"Vi vet inte vilka metoder vi ska använda" : om relationen mellan kunskap, praktik och politik när det gäller det sociala arbetet med hemlöshetsfrågor
Sammanfattning: This dissertation examines the relationship between knowledge, practice and policy within a specific area of social work, namely, social intervention to ameliorate the problem of homelessness. In the thesis, the ambition shown in recent years to lay the ground for an evidence-based practice in social work is discussed as an expression of late modern attempts to deal with the contradictory character of scientific knowledge.The work is composed of four separate studies along with an introduction. The first study considers the present state of knowledge concerning those groups readily described as “the most vulnerable” in that they often have a diffi¬cult complex of problems. The social conditions of these groups can only be examined to a limited extent with the help of traditional methods, however, so that our knowledge of their situation is poor. The group of the homeless seems largely to have remained unchanged during the most recent decade; but results of various studies suggest that the vul¬nerability of the group has increased, which is to say that even if the group has not increased in size, their social situa¬tion has definitely become worse.In the second study, a more in-depth discussion is advanced of methods and definitions concerning the charting of groups with a weak position in the housing market. Starting from a review of the various research methods presently in use, a model is sketched for future investigations that might more adequately provide the evidence-based information for making informed decisions.The third and fourth studies deal above all with the effectiveness of social interventions being made to come to grips with homelessness; how these strategies have evolved and the role of knowledge in them. The goal of the third study has therefore been to describe how knowledge and social work practice have developed respectively, and above all, to shed some light on their relationship. A review of social work journals dated 1965-2000 shows that only a very few of the relatively small number of articles dealing with homelessness could in any way directly form a basis for the planning and implementation of social interventions. In Stockholm Municipality, also during this period, several special programs were instigated to boost the development of knowledge in the field; but the connections between this accu¬mulation of knowledge and any implementation in actual social interventions remains unclear.The fourth study uses interview material to describe the social work being carried out to combat homelessness in four Swedish local government districts and to discuss any differences between them, where a clear difference did emerge between the larger and the smaller districts. The larger local governments had created special organisations for work with homelessness issues, which had even brought with it the allocation of special resources for the build-up of knowledge; but not even here is it possible to state that any cumulative build-up of knowledge has taken place. An in-depth case study of the discussion carried out in Stockholm Municipality concerning a proposal to create a special knowledge centre suggests that these questions are also deeply influenced by the local political context in which it would be used.In the introductory section of the dissertation, the aim is to relate the four studies to a broader discussion. The vari¬ous strategies being developed for increasing the evidence basis for social work with the homeless are discussed, taking a point of departure in Ulrich Beck’s contention that in spite of contrary intentions, more knowledge tends to involve the risk of added uncertainty. Also treated in this context is how an earlier dominant tradition of knowledge – inspired by social medicine – has come to diminish in importance, while another – more directed towards the results and effects of social interventions – has grown.
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