Drawing upon qualitative, longitudinal research with ‘socially excluded’ young adults from some of England’s poorest neighbourhoods, the article explores how locally-embedded, social networks become part of the process whereby poverty and class inequalities are reproduced. Networks of family and friends, rooted in severely de-industrialized locales, supported young people as they carved out transitions to adulthood in adverse circumstances. Examples are given in respect of informants’ highly localized housing careers and their longer-term experience of ‘poor work’. Paradoxically, though, while local networks helped in coping with the problems of growing up in poor neighbourhoods and generated a sense of inclusion, the sort of social capital embedded in them served simultaneously to close down opportunities and to limit the possibilities of escaping the conditions of social exclusion. Overall, and contrary to some recent youth sociology, the article stresses the continuing importance of class and place in shaping youth transitions.