"Near and far": social distancing in domiciled characterisations of homeless people.

Urban Studies 48(8):1739 (2011) PMID 21954486

For domiciled individuals, homeless people provide a disturbing reminder that all is not right with the world. Reactions to seeing homeless people frequently encompass repulsion, discomfort, sympathy and sometimes futility. This paper considers domiciled constructions of homeless people drawn from interviews with 16 participants recruited in the central business district of a New Zealand city. It documents how, when trying to make sense of this complex social problem, domiciled people draw on shared characterizations of homeless people. The concept of "social distance" is used to interrogate the shifting and sometimes incongruous reactions evident in participant accounts. "Social distancing" is conceptualised as a dynamic communal practice existing in interactions between human beings and reflected in the ways that domiciled people talk about their experiences with homeless individuals.