Vulnerable alcohol users in the city

A study of the sociology of the city and how vulnerable alcohol and drug users use the city and how the design of the urban spaces and streets impacts the lives of these citizens.


The overall purpose of the research project is to achieve more, and more detailed, knowledge about vulnerable alcohol- and drug users’ lives in the city and the impact of the city’s physical, social and administrative structures on their everyday life. The target group of the project are primarily alcohol users, who also in some cases use other drugs (cannabis, heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, prescription drugs) while they hang out and spend time in the public and semi-public spaces of the city and thereby become very visible presences to the surrounding societies. Results from this project can be of use in the development of a city which both accommodates it's vulnerable citizens as well as all other citizens. 


Around 500.000 people in Denmark consume more than the maximum recommended volume of alcohol, set by the Danish Health Board. A lower number of these people have a “problematic” level of consumption, often in combination with social challenges and health challenges. The number of particularly vulnerable citizens seems to be on the rise, as poverty issues have become more prevalent in recent years due to work and social reforms in the Danish welfare system.
Several Danish cities have in recent years experienced growing numbers of homeless people and particularly vulnerable citizens. At the same time there has been an increasing political and administrative focus on “dissolving” vulnerable estates and “diluting” and spreading residents with challenges (crime, unemployment, abuse, etc.) to avoid large concentrations in particular estates, while the housing markets in particularly in Copenhagen and Aarhus are at the same time under pressure due to rising rent levels and fewer affordable housing units.
The tendency, in Denmark and internationally is that cities generally attempt to attract investments, tourists and affluent citizens by transforming urban spaces and refurbishing and constructing housing units with high rent levels aimed at attracting the higher middle class - called gentrification. A tendency that also has an impact on the lives of vulnerable alcohol and drug users, as their presence and behavior in public spaces are often interpreted as creating insecurity by shop owners, neighbours and passers-by. In several locations patrolling security guards, social caretakers, increased patrolling by police or/and physical measures have been introduced in order to limit the presence of particular groups of people as to increase the feeling of safety for ‘common’ citizens.

The Study

In the project post.doc. Jonas Strandholdt Bach uses various qualitative approaches particularly ethnographic fieldwork among vulnerable alcohol and drug users on selected locations in the city of Aarhus and interviews with the target group. Jonas will also continuously be in contact and with and at a later stage conduct interviews with professionals working with the vulnerable alcohol and drug users, as well as commercial business owners/employees and other neighbors to the places where the vulnerable alcohol users congregate and hang out. 

The project runs from August 2019 to August 2021.


The project is part of a cluster of projects focusing on vulnerable citizens: Poverty Work, Enabling environment for drug users and Socially marginalized Greenlanders led by respectively associate professor Bagga Bjerge and associate professor Esben Houborg