“Becoming homeless can happen to everyone”

Certain social characteristics protect people against the possibility of being homeless, preventing them from finding themselves on the street by sheltering them from uncertainty.

“It's not just DDASS alumni on the street! Look at Munch, his father is a lawyer and everything, they have money, huh … And the Grandpa at the station, it seems that he was a philosopher before! (Jeff, 38 years old, without- “Zonard” shelter)

It is common to hear that it can happen to everyone to become homeless, as a warning or a denunciation of growing social insecurity.

To tell the truth, knowing an episode during which one has no accommodation can effectively be considered as an ordinary experience following a separation, a family crisis or a rental eviction. But that does not mean that one is homeless in the sense defined by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee).

Most often, family or friends then host the no one punctually without accommodation while they sign a rental lease and regain their independence. In this sense, it can indeed happen to everyone to be punctually homeless, but we do not all have the same resources (social, economic, psychological …) to deal with precarious events.

Social determinants

More precisely, if we consider that being homeless means that we uses associative food and accommodation services (or that one is homeless, or even non-using these services), it is clear that several social determinants favor the statistical possibility of finding oneself on the street, so much so that it becomes unreasonable to say that this situation can happen to everyone. At least we don't all have the same risks of having this survival experience. There is “neither fate nor chance” in the fact of one day becoming homeless.

Indeed, if we refer to the modest social categories to which the majority of the homeless belong, at their level of study (tending to be weak, lower than the BAC), or their family and friendly ties (distended or even broken), there is a typical portrait of the homeless, certainly refined, from which there emerges a relative homogeneity.

Several characteristics seem to determine the probability of knowing the homeless situation. Or, to put it another way, certain social characteristics protect people against the possibility of being homeless, what we will call “safety nets” preventing people from finding themselves on the street by sheltering them from uncertainty.

43% homeless never had independent personal accommodation

Sud Ouest

Let's remember that 43% of homeless people have never had independent personal accommodation. This already suggests the endemic precariousness (socially inherited) which affects almost half of the homeless, that is to say socially reproduced poverty determining the probability of being homeless.

If we s '' then decides on the share of homeless people who were placed in their childhood in a child protection system, social welfare for children (ASE) or judicial protection of youth (PJJ) – either 23% of homeless born in France against 2% to 3% in the general population – it appears that this experience greatly accentuates the probability of experiencing a street situation later.

We can point out that women are overrepresented among the homeless who were placed during their childhood under the umbrella of the ASE or the PJJ (48% of homeless people against 30 % of those who did not know the placement).

It also appears that 80% of formerly placed people have slept in a place not intended for housing at least once in their life (and for two thirds of them before years) while 98% of them state that they have already been homeless, on the street or in an accommodation service. These figures corroborate those presented in other surveys.

The impact of studies and cultural codes

Furthermore, if data are not available Recent studies concerning the social categories of origin of the homeless, their general level of education and the family problems that they have very largely known indicate their belonging to the disadvantaged, or at least modest, social categories. What is more, ethnographic surveys confirm this dominance of the disadvantaged social classes among the homeless, sometimes even described as “under-proletarians.”

The cultural codes of the street world (languages, values, behaviors…) correspond to those of popular social categories.

It is therefore important to note that the social origin of individuals favors or disadvantages the probability of finding themselves on the street: it is that school capital, cultural, social, symbolic and economic constitute either protections against dereliction and exclusion, or social fragility potentially favoring the loss of housing and the absence of “safety nets”.

We have in however data relating to the level of qualification of the homeless. It turns out that 47% of them are without a diploma or only have the college certificate (against 39% in the general population), 24% Declare that they have a CAP or BEP while only 23% have the baccalaureate (against 52% in the general population) of which 10% hold a diploma above the bac. Fluency in written and spoken French is also a problem for more than a third of French-speaking homeless people who report having difficulties in daily life to read or write French or even to calculate.

It will without saying that these educational characteristics indirectly favor the probability of being in a street situation insofar as they do not facilitate employability or the mobilization of intellectual and cultural resources to face biographical crises.

The family safety net

However, the element that seems to be the most decisive concerns the family problems experienced during childhood and the ties that remain with the family.

Family solidarity is generally a primary lever for protection against exclusion, the absence or weakness of this safety net greatly increases the probability of one day being in the street. (and stay there for a while).

By looking at the serious events experienced during childhood, we find that among French-speaking homeless people, more than 52)% state that one of their parents has experienced an illness, a serious accident or has died.

43)% declare that their parents have separated or were in conflict, 35% of homeless people born in France indicate alcohol problems or in the family and over 30% Of them have suffered violence or ill-treatment.

These figures echo the significant events experienced by homeless young people with their parents or in an institution: 24, 6% would have suffered psychological or moral violence , 23, 2% of significant physical violence, 19% of sexual violence while nearly a quarter of young people say that their parents have experienced material difficulties (housing or housing problems). 'money).

Even if the homeless mainly maintain contact with their families, the fact remains that these links are loose and do not necessarily give rise to forms of material aid. So 17% Of the homeless indicate having received financial assistance from their family or friends during the 12 last months, 10% material assistance and 38% moral assistance.

It should therefore be noted that reports Maintaining with family and friends influences the possibility of finding oneself on the street or staying there after losing one's home.

Keep in mind that there is still room for everyone. experience an episode of homelessness, based on biographical ruptures and difficulties (psychiatric or addictive for example) shaping social downgrading.

However, we do not all have equal social resources to fight against events that lead to the street: favored social categories p have a certain number of skills, relationships and supports that most often allow them to avoid the street; which, conversely, is less the case for disadvantaged social categories, and more so when people have experienced traumatic events during childhood.

The author has just published “Ideas received on the homeless. A look at a complex reality “, Le Cavalier Bleu editions.

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