Innovation in the homelessness field: how does social enterprise respond to the needs of homeless people?

There is much current policy and practitioner enthusiasm for using social enterprise to tackle the problems of the homeless population, particularly those in the most acute housing need such as rough sleepers, hostel users and those in other forms of temporary accommodation. This paper brings together two sets of research literature on social enterprise and homelessness to address the question ‘how does social enterprise respond to the needs of homeless people?’ The paper provides an overview of the current policy context before identifying different ways in which social enterprise responds to those homeless people in the most acute housing need. The research literature demonstrates that social enterprise involves balancing a tension between social and economic objectives. This poses challenges for social enterprises in the homelessness field. Existing case study research shows that social enterprises offering homeless people the opportunity to earn an income have proved unable to generate sufficient surplus to address the wider social support needs of their client group. Social enterprises contracted to deliver state services may face pressure to abandon those clients with the most complex needs as they prove unprofitable to work with. However social enterprise would appear to offer opportunities to those homeless people with less acute needs, particularly in conjunction with other Third Sector Organisations.

Publication Date: 
Working Paper 5
Journal Name: 
Third Sector Research Centre