‘Home’ and ‘homelessness’ serve to define each other at a phenomenological level. For the settled population, homelessness is a source of fascination and repulsion, an embodiment of their fears (of poverty and alienation) and their dreams (of freedom and simplicity). The ‘unaccommodated woman’ in particular is an aberration and a contradiction in terms: the gender renegade who has rejected, or been rejected by, traditional family and domestic structures.

The home has been constructed as a source of identity and as an essential foundation of social order. Such order, however, is based on the experiences of many women of the home as a prison. These ‘homeless-at-home’ women experience abuse, violence and the suppression of self within the supposed safe haven of the domestic home. The article draws on the author’s own ethnographic research with homeless women and men within the Three Cities Project on youth homelessness and crime, and concludes by examining two ways of being homeless: identity work and the management of bodily space.