Homelessness and mortality: an extraordinary or unextraordinary phenomenon?

Cooper, Vickie and McCulloch, Daniel (2023). Homelessness and mortality: an extraordinary or unextraordinary phenomenon? Mortality, 28(2) pp. 220–235.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13576275.2023.2176214


In this article we explore the vicissitudes of extraordinariness in relation to homelessness and mortality in Britain. Death and its threat are a constant presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness, but despite the established fact that homeless populations have a far lower life expectancy than the general population, mortality is rarely considered as part of the homelessness plight, nor is it fully acknowledged or understood in official spheres. This article explores the ways in which homelessness and mortality are constructed as an unpreventable phenomenon, not deserving of any meaningful political intervention. Drawing on the conceptual framework of ‘organised abandonment’, we argue that the invisibility of homeless people in death can be linked to their invisibility in life. In so doing, we underline the minimalist policy frameworks and the expansion of anti-homeless campaigns, which, to different extents, result in the exclusion of homeless individuals and families. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the risk of death affecting homeless groups was responded to as an extraordinary social and political problem, requiring maximum political intervention. While remaining cognisant of the limitations of the extraordinary homelessness and housing policy measures brought in during this time, we argue that there are key possibilities to be explored within those policy responses.

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