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At Home on the Street: People, Poverty, and a Hidden Culture of Homelessness

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1588267016
ISBN-10: 1588267016
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Editorial Reviews

Review

A revelation.... Wasserman and Clair offer a new way of looking at the diverse people living on the extreme margins of our society. Their rich ethnography confronts popular conceptions of homeless people and situates street homelessness as a choice distinct from living in shelters. Sociologists, service providers, and policymakers - not to mention students of homelessness and poverty - need to read this. --Michael Rowe, Yale University

The author's expansive data is firmly grounded in the literature and theory of homelessness, making this an exceptionally strong, interesting, and well-rounded study. --Timothy Pippert, Augsburg College

About the Author

Jason Adam Wasserman is assistant professor of sociology at Texas Tech University. Jeffrey Michael Clair is associate professor of sociology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers (November 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588267016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588267016
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is well-written with an excellent literature review, and compelling, reflective ethnographic work. It provides a very different insight into the experience of being homeless, and demonstrates how many of the policies cannot possibly work to end homelessness. The model of 'shelterization' shows how homeless must buy into a medical pathology framework in order to receive help. Further, the shelters are very unpleasant, so that even though the street is rough, at least it has fewer threats.
Its weakness, as a qualitative piece, is that it covers basically one small group of AFrican-American men in Birmingham Alabama so how well it covers other homeless groups is not clear. I'd already read Rossi's classic but this made me realize that (a) I had much more to learn and (b) Rossi's quantitative piece was also flawed by selectivity. It's tough studying the homeless, but it's tougher to be homeless.
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A masterpiece: Insightful, brilliant and allows the laymen to see the HONEST predicament of America's Homeless population. Thank God for the authors. They took the time to study and then write a book that doesn't preach, it informs, it enlightens. Tom Murray in West Texas.
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This is not only the best book on homelessness I have found, it is a highly creative and reflective piece of postmodern sociology.

Clair and Wasserman’s highly original ethnography on the “street homeless”--defined as those who generally shirk shelters and homeless services for de-institutionalized life on the streets--goes beyond explaining homelessness to an examination of the deep ironies in our culture that both produce homelessness and criminalize the very phenomenon for which they are responsible.

The authors’ core critique is that mainstream homelessness discussions become reductionistic when locating all under the same generic, individualized causes of addiction and mental illness. Their analysis is grounded in homeless people’s self-understanding and from there moves outward into critique of official definitions, causes, services and policies.

Which way does cause and effect flow? Is homelessness caused by mental health issues or do mental health issues emerge through homelessness? Does alcoholism result in homelessness or does the boredom and depression of being homeless lead one to drink? Furthermore, do the homeless really drink more than the rest of us or are they simply perceived as such due to their constant relegation to public places? Are people homeless because they are lazy or because a capitalist economy based on unchecked competition for limited resources naturally disenfranchises a portion of the population?

These lines of inquiry allows the authors to provide a highly successful upending of homelessness orthodoxy.
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