Re-imagining Welfare as Hospitality: Homelessness and the Making of Place
‘Our doors are open here and anybody’s welcome to come.’ This comment from the manager of a day centre for homeless people contains a greater theopolitics than its simplicity suggests. The visibility of homeless people on our streets is an acute sign that we have lost sight of the Beveridge vision of a social safety net, a floor below which no-one should fall (Renwick, 264-5). Some 70 years on, welfare has become a touchstone for a range of anxieties and a subject of divisive narratives and political squabbles. Policy in the area of homelessness is characterised by tight eligibility criteria and constrained local authority resources. The social consensus that underpinned the welfare settlement has frayed and faltered. The connection to what James Meek calls ‘structural benignity’, or what the Christian social vision describes as the common good, is harder to find in the public square (Meek, para.22).1 Yet people still open their doors and create places for people to come.