Square pegs, round holes: rough sleeping and service user involvement?

Martin Whiteford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In contemporary social work practice and education service, user involvement has become an iridescent concept. Yet, in the case of homeless people, the specific challenges and potentially powerful effects of such participatory approaches have been significantly neglected. As a result, the distinctive ‘voices’ and experiences of homeless people in general and rough sleepers in particular are all too frequently overlooked or ignored. This paper, drawing on a study of a small voluntary day-centre for people experiencing homelessness in a ‘rural county’, sets out to raise fundamental questions about the link between homelessness, the practice of citizenship and the mobilisation of the vocabulary of ‘user involvement’. Using an engaged ethnographic research approach, this article suggests that there are deep-rooted flaws in the service user involvement project and its emancipatory claims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-58
Number of pages14
JournalPractice: Social Work in Action
Issue number1
Early online date18 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • citizenship
  • ethnography
  • homelessness
  • service user involvement


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