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.
- service user involvement