Rebalancing the rhetoric: A normative analysis of enforcement in street homelessness policy

Sarah Johnsen, Beth Watts, Suzanne Fitzpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Street homelessness policies often provoke great intensity of feeling, especially when they include elements of force. This paper considers the moral case stakeholders present for and against enforcement in street homelessness policies via a series of philosophically-informed normative ‘lenses’, including paternalist, utilitarian, rights-based, contractualist, mutualist, and social justice perspectives. Drawing on in-depth qualitative research in six UK cities, it highlights the disparity between the condemnatory portrayals of enforcement dominant in academic and media discourses, and the more complex and/or ambivalent views held by practitioners and homeless people ‘on the ground’. It concludes that an analytical framework that pays systematic attention to this span of normative lenses can facilitate more constructive, even if still ‘difficult’, conversations about policy interventions in this exceptionally sensitive area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-371
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • begging
  • criminalisation
  • enforcement
  • ethics
  • homelessness
  • street drinking


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