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Adapting methodology is adaptation to the field: the case of a survey among rough sleepers
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Martine Quaglia, INED 
*Maryse Marpsat, INSEE (National Institute for Statistics and Economics Studies) 

Keywords: methodological choices - adaptation to the field - qualitative

The first statistical surveys on the homeless population were conducted in the 1980’s in the USA. The general strategy to reach the homeless people was to contact them through the services provided to them, such as shelters and food distribution centers . In France, INED (National Institute for Demographic Studies) tried to adapt such methodologies to the French context, and conducted several surveys among people using shelters and food distribution centers in Paris (1995, 1998 ). This allowed for the first national survey on homelessness in France to be done in 2001 by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE)). In 2002, a coverage study of the 2001 national survey, named “outreach service survey” was conducted by INED. The objective was to draw a methodology in order to know more about the most autonomous homeless, rough sleepers, who manage without shelters and food distribution centres, as well as the most dissocialized ones, who don’t use them either.

Because it was to be mainly conducted in public space and following outreach street teams, the researchers realized that we would need a very close adaptation to the services in which we were going to intervene. The methodological choices couldn’t therefore be made without a qualitative approach. Interviews were conducted with the social workers in charge of the services, and several field observations were made, following the teams going around Paris. All these observations and interviews revealed different types of services, goals, and ways to achieve these goals which have to be taken into account and revealed to be precious when making methodological choices.

This paper will describe these qualitative findings and relate them to the methodological choices that were finally made.

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