Options and Barriers in Social Work with Homeless People

Terezie Carbová, Alena Kajanová

OBJECTIVES: The goal of the article is to analyze the professional options and barriers in social work with homeless people with mental illnesses. THEORETICAL BASE: There is a high proportion of homeless people with mental health problems; thus, social workers with this target group often face barriers. METHODS: We chose the technique of biography interview and the data were analyzed with an anchored theory. The research set consisted of six social workers with homeless people. OUTCOMES: When starting their professional career, social workers fear working with homeless people with symptoms of mental illness; they feel unprepared and caught off guard. After gaining some experience, they perceive a transformation in the client’s identity: the client is seen as an ill person whose faults are excused because of the illness. Their possibility of reintegrating in society is viewed by the social worker to be unlikely. The disproportion between the barriers and supports in their work limits the social workers in fulfilling a functioning vision based on the cooperation of a multidisciplinary team. The barriers are predominantly systemic. SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: The work suggests possibilities for setting up arrangements to help to solve the barriers in social work with homeless people with mental illness and modifying the professional options for the given target group.

homeless person, mental illness, social work, systemic barriers, multidisciplinary team

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