Essays On Homelessness

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As someone who has spent eight years working in nonprofit homeless services and studying homelessness, Willse’s book struck a nerve.

It also confirmed the hypocrisy of my situation—of my desire to help those most vulnerable due to their extreme poverty, and my knowledge that I’m part of an industry dependent on the existence of extreme poverty.

Out of prison, he wound up on the streets or in homeless shelters.

He told me he about his aspirations to go to college and get a good job.

That hides the life experiences and structures behind their troubles—everything from lesser education for those who are poor and have special needs, to an economy that limits social mobility, to a criminal justice system that swallows up poor people, to health care systems that underserve the poor and mentally ill, to housing markets that don’t provide enough safe and affordable options.

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Framing homelessness as a pathology reinforces the legitimacy of the industry and places the blame for housing deprivation on the individual.

Rather, these programs are not simply a humanitarian response to deprived populations.

They are also economic endeavors, as Willse suggests, that are part of a system of homeless management.

I did life history interviews with people in the housing program, interviewed staff and administrators, all the while documenting my observations.

I found that life-long courses of trauma and poverty caused housing insecurity that led people to become homeless.

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