Homelessness in Romania – Challenges for Research and Policy

Cosmin Briciu

Abstract


The paper is dedicated to the analysis of homelessness in Romania, in its transformations during transition, as well as the dynamic of the set up aiming to tackle it. The wider context of the analysis is twofold: (i) for comparative purposes, the problem of homelessness worldwide is mainly addressed at the level of measurement methods and policies; innovative measurement techniques and programs implemented overseas are mentioned, in order to understand how the Romanian policies and research compare, and to highlight the range of development opportunities ahead; (ii) the various factors contributing to the occurrence of the social problem are put under scrutiny; homelessness is approached as a structural failure of the society, i.e. an extreme limit of the social inclusion and social development strategy, rather than an individual rebuff. The paper offers an understanding of the factors shaping life trajectories of homeless people. Researches show that family events play a prominent role (divorce, separation, eviction by the household members). The loss or inability to procure a dwelling (as in the case of youth exiting the social protection system) represents also crucial personal event, with a major explanatory role for homelessness. These factors are far more important than poverty per se, as many of the studies show. The paper profiles the multidimensional nature of the social exclusion of the homeless: lack of adequate and sufficient food, repeated sexual, physical and psychological abuses, chronic diseases, discrimination and stigma, total lack of access to social services, lack of identity papers and other categories of interrelated problems. Researches suggest that the phenomenon of homelessness has become acute in Romania, reaching at least its second proliferation wave, as some of the post-revolutionary homeless have given birth to offspring of their own, while the institutional capacity has been almost inexistent for a long time and it is still far insufficient, in conditions of uncertainty regarding the real size and nature of the phenomenon. Most of the intervention capacity is shaped as emergency response to crises situations. The “invisibility” of the phenomenon for the society has been increased by the lack of credible administrative data or research estimates. Interviews conducted by the author complement the scarce supply of recent literature on homelessness, in an attempt to bring this social problem into the focus of research and policy.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n22p504


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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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