Family and friends of persons in a situation
of residential precarity : the strength
and weakness of social ties as they relate
to housing deprivation (homelessness)
The article focuses on the family, friends—and possibly the social worker—of persons in a situation of residential precarity in France. Drawing on INSEE’s 2012 “Sans domicile” survey and an ethnographic study conducted at the subsidized housing application office of the City of Paris housing and habitat bureau [Direction du Logement et de l’Habitat], it shows how lack of family support may lead to residential precarity and how this in turn may further isolate the person in question. It then analyzes how people go about applying for subsidized housing (the main strategy used to escape homelessness) and the role of social and family ties in this undertaking. It appears that getting onto the waiting list for a subsidized housing unit implies being integrated into a network that is both relational (family, friends compatriots) and institutional (social workers). Mothers play a crucial, combative role, their primary concern being to reconstitute the family household. In contrast, individuals without such a network do not claim their right to subsidized housing, despite their need. Being deprived of housing is therefore the result not only of poverty but also of a loss of the protection provided by family and social ties on one hand, institutions on the other.
Key words. RESIDENTIAL PRECARITY – HOMELESS PERSON – SUBSIDIZED HOUSING – FAMILY AND FRIENDS – SOCIAL TIES