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Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women Paperback – April 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014024137X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140241372
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Liebow ( Talley's Corner ) here succeeds in demolishing the anonymity of the homeless. Skillfully blending a social scientist's objectivity with humanitarian concern, he observes women who live in a variety of shelters near Washington, D.C.--how they interact with one another, family and shelter staff; pass their days; and struggle to retain their dignity in the face of rejection by society. Liebow maintains that homelessness is a Catch-22, with few ways out; that homeless women are remarkably supportive of one another; that shelter workers are often dedicated, but also scared and autocratic in spite of their best intentions; that the men in these women's lives seldom offer help; and that homeless mothers are propelled by ties, however flimsy, to their children. Liebow's probing and morally honest report reveals hard truths about the humanity and inhumanity of us all.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A moving and illuminating study of women living in homeless shelters. Anthropologist Liebow (Catholic University of America) is the author of Talley's Corner (1967), a study of black street-corner life that's still read by college students. Here, he uses the same participant-observer technique he used before, acting as a volunteer in shelters around Washington, D.C., and as a recorder of homeless women's lives and feelings. In most cases, he tells us, women are turned out of shelters at 7:00 a.m. and are not allowed to return until 12 hours later. Some roam the streets all day, killing time. Some have only an hour or so before they're due at jobs that usually pay them too little to live on, let alone save for housing. Others spend their days traveling from one social- service agency to another in search of housing subsidies, food stamps, job leads, or training opportunities. Some homeless women are bright and educated, others are mildly handicapped, physically or mentally, but able to function in society. Still others are mentally and emotionally disturbed but--or so Liebow believes--no more so than most people would be living under the same stresses. The women are able to deal best with their disorganized and difficult lives in shelters that provide beds, food, laundry, and bathing facilities, as well as a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Each woman Liebow questions has a different story to tell about why she's homeless--many have been laid off from jobs and lost their apartments or homes, some had husbands who deserted them or kicked them out. Particularly eye-opening is a chapter on the fear that plagues not only the women who are served by the shelters but the women who serve them. A thoughtful and informative inside-look at homelessness, supporting Liebow's conclusion that ``homeless people are homeless because they do not have a place to live.'' -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

PLEASE, read this book.
Lainey
Probably the most important reason for a person to read Tell Them Who I Am is that one can learn from it.
Virginia Sanders
To gain a better understanding of how some women live, and how you can help people, read this book.
Michelle Dunn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 1997
Format: Paperback
Tell Them Who I Am is a tale about several homeless women and one non-homeless man. For all its merits as an ethnography of women's shelters, which are many, one of the most endearing things about this book is its author. In 1984 Elliot Liebow found out he had terminal cancer. He promptly quit his job at the National Institute of Mental Health and headed for the soup kitchens and shelters of a small city outside of Washington, D.C. Taking notes "out of habit" he gradually compiled his thoughts (and those of his informants) as he got to know the women of these shelters. His participant-observation approach led him to be very involved as an actor in the lives of the women he met, and they too became involved in the writing of their stories. The result is a fascinating book which details the trials of homelessness alongside the joys and sorrows of being human
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Sanders on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
With his book, Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women, Elliot Liebow has done an excellent job of putting the facts of shelter life together. His research was not done in a far away library with his nose in a book, rather he learned first hand by working in women's shelters and soup kitchens in Washington DC. In his book, he explores the multitude of ways that "the humanity of the women is under constant threat" and gives the reader an in-depth and intensely personal view into the different facets of the lives of homeless women. Liebow continues throughout the book to deliver the facts to the reader in such a way that they reveal the brutal truth of the women's lives without dragging the reader to a place where (s)he is overcome with pity and shame. Instead, Liebow manages to connect the reader to the women, showing their humanity. I wanted to cheer them on, encourage them, defend each of them, from opinionated Betty to retarded Ginger to Grace, a born-again Christian, although these aren't the actual names of the women. This book makes a the reader see homeless women as people and forces the reader to look beyond stereotypes. It gives the women faces and shows their individuality. Tell Them Who I Am also goes into some detail about the different shelters themselves, the ways they are run, and what function they serve. It also mentions such things as Social Services and Medicare, pointing out what they provide and, very importantly, the weaknesses that these services and others have when dealing with the homeless. These weaknesses are evidenced through the multitude of difficulties that the women experienced in dealing with various "helpful" agencies.Read more ›
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. Ford on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have been reading and researching the United States homeless issues for a few months and found this book to be fairly insightful. Liebow writes from a very intimate point of view and backs up his observations with sources and facts. This is a very palatable introductory book to the general issues of homelessness in America today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Dunn VINE VOICE on August 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tell them who I am was a great read. what better way to share the stories of homeless women than to be right there with them day to day as they face each struggle and try to dig themselves out of the situation they are in.
Unless you have been there, you don't really understand. Elliot Liebow does a great job in connecting with each woman and sharing her story, how she feels and the tough choices she must make each day that people who are not homeless, are oblivious to.
To gain a better understanding of how some women live, and how you can help people, read this book. It will touch your heart and your soul.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on June 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
In a world of McMansions, there is homelessness. Liebow is a participant-observer. He had written TALLY'S CORNER at an earlier point.

Elliot Liebow tries to make the relationships with the women symmetrical. In his study he ignores mental illness since he is an anthropologist. Three night shelters and a day shelter are portrayed. The names of persons and places are changed.

Women come into homelessness because they are poor and powerless. Hard living is the norm. Street living creates problems of bathing, washing, eating, and sleeping sufficiently and safely. There is perennial fatigue and boredom. Protection of belongings and lack of storage creates bag ladies. Health suffers. Treatment of choice is unavailable.

Some women are too sick, old, or crazy to work. Others value work over walking all day. Looking for work is a way of holding onto humanity.

Shelters replace broken families. Mentally disabled residents have difficulty with their own relatives over money and power. Some residents hit the streets when they fear violence will erupt. Shelter providers fear violent behavior and keep records. Black-listing is common.

The women suffer from losses of privacy and dignity. They prefer a shelter Liebow calls The Refuge where few questions are asked. Providers of services to the unsheltered fear creating dependency. History shows that after the Great Depression, the opportunities presented by World War Two emptied out the skid rows.

Religious belief is a topic of shelter talk. Women see themselves as equal before God. Belief can invest homelessness with meaning.

The women talk about jobs, not careers. Elementary security is a paramount concern.
Read more ›
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