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Homelessness and sleeping rough is a disturbingly fast-growing phenomenon in the UK, globally too. There was an interesting issue that arose in Torquay (Devon) in 2018. Torquay relies heavily on tourism for its local economy and prosperity. Earlier this year some senior local authority representatives claimed that rough-sleepers were damaging the local economy because they were deterring tourists and indigenous folk from visiting the shops and café areas of the town. Clearly this is an opinion rooted in economic thinking.

This very serious issue begs the question of how we account for the homeless and rough-sleepers in society. Is it, or should it be all about calculating the economic or financial impact of such situations, real and/or potential costs, factual and/or estimated? Or, should our ‘accounts’ of such things encompass other important aspects, for example social costs such as wellbeing, living standards, health, happiness, joy, and much more?

Accounting for the homeless and rough-sleeping raises so many questions about how we traditionally do accounting for life-things. Do ‘good’ things in accounts need to be monetary, like revenues or assets, do these things saturate what is good in life? Are ‘bad’ things always to be simply collapsed to costs and/or liabilities?

Or, should we be broadening our notion of an ‘account’ to better grasp appropriate accounting and accountability techniques for less obvious aspects of day-to-day society?