Social and recovery capital amongst homeless hostel residents who use drugs and alcohol



Joanne Neale, Caral Stevenson

International Journal of Drug Policy

October 7, 2014



•Homeless hostel residents who use drugs and alcohol have relatively small social networks.

•Homeless people who use drugs and alcohol have variable amounts of social capital.

•Women who use drugs and alcohol seem to have larger social networks than men.

•Homeless people who use drugs and alcohol welcome and value support from hostel staff.

•Social network focused therapies can potentially assist homeless people in building social and recovery capital.





Homeless people who use drugs and alcohol have been described as one of the most marginalised groups in society. In this paper, we explore the relationships of homeless drug and alcohol users who live in hostels in order to ascertain the nature and extent of their social and recovery capital.



Data were collected during 2013 and 2014 from three hostels. Each hostel was in a different English city and varied in size and organisational structure. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 residents (21 men; 9 women) who self-reported current drink and/or drug problems. Follow-up interviews were completed after 4–6 weeks with 22 residents (16 men; 6 women). Audio recordings of all interviews were transcribed verbatim, systematically coded and analysed using Framework.



Participants’ main relationships involved family members, professionals, other hostel residents, friends outside of hostels, current and former partners, and enemies. Social networks were relatively small, but based on diverse forms of, often reciprocal, practical and emotional support, encompassing protection, companionship, and love. The extent to which participants’ contacts provided a stable source of social capital over time was, nonetheless, uncertain. Hostel residents who used drugs and alcohol welcomed and valued interaction with, and assistance from, hostel staff; women appeared to have larger social networks than men; and hostels varied in the level of enmity between residents and antipathy towards staff.



Homeless hostel residents who use drugs and alcohol have various opportunities for building social capital that can in turn foster recovery capital. Therapies that focus on promoting positive social networks amongst people experiencing addiction seem to offer a valuable way of working with homeless hostel residents who use drugs and alcohol. Gains are, however, likely to be maximised where hostel management and staff are supportive of, and actively engage with, therapy delivery.








Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee