Analytic philosophy has largely neglected the topic of homelessness.
The few notable exceptions, including work by Jeremy Waldron and Christopher
Essert, focus on our interests in shelter, housing, and property rights, but ignore the
key social functions that a home performs as a place in which we are welcomed,
accepted, and respected. This paper identifies a ladder of home-related concepts
which begins with the minimal notion of temporary shelter, then moves to persistent
shelter and housing, and finally to the rich notion of a home which focuses on meeting
our social needs including, specifically, our needs to belong and to have meaningful
control over our social environment. This concept-ladder enables us to distinguish
the shelterless from the sheltered; the unhoused from the housed; and the unhomed
from the homed. It also enables us to decouple the concept of a home from property
rights, which reveals potential complications in people’s living arrangements. For
instance, a person could be sheltered but unhoused, housed but homeless, or, indeed,
unhoused but homed. We show that we should reserve the concept of home to
capture the rich idea of a place of belonging in which our core social needs are met.
Comment: This paper provides an in-depth exploration of existing analytic literature on the concept of home and the topic of homelessness, and provides a novel account of both. As such, it would be a useful addition to any syllabus interested in social ethics, social rights, and social needs. It could be used as a specialised reading for courses interested in questions of justice regarding access to a home or exploring the sorts of needs which constitute social needs. It is also written in a clear, straightforward style, and is therefore accessible to a wide range of experience levels, so it would be possible to use in a more introductory or general context as well. For an intro-level social or political philosohpy, for example, it could be used to introduce or supplement discussions on social welfare or duties of the state.