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The pandemic and homeless people in the Turin area: the level of housing adequacy shapes experiences and well-being

Daniela Leonardi (Department of Law, Political and International Studies, University of Parma, Parma, Italy)
Silvia Stefani (Department of Philosophy and Educational Science, University of Turin, Turin, Italy)

Housing, Care and Support

ISSN: 1460-8790

Article publication date: 14 August 2021

Issue publication date: 14 December 2021




Considering the case study presented, the purpose of this paper is to analyse the impact of the pandemic in local services for homeless people. Drawing from the concept of ontological security, it will be discussed how different services’ levels of “housing adequacy” shaped remarkably different experiences of the pandemic for homeless people and social workers in terms of health protection and agency.


This paper focuses on a case study concerning homeless services for people during the COVID-19 pandemic in the metropolitan and suburban area of Turin, in Northern Italy. In-depth interviews with social workers and participant observation during online meetings of workers from the shelters constitute the empirical data that have been collected during the first wave of the pandemic in Italy.


According to the findings, the pandemic showed shelters as unsafe places that reduce homeless people’s decision power and separate them from the rest of the citizenship. Instead, Housing First projects emerged as imore inclusive and safermore inclusive and safer spaces, able to enhance people’s power over their own lives. The pandemic did not create emerging issues in the homeless services system or discontinuities: rather, it amplified pre-existing problematic aspects.


The case study presented provides empirical insights to recognise at the political and organisational level the importance of housing as a measure of individual and collective security, calling for an intervention to tackle homelessness in terms of housing policies rather than exclusively social and emergency treatment.



The authors would like to thank professor Antonella Meo, professor Cristian Campagnaro, and professor Valentina Porcellana, as well as our colleagues Nicolò Di Prima and Giorgia Curtabbi for the extended work and discussion they shared on the homelessness issues, and the Piedmont Region and the City of Turin for supporting their research. They are also indebted to all the social workers from public entities and third sector agencies authors have met during the research, for their kindness and the capacity to train a critical gaze on their work. They also thank the people in homelessness’ condition authors have met during these years, who shared with them crucial and complex perspectives on the social services and welfare system.


Leonardi, D. and Stefani, S. (2021), "The pandemic and homeless people in the Turin area: the level of housing adequacy shapes experiences and well-being", Housing, Care and Support, Vol. 24 No. 3/4, pp. 93-104.



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