Journal of Social Policy

Articles

Re-conceptualising Approaches to Meeting the Health Needs of Homeless People

ISOBEL ANDERSONa1 and SIRI YTREHUSa2

a1 School of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, United Kingdom email: Isobel.anderson@stir.ac.uk

a2 Diakonhjemmet University College, Institute of Nursing and Health, Oslo, Norway email: siri.ytrehus@diakonhjemmet.no

Abstract

The experience of homelessness not only affects physical health, but can also constrain access to required health care. In a number of European countries, national strategies to tackle homelessness have sought to deliver integrated solutions across housing, health and other social policy areas. This article examines approaches to meeting the health care needs of homeless people in relation to such strategies, drawing upon recent research in Norway and Scotland. The article presents a comparative analysis of approaches to service provision in relation to welfare models and the concepts of universal and specialist provision. The analysis suggests a cross-national shift in the conceptualisation of appropriate responses to the health care needs of those who experience homelessness. The provision of some specialist health services, while reflecting a selective model of welfare, need not be solely interpreted as conflicting with a more universal model of ensuring access to mainstream services. Rather, the challenge is to recognise the need for a process approach which supports an effective transition from the (sometimes necessary) use of specialist services for this group, towards (the ideal of) full integration into mainstream health care.