...."It is increasinly well understood that hostels are not an adequate response to the present lack of housing for low-income singles. However, it is less well understood that the present functioning of hostels reinforce the homelessness. It also proposes the form hostels must take if they are to more effectively enable the homeless to make a transition to a more stable living situtaiton....."

The paper is an off-shoot of an earlier paper. The Case for Long-Term Supportive Housing (CX3018). The current paper goes into futher detail about the current use of hostels, and examines the similarities and differences between hostels established for single men and those for women. It draws upon SDP Project participants' lengthy experiences in hostel operations and on involvement in co-ordination and research projects.

One difference between men's and women's hostels is that the latter more often have functioned more as a point of international transition to more stable living situation, rather than simply as emergency shelter offering nightly dormitory accommodation. yet some of the more recent ones, especially the municipally run ones are operating more like the men's hostels, the authors note. Many of the more 'successful' women's hostels in this regard "began with a commitment to develop the service as a right: a clear perceptin that women using the services are victims of larger social forces and an understanding of the kind of nuturing and support needed in such a crisis." By contract men's hostels have tradiitonally functioned on the assumptions that the service is a charity to losers and failures who deserve only minimal support and amenities.

In the past few years both have increasingly become long-term housing for many residents. Two-thirds of male residents have lived in hostels for a year or more, and almost 20 per cent have done so for 15 years or more.

Because there can only be "transition" if there is somewhere to go, affordable and appropriately managed long-term housing must be developed and funded , they point out.

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