Accepted Paper:

When the house is lost: responsibilization and individualization in policy and social work narratives of migrant homelessness in the Netherlands  


Tirza Snoijl (Radboud University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on qualitative research in Amsterdam, this paper explores how migrants and ethnic minorities who have lost their house are confronted with policy and social work interventions influenced by individualizing discourses, post-racialism and colorblindness.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how individualizing discourses and colorblindness in policy and professional praxis influence the interventions on homelessness among migrants and ethnic minorities in Amsterdam. It investigates to what extent these discourses affect the way structural causes of homelessness and loss of housing are addressed. The findings are based on a study in a homeless shelter in the Netherlands through participant observation, qualitative interviews and an analysis of policy documents of the Action Plan Social Shelter 2006 -2015.

Despite the fact that men with migrant backgrounds are overrepresented in the homeless population in the Netherlands, interventions focus on addressing individualized and medicalized causes of homelessness in policy and social work practice. The findings show that homelessness is treated as an individual pathology, which could affect anyone. Subsequently, ethnoracial inequalities in education, employment and housing that aid in the production of homelessness are largely invisibilized, as colorblindness is adopted as good professional practice. Simultaneously, a specific narrative of individual and cultural undeservingness is reserved for homeless individuals of migrant descent. The individual and his culture are thus constructed as both the cause of homelessness or loss of housing and the locus of intervention. Adherence to colorblindness in policy and profession does not seem to leave any room to address the increase of first and second generation migrants in the homeless services, the structural inequality that causes such an increase, nor biases that shape the social work environment. It strengthens the culturalizing and individualizing narratives on ethnoracial inequality in the Netherlands.

Panel P035
Home loss: house-ownership and credit in the austerity regime