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Working with the homeless: The case of a non-profit organisation in Shanghai


  • Heather Xiaoquan Zhang


  • Jimmy McWhinney


This article addresses a two-pronged objective, namely to bring to the fore a much neglected social issue of homelessness, and to explore the dynamics of state-society relations in contemporary China, through a case study of a non-profit organisation (NPO) working with the homeless in Shanghai. It shows that the largely invisible homelessness in Chinese cities was substantially due to exclusionary institutions, such as the combined household registration and ‘detention and deportation’ systems. Official policy has become much more supportive since 2003 when the latter was replaced with government-run shelters, but we argue that the NPO case demonstrates the potential for enhanced longer-term support and enabling active citizenship for homeless people. By analysing the ways in which the NPO offers services through collaboration and partnership with the public (and private) actors, we also argue that the transformations in post-reform China and the changes within the state and civil society have significantly blurred their boundaries, rendering state-society relations much more complex, dynamic, fluid and mutually embedded.

Suggested Citation

  • Heather Xiaoquan Zhang & Jimmy McWhinney, 2012. "Working with the homeless: The case of a non-profit organisation in Shanghai," Local Economy, London South Bank University, vol. 27(4), pages 373-387, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:loceco:v:27:y:2012:i:4:p:373-387

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