Drug users and marginalised people during COVID-19

An investigation of how drug users and socially marginalised citizens have coped with the restrictions in shelters, drug consumption rooms and drop-in centres for vulnerable citizens during lock down due to the COVID-19-pandemic


The purpose of this project is to illustrate how socially marginalised citizens manage everyday life during the corona lockdown. To this aim, we will examine how strategies to reduce social contact affect citizens who are dependent on social relations and social intercourse at shelters, drug consumption rooms, and shelters. Insights from this study could help adjust social interventions in case new users and needs emerge during the corona crisis.


The majority of interventions and support initiatives for homeless people and others among the vulnerable citizens fall within the ‘critical functions’ that remain open during lockdown, but, with new restriction regarding opening hours, target group and social contact. Public places like shelters and drug consumption rooms only account for one – albeit a very important – way in which the users manage to get by. As a point of departure, we consider the social networks among marginalised citizens essential for getting by when they live on the edge of our welfare system. The communities are often described as ‘risk environments’ that result in continued marginalisation. However, these places offer meals, shelter for the night, and a sense of security or belonging when other support options are absent. Based on this, the project will generate knowledge on the consequences of the lockdown and the enforced social distancing for citizens for whom contact with other people can be critical for their existence.

The study

The study is based on fieldwork in two large Danish cities. We will conduct ethnographic fieldwork observations at shelters, drug consumption rooms as well as other social support places. The target group are users affected by the limited capacity at the facilities they usually frequent. We will conduct interviews and speak with people who use these facilities as well as interview members of the staff. Our focus is to investigate:

  • How people who frequent shelters, drug consumption rooms etc. are affected by and cope with the reduced capacity at these facilities
  • How the social communities that are loosely affiliated to these places play a role in managing day by day life

The study runs from May 2020 to October 2021.



The project is funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark and Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research




Nikolaj Mørk Thorsen

Post graduate at Anthropology

Aarhus University