Hot tea, dry toast and the responsibilisation of homeless people

Martin Whiteford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article sets out to critically explore the expanding and contested vocabulary of ‘responsible citizenship’ as it relates to homeless people in a small market town in rural Dorset. Taking as its reference point the controversial decision to introduce a payment system for hot food at a day-centre for rough sleepers, I offer a concrete illustration of how the desire to cultivate ‘active’ and ‘responsible’ citizens is experienced and perceived by people who are affected by homelessness and other dimensions of ‘deep’ social exclusion. My concern here is to show that the logic of ‘responsibilisation’, which I suggest aims to ensure that difficult and troublesome individuals are made to accept prevailing social norms, draws its sustenance from a more fundamental concern with refashioning the meaning of contemporary citizenship. In so doing, I focus on the particular problems with this approach, using an alternative approach that argues that the problems and vulnerabilities associated with entrenched and chronic homelessness remain a significant obstacle to social inclusion and meaningful participation in community life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-205
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Policy & Society
Issue number2
Early online date1 Mar 2010
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • responsible citizenship
  • homeless people
  • rough sleepers
  • responsibilisation


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