1965 was an important year in the history of poverty in post-war Britain. The publication of ‘The Poor and the Poorest’ by Brian Abel-Smith and Peter Townsend from the LSE marked what almost immediately came to be known as the ‘rediscovery’ of a poverty that, it was argued, had been overlooked and ignored since the creation of the welfare state in the late 1940s. That rediscovery had a profound effect on debates about the nature of poverty and policies to tackle it. In the same year the National Assistance Board, under pressure in particular from the newly formed Simon Community, carried out a survey of ‘Homeless Single Persons’, which, when published in a 306 page book, announced on its first page with a remarkable lack of ambition that it ‘was not intended to provide answers to the problems of homelessness, vagrancy and social inadequacy’.
In what way had poverty been forgotten in post-war Britain? What had happened to vagrancy and family homelessness in the period? What, if any, read across was there between debates about poverty and discussions of homelessness? What impact did the two publications have? And finally, where does Cathy Come Home fit into this?
I am in my first year of postgraduate research for an MPhil/PhD at Birkbeck College, under the supervision of Julia Laite. My provisional thesis title is Non-Citizens: Homelessness, Citizenship and the Welfare State, 1939 - 1979. I should say that this is actually my second PhD, the first having been in Marxism and peasant revolution in Eastern Europe rather a long time ago. My last paid employment was as the Chief Executive of a homelessness organisation in south London.
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