HAW - Resources

6th Annual Homelessness Awareness Week

October 7-12, 2013

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Reports & Resources:

“A Dream Denied: The Criminalization of the Homeless in U.S. Cities,” The National Coalition for the Homeless & The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. 2006. PDF, accessed 7/3/11, http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/crimreport/report.pdf

Published in 2006, this report appropriately pays special attention to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on homelessness in the US. It also offers a staggering summary of the state of homelessness and homeless services in the US. Each year, an estimated 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness. In a survey of 24 major cities, 14 per cent of emergency shelter requests went unmet in 2005. The report also documents an increase in city ordinances targeting the homeless such as prohibiting panhandling, sitting or lying in public places, or loitering. Interestingly, the report has a list of the ‘Meanest Cities,’ accounting for recent and aggressive moves by government targeting the homelessness. Atlanta is ranked as #4. As opposed to the average number of 14 per cent of requests for shelter going unmet, in Atlanta in 2005 a staggering 50 per cent of requests wet unmet.

“Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of the Homeless in U.S. Cities,” The National Coalition for the Homeless & The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. 2009. PDF, accessed 7/3/11, http://www.nlchp.org/content/pubs/2009HomesNotHandcuffs1.pdf

Published in 2009, this edition of the report pays particular attention to the impact of the housing and foreclosure crisis in the US. In Atlanta, the report documents the fact that nearly 30% of those coming to the Day Services Center are newly homeless. Of the 25 cities surveyed, they report an average of 12 per cent increase in homeless and specifically highlight the lack of available shelter space.

“Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness: 2010.” The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. 2010. PDF, accessed on 7/20/11, http://www.usich.gov/PDF/OpeningDoors_2010_FSPPreventEndHomeless.pdf

A plan that is meant to act as a roadmap for “joint action by the 19 United States Interagency Council on Homelessness member agencies along with local and state partners in the public and private sectors” (p 2). The plan presents four broad goals: A) Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in 5 years, B) prevent and end homelessness among veterans in 5 years, C) prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in 10 years, D) Set a path to ending all types of homelessness.

Sermons, M. William and Peter Witte. “State of Homelessness in America: A Research Report on Homelessness,” National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Homelessness Research Institute. 2011. PDF, accessed 7/13/11. http://www.endhomelessness.org/files/3668_file_SOH_report_FINAL_LOW_RES_NOT_embargoed.pdf

A huge and comprehensive review using data from the federal Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Justice and other public information sources, this report offers the most current statistics available on homelessness in the U.S. Most recent homeless count data available for use in this report are from 2008 and 2009. Significant findings include the fact that the nation’s homeless population increased by approximately 20,000 people between 2008 and 2009. This represents a three per cent increase and is valid for all subpopulations examined: families, individuals, chronic, and unsheltered. Among these subpopulations, the largest percentage increase was in the number of family households experiencing homelessness, which increased by over 3,200 households. Also, 31 of the 50 states experienced an increase in their homeless counts lead by Louisiana, where it doubled. This report also pays special attention to economic indicators as the economy in the United States continues is slow recovery. Significant to this is the fact that between 2008 and 2009 the number of officially unemployed people in the U.S. increased by 60 per cent. 

Websites of Relevant Organizations:

•  Change.org: Economic Justice

•  National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

•  World Homelessness Day

•  The International Homeless Forum

•  Georgia Alliance to End Homelessness

•  The Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness

•  Metro Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless

•  MUST Ministries

•  The Salvation Army of Atlanta

•  The Atlanta Children’s Shelter

•  HomeAid Atlanta

•      The Center for Family Resources

•      Regional Commission on Homelessness


1.            Dark Days - A video about homeless people living in tunnels in NY.

2.            Atlanta's Leaders Plan to End Homelessness - A video from the Regional Commission on Homelessness.


Scholarly Articles:

Conley, Dalton Clark. “Getting It Together: Social and Institutional Obstacles to Getting off the Streets.” Sociological Forum 11 (1996): 25-40.

Conley interviewed individuals experiencing homelessness in New York City and concludes that it is important to distinguish between dependency and trust in other individuals experiencing homelessness. He suggests that this distinction is important to understand how individuals can prove so adaptive in their circumstances but are unable to better their circumstances. In applying this distinction between dependency and trust Conley also highlights institutional versus personal obstacles.

DeVerteuil, Geoffrey, Jon May & Jurgen von Mahs. “Complexity Not Collapse: Recasting the Geographies of Homelessness in a ‘Punitive’ Age. Progress in Human Geography 33 (2009): 646-666.

The authors argue that while the proliferation of homelessness research by geographers has been immensely important, it has been framed primarily by a US perspective and has been characterized too much by a focus on punitive responses to homelessness. They instead suggest that recent responses to homelessness have not been universally punitive and that care should be taken to better understand the multiple complex responses - sometimes punitive, sometimes ambivalent, and sometimes helpful – that have emerged. They propose that there is a complex and varied geography of homelessness and of responses to homelessness, and that if the research agenda really is focused on the needs of homeless people rather than on the politics of public space, then researchers should engage more directly with the “real authors of these homeless geographies: city managers, welfare officials, voluntary-sector organizations and homeless people themselves” (p 661).

Elliot, Marta and Lauren J. Krivo. “Structural Determinants of Homelessness in the United States.” Social Problems 38 (1991): 113-131.

Elliot and Krivo use a multivariate analysis of various factors in U.S. metropolitan areas to determine which are most important in determining the rates of homelessness in the area. Their study suggests that modest investments in low-income housing and mental health access would be the most effective way to reduce homelessness.

Fang, Anyu. “Hiding Homelessness: ‘Quality of Life’ Laws and the Politics of Development in American Cities.” International Journal of Law in Context 5 (2009): 1-24.

Fang argues that there is a fundamental shift taking place in the very definition of homeless as city governments, through the creation of new ordinances and anti-homelessness laws, are forbidding citizens and charities to feed the homeless as part of an escalated effort to ‘protect public space.’ He cites several case studies, including Atlanta where residents wishing to assist the homeless with food are only permitted to do so through eight designated aid agencies.  

He suggests that this renewed effort to reclaim and sanitize public space is a result of the housing crisis, gentrification and downtown commercialism that “together constitute the multi-pronged urban development agenda in America” (p 17). He also suggests that the new vocabulary of the ‘chronically homeless’ has taken over the entire agenda and now drives all of the public policy regarding homelessness. This has misconstrued the experience of homelessness in the public eye and shifted focus away from housing solutions.

Johnsen, Sarah, Jon May & Paul Cloke. “Imag(in)ing ‘Homeless Places’: Using Auto-Photography to (re)examine the Geographies of Homelessness. Area 40 (2008): 194-207.

This article examines the use of auto-photography as a means to illuminate normally hidden or less considered spaces (i.e., squats) of homelessness while also reexamining more commonly understood spaces (i.e., begging and rough sleeping). The authors assert its use as a powerful heuristic tool despite the ‘logistical and ethical challenges’ presented when used with such a vulnerable population. 

In analyzing the use of auto-photography, the authors examine its use as one of several research methods in a study examining the experiences of homeless people in seven different towns and cities across England. Within this broader project, 17 homeless people in two of the seven locations participated in the auto-photography project. They find that the use of auto-photography simultaneously highlighted the common needs of the homeless (“subsistence, ablutions [hygiene], socializing and sustaining themselves financially”) to those of the housed public as well as the unique and sometimes dangerous spaces that they must navigate such as volatile day centers and the environments in which they sleep (p 197-198).

Kerr, Daniel. "We Know What the Problem Is: Using Oral History to Develop a Collaborative Analysis of Homelessness from the Bottom up.” The Oral History Review 30 (2003): 27-45.

Kerr calls for increased accountability in the relationships between the homeless and the state and the homeless and the academic researcher. It is suggested that such accountability is best achieved through peer review of studies by the homeless themselves. This article details the evolution of the Cleveland Homeless Oral History Project as Kerr discovered this discrepancy and attempted to address it in the CHOHP’s operations.

Lee, Barrett A., David W. Lewis & Susan Hinze Jones. “Are the Homeless to Blame? A Test of Two Theories.” The Sociological Quarterly 33 (1992): 535-552.

Using data from a 1988 national phone survey, this study suggests that public beliefs about the causes of homelessness emphasize structural rather than individualistic factors and that the single strongest determinant in an individual’s beliefs about the cause of homelessness is the perceived presence of individuals experiencing homelessness in one’s own community. 

Lee, Barrett A., Sue Hinze Jones & David W. Lewis. “Public Beliefs about the Causes of Homelessness.” Social Forces 69 (1990): 253-265.

Using data from a survey of Nashville, TN residents, this study suggests that public beliefs about the causes of homelessness emphasize “structural forces and bad luck” more than individual factors. The authors suggest that this may mark a significant shift in public opinion historically, as studies conducted throughout the 1960’s and ’80’s demonstrated strong belief in personal factors being the primary determinants in experiencing homelessness. 

Lyon-Callo, Vincent. “Medicalizing Homelessness: The Production of Self-Blame and Self-Governing within Homeless Shelters.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 14 (2000): 328-345.

Drawing upon three years of ethnographic research in an emergency homeless shelter in Massachusetts, this study suggests a dominant medicalized discourse of deviancy that “produces homeless subjects who learn to look within their selves for the ‘cause’ of their homelessness” (p 328). In a scathing critique of the homeless services ‘industry,’ Lyon-Callo argues that a combination of the dominant medicalized discourse of deviancy, the belief in the naturalness of capitalist exploitation, and the pervasive sense of powerlessness to change systemic conditions produce a narrow set of practices that are defined by what is ‘reasonable’ and ‘realistic’ and not actually productive in changing deep systemic causes. 

Murphy, Stacey. “’Compassionate’ Strategies of Managing Homelessness: Post-Revanchist Geographies in San Francisco.” Antipode 41 (2009): 305-325.

Murphy cautions against the wholehearted embrace of post-revanchist, ‘kinder and gentler’ local scale efforts to address homelessness, arguing that they introduce a new set of exclusions of their own. Such exclusions include “new definitions of the deserving poor, new institutional mechanisms of regulation, and new degrees of homeless marginalization, many of which are obscured by the language of compassion” (p 306).

Shinn, Marybeth, Jim Baumohl & Kim Hopper. “The Prevention of Homelessness Revisited.” Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy 1 (2001): 95-127. 

Shinn, Baumohl & Hopper argue that efforts to target individuals ‘at risk’ of homelessness are complicated by inefficiencies and uncertainties, as the underlying drivers of homelessness shift over time and also by location. They suggest that, while no program is ‘proven,’ efforts to increase access to low-income housing are the most effective and scientifically sound approach to preventing and reducing homelessness.

Shinn, Marybeth, & Colleen Gillespie. “The Roles of Housing and Poverty in the Origins of Homelessness.” The American Behavioral Scientist 37 (1994): 505-521. 

Shinn & Gillespie argue that, while individual problems such as substance abuse or mental illness may play a marginal role in determining the numbers of low-income households, they play no role in the availability of low-income housing. They make the argument that while services addressing this personal issues are welcome, the only significant concern should be the ratio of low-income households or individuals to the number of available low-income housing options. They suggest that low-income households are on the rise while supplies of low-income housing is declining. 

Shlay, Anne B. and Peter H. Rossi. “Social Science Research and Contemporary Studies of Homelessness.” Annual Review of Sociology 18 (1992): 129-160. 

A review of social science research on homelessness, primarily in the 1980’s, suggests that many researchers are still operating from a functional definition of homelessness being the lack of regular housing access. The authors argue that research now suggests that homelessness is more accurately a complex of multiple factors driving the phenomenon including the housing market, housing and welfare policy, economic restructuring, the labor market, and personal disabilities.

Snow, David A. & Michael Mulcahy. “Space, Politics, and the Survival Strategies of the Homeless.” American Behavioral Scientist 45 (2001): 149-169.

Snow and Mulcahy assert that despite the huge amount of research done on homelessness throughout the 1980’s and ‘90’s, very little is known about the spatial dynamics of homelessness. This article uses case studies from Tucson, Arizona to examine how urban physical space and homelessness intersect. They suggest that domiciled residents, control agents, and the homeless view space differently and these differing perceptions and interactions holds the key to better understanding the nature of urban spatial dynamics for the homeless. Importantly, they also suggest that the value of any space, including marginal space, is “constructed on the basis of its use and significance” (p 165).

Takahashi, Lois M. “A Decade of Understanding Homelessness in the USA: From Characterization to Representation.” Progress in Human Geography 20 (1996): 291-310.

Takahashi proposes a “Continuum of stigma,” plotting various ways in which different homeless populations are represented and seen by the public via three vectors: degree of dangerousness, degree of productivity, and degree of personal culpability. 

Wright, Talmadge. “Resisting Homelessness: Global, National, and Local Solutions. Contemporary Sociology 29 (2000): 27-43.

After a brief summary of literature and research on homelessness, Wright proposes many possible ‘pieces of the pie’ in order to present possible approaches to solving homelessness. She makes specific distinction between proposed policies or changes on the global, national, and local levels.



Arnold, Kathleen R. Homelessness, Citizenship, and Identity: The Uncanniness of Late Modernity. New York: Sate University Press of New York (2004).

Arnold argues that the domestic homeless and groups experiencing ‘statelessness’ such as refugees, exiles, and poor immigrants are commonly defined and addressed in similar ways in the political sphere. This is done in such a manner that each group is subjected to policies that perpetuate their exclusion rather than rehabilitation or integration. 

Hombs, Mary Ellen. American Homelessness: A Reference Handbook. Santa-Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001.

American Homelessness provides an excellent basis to begin to understand the complexities and history of homelessness in the U.S. Attempting to provide the reader with a solid foundation for understanding an incredibly complex problem, the book begins with an overview of the history, evolution, and variety of homelessness in the US. Chapters then profile important figures and events before turning to facts, current policy, and the wide variety of local and institutionalized responses to the problem. Chapter 4, “Facts and Statistics,” provides an especially useful summation of recent research, studies, and federal surveys.

Hopper, Kim. Reckoning with Homelessness. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Reckoning with Homelessness attempts to accomplish two objectives: to arrive at a better understanding of homelessness in American society and the complex attitudes that we have towards it while also to take measure of the many practical attempts to ‘solve’ it. Importantly, she wrestles early on with the complex problem of classification. Hopper argues that rather than a definable category, homelessness is instead a cultural classification that shifts with the times and people’s perceptions of it. Because of this, she argues that the historical record and even use of the term itself is extraordinarily uneven and can lead to questionable analysis of the social phenomenon’s history. 

In an attempt to encompass such diversity in records and linguistics, she borrows from anthropology and historical sociology: liminality and abeyance. Abeyance refers to functional ‘status slots’ that help to address the problem of limited number of official positions within a society and the excessive supply of people to fill those positions. Such slots are either created by the state (public works, compulsory education, etc.), religious orders (monasteries, abbeys, etc.) and countercultural movements. Hopper argues that reframing the problem of homelessness as that of an adaptive capacity problem with society (i.e., examining why there aren’t enough positions for everyone) is more productive than strictly examining rates of individuals without permanent housing (p 18-19). 

Liminality refers to times of transition between established roles in society. During these transitions the usual social markers of distinction are erased, causing a great deal of anxiety by others. Initiation rites are often established and mentors offer guidance and paths back to traditional roles. While liminality can occur in many contexts (pilgrimages, crises, private misfortune, civic disturbances, wilderness treks), Hopper argues that all instances share core elements: “suspension of the rule of the commonplace; intermingling with unfamiliar others in strange settings, often mobile circumstances; and a heightened sense of uncertainty, of things being unfinished and in process” (p 20). 

Taken together, abeyance and liminality help present homelessness in a complex but somewhat familiar tangle of factors: scarce housing, poorly planned and badly implemented policies of relocation and support, dismal work prospects, exhausted or alienated kin, and the bonds of solidarity formed form shared hardships (p 22).

May, Jon & Paul Cloke. “Homelessness.” In Encyclopedia of Human Geography, edited by Barney Warf, 226-227. Thousand Oaks, CA (2006).

The authors trace the evolution of the study of homelessness in geography, highlighting three important movements in the past two decades. First, that the focus of the possible causes of homelessness have shifted from individual responsibility (i.e., alcoholism) to structural changes, in particular the combination of deindustrialization and selective reindustrialization. Secondly, starting in the mid-1990’s geographers began examining the ‘axes of stigma’ related to homelessness. Thirdly, geographers have linked homelessness, urban regeneration, and the politics of public space, creating a useful analysis of systemic processes impacting the experience and numbers of homelessness.

Staeheli, Lynn A & Don Mitchell. The People’s Property? Power, Politics, and the Public. New York: Routledge (2008).

In an analysis of the privatization of public property, Staeheli & Mitchell use homelessness as an example to raise important questions about just what (and whom) can be excluded in a public space and to what extend public property can be privatized “either in the sense that rules of exclusion similar to private property can be enacted, or in the send that private property interests can directly control access to public space.” (p 55)

Wolch, Jennifer R. & Geoffery DeVerteuil. “New Landscapes of Urban Poverty Management.” In TimeSpace: Geographies of Temporality, edited by Jon May & Nigel Thrift, 149-168. New York, NY: Routledge (2001).

Wolch & DeVerteuil argue that a new emerging approach to poverty management, characterized by “bureaucratic expediency and the basic unwillingness and inability of localities to manage extreme poverty,” is partially driven by the fact that efforts and institutions operating on different scales also operate at “divergent ‘speeds,’” and that this lack of synchronicity can inadvertently work to create new urban poverty landscapes. (p 167-168).