In examining relationship breakdown, and in particular domestic violence, we found that homelessness was the likely outcome in many cases. Applying to the local authority housing department as homeless often seemed to be the only housing solution available. Homeless applicants are treated differently depending on household composition and those most likely to be helped are adults with dependent children: ‘homeless families’.1 Social services have statutory child care and protection duties, hence in the crisis-ridden and stressful world of homelessness it is to be expected that social workers may become involved. However Britain’s chronic homelessness has a history, featuring social work in what has been presented as a rather negative role. We need to consider the reasons for these developments in order to make sense of social work with homeless families as it emerged during the 1980s.
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