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Understanding Homelessness: From Memoir to Pathways Home (May 2014): Family Homelessness

By Irene Glasser and Eric Hirsch

Family Homelessness

Despite the fact that families are one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population in the United States, few books have treated the topic.  Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America by Jonathan Kozol exposes the plight of homeless families living in old hotels in New York, at great cost to the city.  Hotels and motels are no longer widely used to house homeless individuals and families temporarily.

Another excellent book about family homelessness is Parenting in Public, written by Donna Friedman with Rosa Clark and others.  This is an in-depth description and analysis of family shelters in the Boston area.  The premise of the book is that instead of promoting self-sufficiency within the homeless families, the shelters promote dependency as they try to manage the mothers’ lives.  The author questions how families can transition from a family shelter, where so much of the parenting is done in public and critiqued by shelter staff, to living on their own.

Deborah Connolly’s Homeless Mothers: Face to Face with Women and Poverty is an account of Connolly’s work as a caseworker at a small family shelter in Portland, Oregon.  The book is notable for its perceptive analysis of the lives of homeless mothers, the highs and lows that come with working with homeless families, the internal politics of a social service agency, and broader societal debates on poverty, homelessness, and the welfare system.

Works Cited