Homelessness and critical realism: a search for richer explanations

Catherine Hastings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Homelessness is an increasingly prevalent social problem with devastating consequences. Yet homelessness causality literature is characterised by confusion due to a diversity of homelessness definitions, research approaches, understandings of causality and welfare state contexts. To bring some clarity, homelessness literature is first categorised as having risk factor, pathways, subjective or theoretically orientated research approaches—each of which is evaluated for its capacity to explain homelessness. Second, the philosophy of critical realism is presented as a meta-theoretical approach with potential to strengthen the explanatory power of homelessness research. This paper offers both a systematic summary of the core principles of critical realism and suggests seven practical implications of using its epistemological and ontological assumptions to guide better homelessness research.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalHousing Studies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Feb 2020


  • causality
  • critical realism
  • homelessness
  • social theory

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