Increasing social capital for young homeless people in supported housing
Published on Oct 1, 2013
This project focused on how increasing social capital enhances the well-being of young homeless people, as reported in Chapter 8 of this project. The research re-examined the concept of homelessness from both the theoretical and practical views of vulnerable homeless people. In effect, the effect of homelessness on the well-being of young people was explored from the points of view of socio-economic participation and community engagement. The project also evaluates the concept of social capital from various perspectives, such as theoretical views, policy context and from the realm of supported housing and the professional sphere. This project discusses how increasing social capital in supported housing can improve the well-being of young homeless people from the perspectives of health, social and economic engagements. This is a different approach from that arguing that homelessness is commonly associated with a range of other social circumstances, beyond the simple need for shelter (Fitzpatrick, Kemp & Klinker, 2000; Third & Yanetta, 2000). Literature research and enquiries with homeless people and other participants confirmed that vulnerable homeless people in supported housing encounter many problems beyond a lack of suitable accommodation, and most of these problems are social disadvantages such as reduced access to private and public services, healthcare, education, and not being seen as suitable for employment, and general rejection or discrimination from other people. The Shelter report on homelessness (2007) highlighted that helping homeless people (with personal factors) to resolve their problems could become a complex situation and, as such, requires support from specialist agency services, supported housing, family support, friends, and day centre services. Therefore, this report argues from a theoretical and professional perspective, as well as within a policy context, that the concept of social capital is central to features of social life — networks, norms and trust — that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives (Putnam, 1995: 664–665). In order to provide evidence for how increasing social capital in supported housing can enhance the well-being of homeless young adults, adults and older people, as well as their pertinent contribution to community, we carried out the review of the wider issues around social capital from theoretical, policy and professional perspectives. This shows how this research project has drawn its theoretical and practical understanding from the review of academic literature. This project explores the contribution made by policymakers to the concept of social capital and, in particular, its effect on vulnerable homeless people. The literature review also examines the work produced by professionals on social capital by using the example of the research document on Dream Deferred (Lemos & Durkacz, 2002) to justify how social networks can help vulnerable people to rebuild their relationship with old friends and families. Woolcock (2001) suggests that a social capital framework also provides a base for bridging and linking ties to existing resources that could be used to do something about weaknesses and the nature of external resources that may complement these existing resources. Three main types of social capital were identified in this research: bonding social capital (e.g. among family members or ethnic groups); bridging social capital (e.g. across ethnic groups); and linking social capital (e.g. between different social classes). Berkman and Syme (1979) clarified the benefit of social networks to vulnerable people and the need to promote social networks through at least five primary pathways: (1) from provision of social support, (2) social influence, (3) social engagement, (4) person-to-person contact, and (5) access to resources and material goods. For this project the action research approach was considered an appropriate means of investigating how ‘increasing in social capital can support the integration of young people into the community and in the process, its contribution to community’. The framework and the structure of the research question were determined following the preliminary planning and project consultation with Supported Housing Ltd. The framework for the research questions was designed to obtain information from the participants, such as staff of Supported Housing Ltd, and to be used in conjunction with the interviews with their residents and the chief executives of Thames Reach Housing. The application of an action research approach assisted with the findings around the following: Exclusion of young homeless people from employment; Stigmatisation imposed on homeless people and their exclusion from the wider community as a result of historical crimes by previous young homeless people; and, Exclusion of young homeless people from local consultation on development and new initiatives. The effect of homelessness on young people was extensively covered in the research in the areas of health and economic status. The effect of homelessness on health is not confined to rough sleepers, but extends to other categories of homelessness. A solution was developed in this project to confirm that social capital can be maximised for young homeless people in supported housing through the implementation of: a structured support network model in the context of specialist health professionals working together to promote the physical and mental health of the young people according to their needs; support plan tools; an employment service and education service through joint working with local employers and local colleges to support the socio-economic engagement of the young people. This project identified how joint working between support agencies from specialist services from health, education, Local Authority, and supported housing could make a difference in the life of people. For example, Narayan and Pritchett argued that people should work together as cohesive groups in order to achieve their objectives through rules and obligations embedded in social capital In effect, they suggest that ‘the rules, norms, obligations, reciprocity and trust embedded in social relations, social structures and society’s institutional arrangements… enable members to achieve their individual and community objectives’ (Narayan & Pritchett, 1997). This project report was concluded by recommending an action plan on how an increase in social capital can be achieved for young homeless people in supported housing. The relevant support service provisions include health promotion, education and employment, financial capacity, and social networks that integrate young people into community-integrated services and promote their well-being through social inclusion — the aspects of health promotion, human capital (skills and training to engage in the labour market), social engagement in the community, developing new relationships in society, and getting involved with the local agenda through consultation. The physical manifestation of this project saw an increase in numbers of young homeless people at the Moonday Supported Housing project in employment, education and training and their involvement in the local consultation. The outcomes also include the design of outcome star toolkits that motivate young homeless people to identify their needs and the measurement of the progress they are making through person-centred action.