Family Homelessness in Regional and Urban Contexts: Service Provider Perspectives

The idyllic imaginaries of rural life and representations of homelessness as an urban problem has rendered invisible the existence of homelessness outside urban capital cities. This research explored how service providers working in regional and metropolitan South Australia responded to and constructed intersectional disadvantages faced by homeless parents. This paper presents a thematic analysis of eight qualitative in-depth interviews, highlighting locational differences and the conditionality of the ethnocentric homelessness service system. When considering geographical differences, service providers noted that parents who live in regional areas and experience homelessness face further barriers associated with social disadvantages, including the lack of access to affordable housing, employment scarcity and limited services and supports. Overarching findings were that 1) responses to family homelessness are organizationally and geographically contextualized; 2) available choices, intergenerational circumstances and localized opportunities intersect to contribute to family homelessness, and 3) the eligibility criteria of service systems are mismatched with the experiences of some rural families (such as mobile Aboriginal families and women on temporary visas). Drawing on intersectionality, this paper argues that service provider responses to family homelessness are complicated by western cultural assumptions in service systems and intersecting localized, gendered, racialized, aged and classed social inequalities at micro, mezzo and macro levels in society.

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Journal of Rural Studies