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The Elwood Project, Vancouver, Washington

Created on 09-06-2022 | Updated on 25-01-2024

The Elwood Project is an affordable housing community project owned by the Housing Initiative, LLC, which is a subsidiary of Council for the Homeless in Clark County, WA. It consists of four three-storey buildings with forty-six apartment homes. Half of these homes are designed for homeless people, considering their special physical and behavioural health needs (Otak, 2022). Elwood is a socially relevant example of permanent supported housing. Brendan Sanchez and his Access Architecture team used trauma informed design (TID) principles for the entire building to serve and empower the residents. Numerous partners contributed to the success of this project: Access Architecture, CDM Services, City of Vancouver Affordable Housing Fund, Clark County, Hunt Capital Partners, Otak, Inc., Se Mar – Community Services Northwest, TEAM Construction, Vancouver Housing Authority, Washington State Finance Commission (Council for the Homeless, 2022).

Access Architecture

Vancouver, Washington 6317 NE Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver

Project (year)

Construction (year)

Housing type
permanent supporting housing, three-storey buildings with forty-six apartments

Urban context

Construction system
vintage wood (fiber cement cladding), wooden/concrete/steel frame, off-site industrialised construction



The Elwood Project is an affordable housing development and includes forty-six apartments and supportive housing services provided by Sea-Mar Community Services. All apartments are subsidised through the Vancouver Housing Authority, so that tenants pay thirty-five percent of their income towards rent, according to public housing designation. There are garden-style apartments to allow residents to choose when and where to interact with neighbours. Units are 37 sq. m. with 1 bedroom. These apartments are fully accessible and amenities include a community room, laundry room, covered bike parking, and outdoor courtyard with a community garden (Housing Initiative, 2022).

This case highlights the benefits of trauma informed design (TID) in the supportive housing sector. These homes were built using concepts of open corridors, natural light, art and nature, colours of nature, natural materials, design with commercial sustainability, elements of privacy and personalization, open areas, adequate and easy access to services. With these thoughtful techniques, Elwood offers socially sustainable help for vulnerable people (people with special needs, homeless, formally homeless) and for the new “housing precariat”.

The Elwood project is a good example of combining private apartments with opportunities for community living, where services and facilities management contribute to the well-being and stability of dwellers. What makes this project especially unique is that it does not look like affordable housing. As Brendan Sanchez concluded, people think that it “looks like really nice market rate upscale housing”, which is empowering, because people in general “deserve access to quality-built environment and healthy indoor interior environments”. Access Architecture did not design it as affordable housing, they just “designed it as housing” (Access Architecture, 2022).

Affordability aspects

The Elwood affordable housing community project is in a commercially zoned transit corridor. Existing planning regulations did not allow building permits in this area. Elwood is the first affordable housing development in the city of Vancouver that has required changes to the city’s zoning regulations. As a result of these changes, other measures have been adopted to promote affordable housing in the community. Under the city's previous building regulations, it was simply not possible to obtain a building permit. The Affordable Housing Fund helped developers to undertake this project and provided tenants with budget friendly housing options (Otak, 2022).

Now, thanks to the Elwood project, there are ongoing talks at the Board of the Planning Commission of Elwood Town to get construction permits for similar projects. As the council stated, “it is on the horizon for all towns to have affordable housing” (Elwood Town Corporation, 2022). Although the population of the area is small, it is estimated that in the coming years the need for more affordable housing units will increase. Previously, permitted uses were limited to C-2 (general commercial, office and retail) and C-3 (intensive service commercial) zoning uses (e.g., gas station, restaurant, public utility substation). Currently, the members of the town council together with other stakeholders are negotiating new plans for affordable housing in the area. With the help of the community, they are striving to harmonise the legal, political, financial and design aspects and work on a general plan that includes the construction of multi-family affordable dwellings. In addition, the ultimate goal is to further modify zoning regulations to incorporate tax advantages for social housing.

Sustainability aspects

It is a highly energy efficient building as it meets the minimum requirements of the Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards (ESDS), which include requirements for low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) content, water conservation, air sealing, and reduction of thermal bridges. It also meets the Green Point Rated Program requirements. The building materials are bamboo, cork, salvaged or FSC-Certified wood, natural linoleum, natural rubber and ceramic tile. There are no VOC adhesives or synthetic backing in living rooms, and bathrooms (Otak, 2022).


Access Architecture used an outcome-based design process during the development of this project.

The outcome-based design process considers TID principles to lower barriers among tenants and minimize stigma of receiving services. Brendan Sanchez from Access Architecture highlights that TID is a kind of design that is “getting a lot more attention now that people understand it more. It applies in this project, and we’re also just finding that it doesn’t have to be a certain traumatic event we design for. It can also be a systemic problem — we all have our own traumas we’re working through, especially after the events of the pandemic last year. So Access likes to focus on how we can create healing spaces in this kind of design.” (Nichiha, 2022)

As Di Raimo et al. (2021) wrote, trauma informed approaches can be adopted by a wide range of service providers (health, social care, education, justice). In this case, Sea Mar-Community Services Northwest’s Foundational Community Support provides guidance for tenants with the help of case managers. Such partners can help with professional and health objectives. CDM Caregiving Services helps (or offer assistance) with daily tasks from cooking to cleaning and hygiene. Finally, Vancouver Housing Authority members help with anything they can, so that tenants would not feel themselves alone with their problems (Nahro, 2022).

Elwood offers informal indoor and outdoor spaces which provide a relaxed atmosphere in a friendly milieu. In this building, TID suits the resident’s needs. The building was planned with the help of potential residents and social workers, so that a sense of space and place would provide familiarity, stability, and safety for those who are longing for the feeling of place attachment.

Alignment with project research areas

The Elwood project as a case study represents how the three research areas of RE-DWELL are necessarily connected and interrelated whenever the aim of the development project is to provide sustainable and affordable housing.

According to the architects of Access Architecture, this case is a good example of informed design and community engagement (Access Architecture, 2022a). It was crucial for the creators of the project to foster meaningful connections among participants during the planning and building processes, and to provide future residents with the chance to connect with each other and with their environment. Therefore, this project exemplifies the need to align design, planning and building and community participation.

Elwood utilized trauma-informed design, which positively influences social, environmental, and economic sustainability. In general, the use of outcome-based design helped the developers to reach vulnerable groups, listen to their needs and include their voices and wishes in the planning and design outcomes. As a result, there was an accent on dignity, independence, empowerment, environmental control, community, healing environments, privacy, safety, affordability, and security.

This case is also characterized by social and economic inclusion and demonstrates a strong alignment with policy and financing too. To respond to the need for social housing it was necessary to change the existing legal framework. The greatest challenge was to build a new financing network with the participation of authorities and stakeholders from different sectors. Policy makers and investors functioned as key actors. The Washington State Finance Commission and the City of Vancouver Affordable Housing Fund had a crucial role as well.

Future projects can learn from this community effort. Case specific solutions and ordinances can be investigated, to analyse how the rules of zoning and tax benefits could be changed or shaped. In sum, Elwood is a constant source for learning (e.g., understanding legal or financial complexities, analysing community involvement, investigating the current operation of the facility and estimate the positive impacts of TID).


Design, planning and building

Community participation

Policy and financing

* This diagram is for illustrative purposes only based on the author’s interpretation of the above case study

Alignment with SDGs

Elwood responds to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

1. No poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere (Targets: 1.3; 1.4)

This supporting housing option provide affordable (below market level) prices and above average quality and energy efficient solution for the given price. Having an affordable and secure rent increases the purchasing power of the tenants in line with the proper implementation of national social protection systems and measures for all. There is a special focus on the poor and on vulnerable men and women, providing equal rights to basic services. (Highly related)

3. Good health and well-being: Promote well-being for all at all ages (Target: 3.4)

Tenants at Elwood can feel part of a community, where their living conditions can be described with the following words: adequate, quality, accessible and healthy. The well-being of the tenants is one of the main goals of the project. (Highly related)

4. Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (Target: 4.3)

This project can offer a basis for tenants who would like to have a formal or further education despite their vulnerable situation. Tenants have equal access to affordable housing and quality education. (Moderately related)

6. Clean Water and Sanitation (Target: 6.1; 6.2) and 7. Affordable and clean energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. (Targets: 7.1; 7.2; 7.3 )

Elwood was designed in line with SDG6 and SDG7, with water conservation, air sealing, and a reduction of thermal bridges. It also meets the Green Point Rated Program requirements in line with providing access to safe and affordable drinking water and access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. The Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards (ESDS), ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services. (Highly related)

8. Decent work and economic growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all (Targets: 8.3; 8.5;)

A long-term goal is to reintegrate residents of Elwood in society and the workforce, and to support productive activities and decent job creation (Moderately related)

10. Reduced inequalities: Reduce inequality within and among countries (Targets: 10.2; 10.3; 10.4)

The whole idea of the Elwood project resonates with the aim to help on traumatized groups, and to prevent re-traumatization. More generally, to empower and promote social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. Another important goal is to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and to adopt social protection policies. (Highly related)

11. Sustainable cities and communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. (Targets: 11.1 ; 11.3 ; 11.5)

Elwood offers a safe environment for the tenants, and it can improve the quality of the neighbourhood (“hopeful urbanism”) too. It also aims to ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums. Meanwhile it respects the process of inclusive and sustainable urbanization and targets capacity upgrade for participatory, integrated, and sustainable human settlement planning and management. With its pro-poor focus and work with vulnerable groups it also contributes towards the specific target of 11.5. (Highly related)

13. Climate action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. (Targets: 13.2 ; 13.3)

Elwood is characterized by climate smart planning, together with awareness raising, utilizing both individual and institutional capacity. (Highly related)


Access Architecture (2022a).

Access Architecture (2022b).

Bollo, C. & Donofrio, A. (2021) Trauma-informed design for permanent supportive housing: four case studies from Seattle and Denver. In Housing and Society, DOI: 10.1080/08882746.2021.1989570

Di Raimo, A., Petrillo, M., & Thomas, M. (2022). Why resilient communities need trauma-informed care the case for trauma informed design for resilient cities. In M. Carta, M. R. Perbellini, & J. A. Lara-Hernandez (Eds.), Resilient Communities and the Peccioli Charter: Towards the Possibility of an Italian Charter for Resilient Communities (pp. 213-222). Springer.

Elwood Town Corporation (2022).

Housing Initiative, LLC (2022).

Nahro (2022).

Nichiha (2022).

Otak (2022).

Related vocabulary


Community Empowerment

Social Sustainability

Area: Design, planning and building

Affordability is defined as the state of being cheap enough for people to be able to buy (Combley, 2011). Applied to housing, affordability, housing unaffordability and the mounting housing affordability crisis, are concepts that have come to the fore, especially in the contexts of free-market economies and housing systems led by private initiatives, due to the spiralling house prices that residents of major urban agglomerations across the world have experienced in recent years (Galster & Ok Lee, 2021). Notwithstanding, the seeming simplicity of the concept, the definition of housing affordability can vary depending on the context and approach to the issue, rendering its applicability in practice difficult. Likewise, its measurement implies a multidimensional and multi-disciplinary lens (Haffner & Hulse, 2021). One definition widely referred to of housing affordability is the one provided by Maclennan and Williams (1990, p.9): “‘Affordability’ is concerned with securing some given standard of housing (or different standards) at a price or a rent which does not impose, in the eyes of some third party (usually government) an unreasonable burden on household incomes”. Hence, the maximum expenditure a household should pay for housing is no more than 30% of its income (Paris, 2006). Otherwise, housing is deemed unaffordable. This measure of affordability reduces a complex issue to a simple calculation of the rent-to-income ratio or house-price-to-income ratio. In reality, a plethora of variables can affect affordability and should be considered when assessing it holistically, especially when judging what is acceptable or not in the context of specific individual and societal norms (see Haffner & Hulse, 2021; Hancock, 1993). Other approaches to measure housing affordability consider how much ‘non-housing’ expenditures are unattended after paying for housing. Whether this residual income is not sufficient to adequately cover other household’s needs, then there is an affordability problem (Stone, 2006). These approaches also distinguish between “purchase affordability” (the ability to borrow funds to purchase a house) and “repayment affordability” (the ability to afford housing finance repayments) (Bieri, 2014). Furthermore, housing production and, ultimately affordability, rely upon demand and supply factors that affect both the developers and home buyers. On the supply side, aspects such as the cost of land, high construction costs, stiff land-use regulations, and zoning codes have a crucial role in determining the ultimate price of housing (Paris, 2006). Likewise, on the policy side, insufficient government subsidies and lengthy approval processes may deter smaller developers from embarking on new projects. On the other hand, the demand for affordable housing keeps increasing alongside the prices, which remain high, as a consequence of the, sometimes deliberate incapacity of the construction sector to meet the consumers' needs (Halligan, 2021). Similarly, the difficulty of decreasing household expenditures while increasing incomes exacerbates the unaffordability of housing (Anacker, 2019). In the end, as more recent scholarship has pointed out (see Haffner & Hulse, 2021; Mulliner & Maliene, 2014), the issue of housing affordability has complex implications that go beyond the purely economic or financial ones. The authors argue that it has a direct impact on the quality of life and well-being of the affected and their relationship with the city, and thus, it requires a multidimensional assessment. Urban and spatial inequalities in the access to city services and resources, gentrification, segregation, fuel and commuting poverty, and suburbanisation are amongst its most notorious consequences. Brysch and Czischke, for example, found through a comparative analysis of 16 collaborative housing projects in Europe that affordability was increased by “strategic design decisions and self-organised activities aiming to reduce building costs” (2021, p.18). This demonstrates that there is a great potential for design and urban planning tools and mechanisms to contribute to the generation of innovative solutions to enable housing affordability considering all the dimensions involved, i.e., spatial, urban, social and economic. Examples range from public-private partnerships, new materials and building techniques, alternative housing schemes and tenure models (e.g., cohousing, housing cooperatives, Community Land Trusts, ‘Baugruppen’), to efficient interior design, (e.g., flexible design, design by layers[1]). Considering affordability from a design point of view can activate different levers to catalyse and bring forward housing solutions for cities; and stakeholders such as socially engaged real estate developers, policymakers, and municipal authorities have a decisive stake in creating an adequate environment for fostering, producing and delivering sustainable and affordable housing.   [1] (see Brand, 1995; Schneider & Till, 2007)

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: L.Ricaurte (ESR15)


Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances.  Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016). A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment. Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989). Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities. The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Community participation

From the three pillars of sustainable development, economic, environmental and social, the latter  involving social equity and the sustainability of communities, has  been especially neglected. Ongoing problems caused by conflicting economic, environmental and social goals with regard to the processes of urbanisation continue. underpinning economic growth that contradict principles of environmental and social justice (Boström, 2012; Cuthill, 2010; Winston, 2009). Research on sustainable development highlights the need for further investigation of social sustainability (Murphy, 2012; Vallance et al., 2011). Social sustainability has been interpreted as an umbrella term encompassing many other related concepts; “social equity and justice, social capital, social cohesion, social exclusion, environmental justice, quality of life, and urban liveability” (Shirazi & Keivani, 2019, p. 4). A vast number of studies have been dedicated to defining social sustainability by developing theoretical frameworks and indicators particularly relevant to urban development and housing discourse (Cuthill, 2010; Dempsey et al., 2011; Murphy, 2012; Woodcraft, 2012). However, with a lack of consensus on the way of utilising these frameworks in a practical way, especially when applied to planning, social sustainability has remained difficult to evaluate or measure. Consequently, planning experts, housing providers and inhabitants alike understand social sustainability as a normative concept, according to established social norms, and less as an opportunity to critically examine existing institutions. Vallance et al (2011) provide three categories to analyse social sustainability, development, bridge and maintenance sustainability: (a) social development improves conditions of poverty and inequity, from the provision of basic needs to the redistribution of power to influence existing development paradigms; (b) the conditions necessary to bridge social with ecological sustainability, overcoming currently disconnected social and ecological concerns; and (c) the social practices, cultural preferences as well as the environments which are maintained over time. Maintenance social sustainability particularly deals with how people interpret what is to be maintained and includes “new housing developments, the layout of streets, open spaces, residential densities, the location of services, an awareness of habitual movements in place, and how they connect with housing cultures, preferences, practices and values, particularly those for low-density, suburban lifestyles” (Vallance et al., 2011, p. 345). Therefore, the notion of maintenance is especially important in defining social sustainability by directly investigating the established institutions, or “sets of norms” that constitute the social practices and rules, that in turn, affect responsibilities for planning urban spaces. A conceptual framework that appears frequently in social sustainability literature is that of Dempsey et al. (2011)⁠ following Bramley et al. (2009), defining social sustainability according to the variables of social equity and sustainability of community and their relationship to urban form, significantly at the local scale of the neighbourhood. In terms of the built environment, social equity (used interchangeably with social justice) is understood as the accessibility and equal opportunities to frequently used services, facilities, decent and affordable housing, and good public transport. In this description of local, as opposed to regional services, proximity and accessibility are important. Equitable access to such local services effectively connects housing to key aspects of everyday life and to the wider urban infrastructures that support it. Sustainability of community is associated with the abilities of society to develop networks of collective organisation and action and is dependent on social interaction. The associated term social capital has also been used extensively to describe social norms and networks that can be witnessed particularly at the community level to facilitate collective action (Woolcock, 2001, p. 70). They might include a diversity of issues such as resident interaction, reciprocity, cooperation and trust expressed by common exchanges between residents, civic engagement, lower crime rates and other positive neighbourhood qualities that are dependent on sharing a commitment to place (Foster, 2006; Putnam, 1995; Temkin & Rohe, 1998). In fact, “the heightened sense of ownership and belonging to a locale” is considered to encourage the development of social relations (Hamiduddin & Adelfio, 2019, p. 188). However, the gap between theoretical discussions about social sustainability and their practical application has continued. For example, the emphasis of social sustainability as a target outcome rather than as a process has been prioritised in technocratic approaches to planning new housing developments and to measuring their success by factors which are tangible and easier to count and audit. Private housing developers that deal with urban regeneration make bold claims to social sustainability yet profound questions are raised regarding the effects of gentrification (Dixon, 2019). Accordingly, the attempted methods of public participation as planning tools for integrating the ‘social’ have been found to be less effective - their potential being undercut due to the reality that decision-making power has remained at the top (Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017). Therefore, social sustainability is not a fixed concept, it is contingent on the interdependence of the procedural aspects (how to achieve social sustainability) and substantive aspects (what are the outcomes of social sustainability goals) (Boström, 2012). From this point of view, social sustainability reveals its process-oriented nature and the need to establish processes of practicing social sustainability that begin with the participation of citizens in decision-making processes in producing equitable (i.e. socially sustainable) development. As a dimension of sustainable development that is harder to quantify than the economic or environmental aspects, the operationalisation of social sustainability goals into spatial, actionable principles has remained a burgeoning area of research. In such research, methods for enhancing citizen participation are a particularly important concern in order to engage and empower people with “non-expert” knowledge to collaborate with academic researchers.

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)


Related publications

Martin, A. (2023, December). Housing and Healing: The role of trauma informed design in the supportive housing sector. In Transformative Change in the Contested Fields of Care and Housing in Europe, Linz, Austria.

Posted on 23-06-2024




Icon clashing-vulnerabilities

Clashing Vulnerabilities

Posted on 13-02-2023

Clashing vulnerabilities   The globalization era resulted in the fragmentation of class structures, and regional and social inequalities grew. As a result, upward mobility is declining in most countries in Europe. More and more people are at risk of downward mobility, but they are classified as “not poor enough” to receive help and are pushed back of the queue for benefits, including housing.   Housing affordability is a primary driver of precarity, affecting both upward and downward mobility. A growing number of middle-income people have difficulty affording adequate housing in Europe, facing safety concerns, as they can only access unhealthy, low-quality, energy-inefficient, or overcrowded housing options. Their situation has become fragile partly because of the liberalized labor market, and partly because the system abandoned them as an outcome of the cuts in the welfare state. Meanwhile, the number of evicted and homeless people is also rising.   ”Clashing vulnerabilities” between marginalized people and increasingly downwardly mobile people should be managed, even though risks are being distributed differently, and it is hard to estimate how structural and individual factors influence the probability of becoming downwardly mobile.   I had my first secondment at BMSZKI (Budapest Methodological Centre of Social Policy and its Institutions). BMSZKI is the largest homeless service provider in the capital, also it is one of the largest social service providers in the country and the Central European region. They are making a great effort to ensure the highest quality of services for vulnerable people who turn to them for help, also they developed the methodology of needs assessment for homeless people and established a special professional network to solve issues (e.g: related to housing, health care, addiction). BMSZKI differentiates the profiles of their services based on the needs of homeless people and these services are adapted to the demands that arose.   This secondment demonstrated how “social practices” as a framework can serve transdisciplinarity. There is a certain knowledge that we cannot get from books or lectures. Personal experiences of the working people at particular institutes, or organizations are essential parts of the learning process. During my stay, I learned about the theory and practice of social work, and I had the possibility to have site visits, meeting with the leaders of different programs (FET, No Slum), and homes (Temporary home for families, K22). I had the chance to have individual and multi-person consultations to shape my understanding and the direction of my research.   I benefited from the fruitful discussions about how important it is to open services both for homeless and at risk people. To open the system from the bottom and the top. On the one hand, social/housing policy should lower the number of people who are homeless (living literally on the streets), and on the other hand, it should provide people in general with more opportunities to get a safe, affordable home. A policy that focuses only on the most serious problems or restricts itself to the poorest residents is clearly not sustainable. The question remains: How to find harmony between these two interrelated goals? They are non-contradictory public purposes, but they compete with each other in terms of resources and administrative capacities. There lies the challenge.   I would like to conclude this post with a book recommendation and a quote.   Book recommendation: Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women by Elliot Liebow The author of this ethnographic research spent time with homeless women in the late eighties (after being diagnosed with cancer). Liebow tells us that these women were not homeless because they had mental health issues or addiction problems. (There are many women who are mentally or physically ill or who are having family issues or addiction problems who have homes.) They are homeless because they cannot afford a home, even when they have several jobs at the same time.   Quote about homelessness from Sharon Stone (from her speech presented at the Compass Community Services, Spring Forward 2009 luncheon, San Francisco, April 23, 2009), who is the co-founder of Planet Hope ( ):   “I think so many people don’t really know what it is to be homeless, or how people get there. Many people hear the word “homeless” and they think of that guy cast in a movie who is kind of skinny and skanky and stinky and stands outside a bar begging. That’s not homelessness. That’s an idea. Homelessness is what happens when you’re one paycheck away from losing your home. When you have tried everything you’ve got. Everything. When you’ve leveraged everything, sold everything, sold your lawn furniture, sold your couch, taken your grandmother’s engagement ring to the pawn shop, given away your clothes, haven’t eaten, live on a dozen eggs for a week, fed your kids but you don’t eat, slept in your car, they’ve taken your car, you’ve lived in a pup tent, and now you don’t have that. Homelessness is when your government job is gone. Homelessness is when you’re a professor, and they don’t need you anymore at the school. Homelessness is when your dental group is cutting down and they don’t need that many dentists anymore. Homelessness is educated people. Homelessness is when you’re a wife, and your husband wants a younger one. Or a different one. And not you and those noisy kids… And when children — good children, not drug users — but good normal children just like yours are in the street, innocent, pure, lovely, beautiful children just like mine and yours are in the street for two weeks, 14 days, and they have nowhere to live, and not a mother who is a tiger, who stands over them and gets them to school and keeps her head together, or something happens to that parent — in 14 days they are prostitutes to live, because that’s the only way they can eat. And that is a governmental statistic. This is homelessness.”

Author: A.Martin (ESR7)



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