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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind: Homeless Children and Families in Small-Town America

Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
    Book Description:

    "Homelessness in small towns and rural areas is on the rise. Drawing on interviews with and case studies of three hundred children and their families, with supporting statistics from federal, state, and private agencies, Vissing illustrates the impact this social problem has upon education, health, and the economy."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4890-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Like most people, I never knew that homeless children in rural areas existed. I never saw them, never read about them, and never heard about them from professionals working in health and human services. Homeless children in small town America were out of sight and out of mind.

    But my lack of knowledge did not negate their existence. The numbers of homeless children and families have increased dramatically in rural areas over the past decade. This book describes my journey to identify and understand child and family homelessness in rural areas. It began as I completed two years as a...

  5. one Identifying Homeless Children and Families in Rural Areas
    (pp. 6-30)

    “We don’t have any homeless kids in our town.” This was the common response among residents in small towns who were unwilling to think that homelessness might be in their own backyards. Homeless children and families in small towns are invisible. Because they are out of sight, they are also out of mind, thought not to exist. And if they do not exist, then nothing has to be done about, or for, them.

    How does one know whether or not a child is homeless? Homeless children, according to the federeal Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (Public Law 100–77)....

  6. two The Catastrophic Assault on the Family
    (pp. 31-51)

    When a rural family is at imminent risk of homelessness, chaos tears away at the fabric that holds it together. When the family fabric finally rips apart, the catastrophe of family disintegration results. This is true not just for rural families but for families in every community of every size across the nation. According to Sylvia Hewlett, author ofWhen the Bough Breaks: The Cost of Neglecting Our Children(1991, 11), “Across the face of America, children are failing to flourish. Rich kids, middle-class kids, poor kids—all deal with risk and neglect on a scale unimagined in previous generations....

  7. three Homelessness: It’s Enough to Make You Sick
    (pp. 52-69)

    Homelessness and illness go hand in hand in both rural and urban America, because poverty and its accompanying consequences know no geographic, age, gender, or racial boundaries. Therefore, health consequences of homelessness are great for children everywhere. However, because of the higher proportion of people who live in rural poverty and the lack of medical facilities and health care practitioners in rural areas, children and families who are displaced there are at even greater risk for health problems than are those from urban areas.

    There is scarcely any aspect of a homeless existence that does not compromise physical health, or...

  8. four Homelessness: It’s Enough to Drive You Crazy
    (pp. 70-90)

    Homelessness causes not just physical and social problems but psychological distress as well. In rural communities where there is a great emphasis placed on the home, the psychological impact of having no place to call home can be more devastating than the physical impact of having no place to stay. If one has a stable sense of where he or she belongs, short-term homelessness, as in the case of a flood, fire, or hurricane, will probably not result in long-term psychological trauma. But for a child who consistently has no place to call home, permanent emotional scars are likely. The...

  9. five Kids Can’t Think When They’ve Got No Place to Sleep
    (pp. 91-102)

    It doesn’t matter if you are a city kid or a country kid—when you are homeless, the cards are stacked against academic success. Schools are not designed to deal with transient kids who have no stable home base. Academic progress is built upon a pyramid, with certain concepts being learned before others are attempted. Every semester skills are acquired that enable the student to take more advanced courses. It is difficult to succeed in such a system if one frequently moves from school to school, or even state to state.

    However, schools are still the backbone of the rural...

  10. six Reaping What You Sow: Economic Crises in Rural Areas
    (pp. 103-120)

    Homelessness in rural areas cannot be understood without looking at the rural economy—which cannot be understood without looking at the national economic picture. Rural homelessness is a microcosm of national economic and political developments.

    American society is currently experiencing a lengthy economic recession—one of the most depressed times since World War II—and this transformation of the economy has directly resulted in both urban and rural homelessness (Blau 1992). There are allegedly many different causes for the current economic crisis on the national level.

    Many experts agree that homelessness as we know it increased as a result of...

  11. Seven Lack of Affordable Housing in Rural America
    (pp. 121-133)

    Just as the economy negatively impacts job and educational opportunities for people in rural areas, national political and economic decisions also impact the availability of affordable housing.

    In the simplest context, both rural and urban people become homeless because there are more people who need inexpensive housing than there are cheap housing units available (McChesney 1988). It is easier to simplify the solutions for homelessness by asserting “all you gotta do is find them a place to live” than it is to understand the complex relationship between the economy and the housing industry, and how it has promoted rural homelessness....

  12. eight Getting the Rural Homeless the Help They Need
    (pp. 134-159)

    It is difficult, if not impossible, to get homeless people in rural areas the help they need. Rural areas are poorer, have fewer professionals and services, and consist of residents who are more resistant to using formal organizations in times of crisis. Once homeless, families run into economic and bureaucratic mazes that are impossible to manuever. While help is “supposed” to be available, time and time again, rural families and children experience insurmountable barriers to receiving aid. Personal problems, economic distress, and a lack of affordable housing can be addressed when there is a human service delivery system that “works.”...

  13. nine A Framework for Understanding Rural Homelessness
    (pp. 160-175)

    The stories told by the rural homeless children and families convey themes that can be merged into understandings about the causes and consequences of rural homelessness. This is an inductive method of building theory (Neuman 1994).

    While there is no single type of rural homelessness, the duration of rural homelessness, and the time in which it occurs, can be predicted. These include episodic homelessness, intermittent homelessness, seasonal homelessness, and chronic homelessness.

    The most common form of homelessness experienced among the rural people I interviewed was episodic homelessness. This form of housing displacement was not precipitated by one particular cause and...

  14. ten Bringing the Community Together to Solve Homelessness
    (pp. 176-186)

    Lack of a uniformly held theoretical perspective about homelessness among rural leaders consistently led to fragmented action plans to help those in distress. I found that most leaders across rural areas want to help the homeless but do not know what to do. A speaker at a community group described her experience:

    The concerned leaders of the small town convened in order to “do something” for the homeless children in their community. Clergy, educators, social workers, the housewives of the city elite, professional women, and men who took off from their administrative positions sat around the table and brainstormed “what...

  15. eleven Doing What It Takes
    (pp. 187-214)

    Books, reports, guides, articles, and opinions about “what to do about homelessness” abound (Homes for the Homeless 1994; Kirst 1991). Most of them do not specifically target rural areas, however. This has made it difficult for small towns to know exactly what to do and how to do it. For instance, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (1993) recommends that the federal government pave the way for a new approach to homelessness by funding housing, income, and social service programs. The Interagency Council on the Homeless’s federal plan to help end homelessness (1992) includes nearly two hundred implementation actions being undertaken...

  16. appendix a: My Wild Gypsy Life
    (pp. 215-228)
    Yanali LaHaine
  17. appendix b: Summary of Causes of Rural Child-Family Homelessness
    (pp. 229-232)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-265)
  19. Index
    (pp. 266-271)