Precarious Belonging: Chronic Homelessness and People with Impaired Decision Making Capacity

Friday, November 1, 2013
First author:
Clapton J.
Belonging: Strenghts & Barriers II

Population & Social Health Program, Griffith University, Meadowbrook, Australia

All authors:

Jayne Clapton, Lesley Chenoweth, Donna McAuliffe, Natalie Clements, Carolyn Perry

Social Inclusion & Representation
Homelessness, Cognitive Impairment, Precariousness


This Australian research was based on the premise that people with cognitive impairment who have impaired decision making capacity (IDMC), and who experience chronic homelessness, constitute a vulnerable group of people who, through ineffective responses, drift into states of precariousness that deeply affect their chances of belonging and a meaningful existence. Six research questions were addressed which encompassed the nature of the three states of precariousness (Precarious Living, Precarious Ontology and Precarious Morality).


Four phases were undertaken: (1) an in-depth literature review and conceptualisation of the three aspects of precariousness; (2) Environmental scan of the existing national and international social policy and legislative frameworks; (3) Online surveys of approximately 100 frontline workers in agencies relevant to housing and homelessness; and (4) Focus groups with practitioners and key stakeholders.


People with impaired capacity who experience chronic homelessness often have complex and chaotic lives, and our society’s capacity to support these people to have improved lives and experience belonging and a meaningful existence are restricted.  Support services can serve to exclude rather than include people with complex needs.


Three significant conclusions were drawn from this research. These are (1) the conceptual framework of Precariousness provided a useful platform; (2) Housing First strategies and practices were shown to have positive effects; and the need for a shift to a new paradigmatic approach such as a Capability Approach was forecasted; and (3) it was recommended that practices that have taken on various aspects to redress precariousness be recognised and further developed.