Choice, constraint and negotiating housing systems : understanding migrant homelessness in the US and UK
Serpa, Regina C.
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Recently migrant homelessness has emerged as a growing challenge for social policy, particularly in the context of growing migration from Central Eastern Europe to the UK and Central Americans and Caribbean nationals to the US. This thesis sets out to analyse the housing strategies of homeless migrants and explore the intersections between migration and extreme housing need. Using a comparative case study approach, the study provides a qualitative investigation into the causes and consequences of homelessness amongst migrant groups. In analysing the two case studies of Boston, Massachusetts and Edinburgh, Scotland, the thesis provides an interrogation of how these groups negotiate a complex ‘system of systems’ involving housing, welfare and immigration policies. I found that, when faced with multiple competing demands, some households actively de-prioritise housing, to the point of homelessness. By proposing the concept of ‘housing sacrifice’, this research reveals how households forgo the privacy, safety, and security of a home to meet other financial demands and social needs. The case studies illustrate how agency can be deployed when structural and individual forces combine to constrain choice. The thesis argues that homelessness is not a ‘choice’, but the result of a lack of choice, when precarity demands individual sacrifices.