Having lost housing, a person may of course be able to leave the streets – either by mobilising all of his or her resources, or by getting help from other people (these have to be almost exclusively personal benefactors, as in modern day Russia there is no serious organised effort to help the homeless leave the streets for good – see chapter 8). Some people stay on the streets for longer periods of time than others. Some (for example residents of old people’s homes) may come onto the streets in the warmer seasons and go back under the roof for winter. But for those people who are unable to leave the streets, the key stages in the drama of displacement are already inscribed. While there may be disagreement about the extent to which homeless people are complicit in their own drama, it is acknowledged as a fact – by bomzhi and NGO workers alike – that homelessness develops according to its own logic. Homeless people would say that ‘we sink deeper and deeper’. Charity workers would complain that homelessness ‘sucks people in’ and describe homeless people who have zabomzhevalis’ [have been bomzhi for so long it has become their permanent state] and lost all touch with society. In the words of one homeless man, 54-year old Pavel:

As French sociologist Julien Damon points out, time is the key variable through which one can describe the phenomenon of street homelessness (2002, pp.149-50). One interviewee, Elena, gives a typical description of the process of displacement, with time acting against a homeless person:

In a typical scenario, Elena and her son moved from their own home to stay first with friends and then on to places to which they had no claim – lofts, cellars or train stations. In the process they lost their entitlements to social recognition by the community, as well as their rights as citizens. Agents of social control then confirmed their excommunication by telling them to move out of the city.