Homeless women: A social, economic and historical analysis

Watson, Sophie (1983). Homeless women: A social, economic and historical analysis. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000de45


This study of single homeless women looks at the way our society defines and generates "needs", at the way housing is provided and allocated to exclude specific forms of households, and at the experiences of a particular group - single women - for whom the impact of these processes is dire. The thesis falls into two parts. In the first I look at definitions of homelessness and show how homelessness is a socially and historically determined concept which has specific implications for women which derive from their role as housewives and mothers within the family. I argue that definitions of homelessness have important implications for both research and policy in this area. The subsequent two chapters look at single women's homelessness historically, and show both how current ideologies of female homelessness and provisions for single homeless women have their origins in earlier periods, and also how these ideologies and provision have changed. The final chapter of the first part of the thesis analyses the nature of housing provision for single people and women specifically and theorises why housing has predominantly been produced for and allocated to the nuclear family household. The second part of the thesis is based on interviews with 160 women in London who were found in a range of inadequate housing situations, and who were defined in this study as homeless. The objective of this part of the study is threefold: first, to understand and locate single women's homelessness within an analysis of patriarchal and capitalist relations in our society, and the sexual division of labour. Second, to consider the nature of-homelessness amongst women, that is, whether the single female homeless constitute a homogeneous or heterogeneous group. Third, to evaluate the usefulness of the term of homelessness in particular where single women are concerned. I conclude with a consideration of these issues, and an analysis of why homelessness is not currently treated as a matter for great public concern.

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