David Christie

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: ‘A Hand Up, not a Hand Out’ – Homelessness under the Labour Governments 1997-2010
Supervisor: Professor Nicholas Crowson and Dr Chris Moores
PhD History


  • Bsc Biology (University of Southampton)
  • BA History (1st Class – Open University)
  • PGCE with QTS, MA (with distinction) Modern British Studies (UoB)


I spent ten years running projects for rough sleepers from the late 1980s – including a direct access hostel, drop-in centre, substance misuse outreach team, private rented support scheme and supportive group home for homeless mentally ill in London; a cold weather shelter in Bristol and as the Housing Advice Manager for a London local authority. In an unplanned and random career, I have also been a market trader, fish farmer, advertising executive and A-level teacher. I am deeply interested in utopian thought, and have published a work of utopian fiction entitled Sweden, which is still available for purchase on Amazon!


Two stints of teaching history in secondary schools in areas of significant social disadvantage and eight years teaching A-level history at Hereford Sixth Form College


The Labour governments (1997-2010) made a series of significant interventions in street homelessness during their time in office which dramatically reduced the numbers sleeping rough in the UK (achieving its target of a two-thirds reduction in less than two years). However, between 2010 & 2019 street homelessness has increased by 169%, rising to levels not seen since the 1990s. My research aims to examine the measures undertaken by New Labour; their political genesis in ‘third way’ politics, the impact of Labour’s changes in the mechanisms of government and relationship with the non-statutory sector, the targeting and commitment of resources, changes in working practice, hostel provision, supported housing programmes, relationship to the criminal justice system, and preventative measures both within the homelessness directorate and through the wider social exclusion agenda. The research will also explore the reasons why the dramatic reduction in rough sleeping has manifestly not been maintained. It will evaluate the critique that Labour’s programme was primarily ‘revanchist’ aiming only to render homelessness invisible, and did not address the long-tern causes of homelessness. It will also evaluate the view that Labour’s imposition of ‘coercive strategies’ failed to take account of the needs and preferences of homeless people themselves leading to inappropriate resettlement and undermined the independence and creativity of the voluntary sector. Extensive use of oral history will be undertaken, eliciting accounts from key decision makers in government and the voluntary sector, workers delivering the programme and will ensure the prominence of the voices of homeless people themselves.

At this preliminary stage it is my view that academic discourse has failed to pay attention to the scale of New Labour’s achievements in reducing street homelessness, paying more attention to its failures on the margin than the concrete achievements, investment of political will, resources and the innovative methods of practice that it initiated. It is possible that a model for effective action has already been developed with direct implications for current social policy. This neglect is also curiously present in New Labour’s own accounts of its time in office, unmentioned in Blair’s memoirs, and ignored in wider evaluations of Labour’s term in office. It seems possible that Labour’s intervention in homelessness can be used as a lens to examine the functioning of ‘third way’ ideology in practice, and I tentatively suggest that it could form a repost to the skepticism now surrounding assessments of New Labour’s achievements in office