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Braving the Street

Braving the Street: The Anthropology of Homelessness

Irene Glasser
Rae Bridgman
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 146
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  • Book Info
    Braving the Street
    Book Description:

    As homelessness continues to plague North America and also becomes more widespread in Europe, anthropologists turn their attention to solving the puzzle of why people in some of the most advanced technological societies in the world are found huddled in a subway tunnel, squatting in a vacant building, living in a shelter, or camping out in an abandoned field or on a beach. Anthropologists have a long tradition of working in poverty subcultures and have been able to contribute answers to some of the puzzles of homelessness through their ability to enter the culture of the homeless without some of the preconceptions of other disciplines.

    The authors, anthropologists from the U.S.A. and Canada, offer us an analysis of homelessness that is grounded in anthropological research in North America and throughout the world. Both have in-depth experience through working in communities of the homeless and present us withthe results of their own work and with that of their colleagues.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-157-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables and Figures, Photos and Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Chapter 1 An Introduction to Homelessness and Anthropological Perspectives
    (pp. 1-14)

    Homelessness emerged as a public concern in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s as Americans began encountering people living on the streets, a way of life which had formerly been confined to the skid rows of large cities. By the mid-1980s to early 1990s, the visibly homeless were becoming a common sight even among those countries with well-developed social safety-net programs, such as Canada. Through television and newspaper reporting, people in North America were also aware of the thousands of people living without adequate housing in African, Asian, and South American countries, though, at least initially,...

  7. Chapter 2 Patterns of Homelessness
    (pp. 15-43)

    Who are the homeless? This basic question must be answered before meaningful social policy can be introduced to combat homelessness. The hope is that if one can identify which groups of people tend to be homeless, then one can either construct programs that prevent homelessness or tailor services for the people who are without shelter. For example, in a study of the homeless of Hartford, Connecticut, Glasser (1996) found that there was a group of men coming directly out of prison and going into the city-run McKinney Shelter. These men then were spending a greater length of time in the...

  8. Chapter 3 Explaining Homelessness
    (pp. 44-57)

    As the phenomenon of homelessness has dragged on in North America, a frequently posed question iswhyare there homeless people? In answering this question, there are, broadly speaking, two schools of thought. One school may be called the “personal pathology” school, which concentrates onimmediatereasons why people become homeless. The focus is on problems such as alcohol or drug addiction, mental illness, and family violence, all of which make the person especially vulnerable to homelessness. The second school of thought may be called the “structural” school, which concentrates onexternalbroad social conditions affecting a person’s ability to...

  9. Chapter 4 Surviving the Streets
    (pp. 58-89)

    Perhaps anthropology’s greatest contribution to our knowledge of homelessness has been a description and understanding of the methods of adaptation and survival in life on the streets and in the shelters. The thick, ethnographic descriptions of the daily rounds of the homeless have brought the concept of “the street” to life in these studies. As a group, anthropologists see the street (in its full metaphoric sense) asoneof the sites for the kinds of adaptations to contemporary life that some home-less people make. The accompanying chart summarizes the range of ethnographic studies that have focused on various adaptations to...

  10. Chapter 5 Pathways Out of Homelessness
    (pp. 90-111)

    What do we know about ending homelessness? If many of the homeless shelters of the U.S. and Canada have not been effective in leading people to permanent housing, what programs and strategies have proven helpful? How has the voluminous research on the cultures of the homeless been translated into action that leads to secure housing?

    In an effort to disseminate information about some of the world’s exemplary programs, we will here review the outcomes of several of the most interesting and effective projects that have made a positive impact on the lives of the homeless.

    An early step in what...

  11. Chapter 6 Concluding Thoughts
    (pp. 112-115)

    In the late twentieth century, most social scientists see the evolution of homelessness in terms of the confluence of many factors, only some of which relate to individual misfortunes and pathologies. The best writing on homelessness does not ignore the involvement of drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and mental illness in homeless people’s lives, but views these within the broader context of the lack of accessible and affordable housing, the lack of jobs that can sustain individuals and families, society’s collusion in letting cities (at least in the U.S.) deteriorate, and the degree to which the state recognizes the importance of a...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 116-130)
  13. Index
    (pp. 131-132)