Homelessness in America: An Exploration of Poverty, Human Services and Social Change

November 1, 2004

HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA: AN EXPLORATION OF POVERTY, HUMAN SERVICES, AND SOCIAL CHANGE

Mary Lou Finley, Ph.D., instructor

Wednesday evenings, 7-9:30 p.m.
Antioch University Seattle
Credits: 4 (3 or 5 by arrangement)

COURSE INTENTION

It is the intention of this course to provide a framework for seeking to understand the root causes of the expansion of homelessness in the U.S. during the last 20 years, to convey a sense of the experience of homelessness and its consequences, and to explore efforts to meet the immediate needs of the homeless as well as advocate for long term change which can prevent homelessness.

LEARNING GOALS

1. To gain a greater understanding of the paths to homelessness.
2. To understand how homelessness is related to larger social and economic forces in U.S. society of the 1980s, 1990s, and in the new decade ahead.
3. To gain an experience of and a “feel for” the situation of homeless people in order to have one’s own observations to compare to the rhetoric of public debate and to use as a basis for clarifying one’s own values and commitments.
4. To understand the services which have been developed to assist people who are homeless and to begin to develop one’s own analysis of what is needed
5. To develop skills in critical thinking about social issues and social policy, and to apply those skills to questions related to homelessness.
6. To develop skills in thinking as a social scientist about social issues.

READINGS FOR THE COURSE:

Liebow, Elliot. Tell, Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women. New York. Penguin Books, 1995 (1993).

Baumohl, Jim (ed.) for the National Coalition for the Homeless. Homelessness in America. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996.

Vanderstaay, Steven. Street Lives: An Oral History of Homeless Americans. Gabriola Is, BC: New Society Publishers, 1992. (NOTE: Selections from this book are being reprinted and will be available in class. The book is out of print.)

Real Change (Jan and Feb. issues ), the Seattle homeless newspaper. (Please buy your own copy from a street vendor or from the Real Change office, 2129 2nd Avenue.)

Optional Reading in the Library:

Snow, David and M. Gerald Bradford (eds.) Broadening Perspectives on Homelessness (special issue), American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 37 No. 4, February, 1994.

Joanne Passaro, The Unequal Homeless: Men on the Streets, Women in Their Place. New York and London: Routledge, 1996

COURSE OUTLINE

INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

#1 – Jan. 5

Review of syllabus and course goals
Discussion of definitions of homelessness
Who are the homeless?
Approaching homelessness from the sociological perspective; C. Wright Mills: “personal troubles and public issues”
Analysis Vision Strategy
(no reading)

THE EXPERIENCE OF HOMELESSNESS

#2 – Jan. 12 – DAY TO DAY LIFE (and an overview of homelessness)

Routines of daily living
Work and family
Gender and race differences among the homeless

Reading:
E. Liebow, Tell Them Who I Am: Preface, Intro., Ch. 1 3
Ch 2 in Homelessness in America: Martha Burt: “Definitions and Counts”

Optional Reading:
Ch 1 in Homelessness in America: Kim Hopper and Jim Baumohl, “Redefining the Cursed Word: A Historical Interpretation of American Homelessness,”

#3 – Jan. 19: SURVIVAL AND SUPPORT: SHELTERS, SERVICES, COMMUNITY

Homeless shelters as a human services response
Social support and community among homeless people
The limits of “shelterization”

Reading:
-E. Liebow, Tell Them Who I Am: Ch 4 6.
In Street Lives: Tray Casey, pp 16 17.
-In Homelessness in America:
Ch 8, David Now, et. al. “Material Survival Strategies on the Street: Homeless People as Bricoleurs” pp 86 96
Ch. 15 Maria Foscarinis, “The Federal Response: The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act”

Optional Reading:
-Ch 16 in Homelessness in America: Vicki Watson: “Responses by the States to Homelessness”

PATHS TO HOMELESSNESS: HOUSING, INCOME, FAMILY AND PERSONAL VULNERABILITY

#4 – Jan. 26 HOUSE AND HOME: THE DECLINE OF LOW INCOME HOUSING AND ADVOCACY EFFORTS FOR THE HOMELESS

The decline of low income housing: displacement and gentrification.
Public housing and government policies
Subsidizing housing for the poor
’80s and ’90s organizing efforts
Race and ethnic differences in homelessness

Reading:
In Homelessness in America:
Ch 3: Paul Koegel et al., “The Causes of Homelessness” pp. 24 33.
Ch 4: Cushing Dolbeare, “Housing Policy, A General Consideration,” 34 45.
Ch 7: L. Aron and T.J. Fitchen, “Rural Homelessness: A Synopsis”, pp 81 85.
Ch. 11: Kim Hopper and Norweeta Milburn, “Homelessness Among African Americans: A Historical and Contemporary Perspective.”
Ch 12: Susan Gonzales Baker, Homelessness and the Latino Paradox” pp 132 140.
In Street Lives: Batman, pp 8 9 and Tanya, pp 21 22
Article from The Weekly of Dec 23. 1999: Nina Shapiro, “Public Housing’s Bright New Face” (Library)

Optional Reading
G. Blasi. “And we are not seen: ideological and political barriers to understanding homelessness”. American Behavioral Scientist pp. 563 586. (Library)

#5 – Feb. 2 – INCOME, JOBS, AND FAMILY SUPPORT

Changing nature of jobs in America
Special problems of young workers
Changing distribution of income in the U.S.
Welfare “reform” and its potential impact on homelessness
Race and poverty in the US
Family relationships and support

Reading:
In Homelessness in America:
Ch 5. Bristow Hardin, “Why the Road off the Street is Not Paved with Jobs”, pp. 46 62.
Ch 6: M. Greenberg and J. Baumohl, “Income Maintenance; Little Help Now, Less on the Way.” pp. 63 77.
Ch. 19 Rob Rosenthal. ‘Dilemmas of Local Anti homelessness Movements.” pp 201 212.
In Street Lives:
Ch 2: Work and Its Discontents pp29 48

Optional reading
Ch 2 and 3 “House and Home” and “Beyond the Panopticon: the Nuclear Family, Men and Social Control” in Joanne
Passaro, The Unequal Homeless (Library)

#6 – Feb 9. – PERSONAL VULNERABILITIES AND HOMELESSNESS: MENTAL HEALTH, ADDICTIONS, HEALTH PROBLEMS and FAMILY VIOLENCE

Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill: relation to homelessness
Drug and alcohol addictions among the homeless
Health problems: cause or consequence of homelessness?
Battering within relationships as a route to homelessness
Battered women’s shelter movement
Street youth: family abuse, disruption
Legal issues of homeless youth

Reading:
In Homelessness in America:
Ch 17: Deirdre Oakley and Deborah Dennis, “Responding to the Needs of Homeless People with Alcohol, Drug, or
Mental Disorders,” pp. 179 186.
Ch 9 R. Rosenheck et al., “Homeless Veterans”, pp. 97 108.
In Street Lives:
DanieI 30 132; Sherry 144 146; Ron 147 149: Marsha 168 169; Lana 84 88; Martin 89 91.

Optional Reading:
Ch 4 from The Unequal Homeless: Men on the Streets, Women in their Place by Joanne Passaro, (Library)

#7 – Feb 16: PUBLIC ATTITUDES, CIVIL LIBERTIES, AND THE HOMELESS IN PUBLIC SPACE

Controversies over the homeless in public space
Seattle issues: panhandling, parks, tent city
Public attitudes toward the homeless; politics and attitudes

Reading:
In Homelessness in America:
Ch. 14 Harry Simon, “Regulation of the Homeless in Public Space”, pp 149 159.
Ch 13 Bruce Link et al., “Public Attitudes and Beliefs About Homeless People”, pp 143 148
Feb 1 issue of Real Change

Optional Reading:
-Giuliani’s policies for the homeless in New York City: articles in the New York Times; search the internet for recent developments

SPECIAL (OPTIONAL) SESSION – Thurs. Feb 17: FIELD TRIP TO LEGISLATURE IN OLYMPIA FOR HOUSING LOBBY DAY

Current public policy issues regarding housing and homelessness

SPECIAL TOPIC: FAMILIES AND CHILDREN

#8 – Feb 23: HOMELESS FAMILIES AND THE EFFECTS OF HOMELESSNESS ON CHILDREN

Emotional and health issues
Educational issues
Approaches to educating homeless children
Homeless families and the child welfare system: The Washington State class action suit and the Homeless Families Plan

Reading:
In Homelessness in America
Marybeth Shinn and Beth Weitzman “Homeless Families Are Different”, pp 109 122.
In Street Lives: Chapter 8 Families 157 182

SUMMING UP

#9 – Mar 2: FOSTERING CHANGE: POLITICS, POLICY, AND GRASSROOTS

What kinds of changes are needed?
Where can we go to seek for workable ideas for change?:
America politics and the dilemmas of homelessness
What kind of advocacy?

Reading:
E. Liebow, Tell Them Who I Am Ch. 7, pp. 223 234.
In Homelessness in America
Ch 18 Eric Lindblom, “Preventing Homelessness”, pp 187 200
In Street Lives
Ch 9. “Solutions”, 183 223
Real Change mid Feb or early March issue

Optional Reading:
K. Hopper and J. Baumohl, “Held in abeyance: rethinking homelessness and advocacy.” in American Behavioral Scientist 522 552. (Library)

#10 – Mar 9: REPORTS FROM STUDENT PROJECTS

(No reading)



DEMONSTRATION AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING

1. Reading and class participation

Students are expected to do the reading for the course and come to class prepared to discuss it. Class discussion is an important part of the course. We will sometimes use small groups, and it will be important to be familiar with the readings in order to fully participate.

2. Summary and critique of one reading

Everyone will be asked to pick one of the more advanced articles (e.g., those from the professional literature) and make a 10 minute presentation on it to the class.

This should include a summary of the article’s main points and a brief critique of it (e.g., your ideas about what is most important about the article and what you didn’t like about it, what you see as its weaknesses). The intention is that your summary can serve as a springboard for class discussion.

3. Interpretive essays

Two short (4 5 page) interpretive essays will be expected for the course. These will allow you to synthesize and reflect on material from the readings and class discussions.

DUE: Feb 2 and Feb 23

4. Individual or collaborative project

This can be either (a) a service learning project or (b) a research project which involves collecting data in the community. A report on this project should be written into a 7 10 page paper and also summarized in a class presentation during the last week of the quarter.

(a) Service learning
In this project you are encouraged to find an agency or organization providing services to the homeless or working on issues relevant to this course. You will be asked to spend some time working as a volunteer for the organization, in a way which will provide a good learning experience for you (about 10 hours over the course of the quarter).

For your project, write a paper on what you have learned from this experience. Your learning may be both content and skills oriented: that is, what did you learn about homelessness about the people involved, the institutional contexts in which they find themselves; and what skills did you develop, what did you learn about your own interests, strengths, and capacities in this context.

We will have some skill building sessions in class on reflecting on what you are learning as an aid in this process.

I have some suggestions about places which would welcome volunteers. However, you may also wish to seek out places in your own community.

(b) Small research project:

For this option, you should select a research topic relevant to the ideas in the class and interview one or two people to collect information on it. You may also need to collect some written information, though this should not be primarily a library research paper. Prepare a paper to write up your results.

Either of these could be collaborative projects among two or more members of the class.

DUE: January 12: A paragraph describing what you would like. to do for your project.

DUE: March 9 : a paper (7 10 pages) describing the results of your service learning or research.

It is my hope that this project will allow you to explore some aspects of homelessness which are new to you, and which you will find challenging. If you haven’t had any experience with homeless people or organizations, I would encourage you to choose something which will expose you to this world. If you have already been working with the homeless, I would encourage you to do something which will allow you to stand back and think more clearly about what it all means and what needs to be done: perhaps interview some key policy makers or activists, or do phone interviews with key people working at a national level on some aspects of the problem.

A FINAL NOTE:
I would like for you to think about what you would like to get out of this class, and to work with me to be sure that you have a plan for accomplishing your goals in the context of the goals for the class. The class will surely have students with varying degrees of familiarity with this subject, and what works for one might not be appropriate for another. It is my hope that within the framework of the class you will be able to find a way to pursue your particular interests and develop your own thinking and your own skills.


SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITING PAPERS FOR SERVICE LEARNING AND RESEARCH PROJECTS

SERVICE LEARNING PROJECTS

In writing about your service learning project, the goal is to briefly describe what you did and then to describe what you learned from this activity. I would expect that your learning will relate in some way to the goals of the class (though there may be rare circumstances in which the major learning is of another sort.)

1. Description of what you did:

Consider including information on topics such as these:

Where were you working? Describe the organization and the part of it you were most associated with.

Why did you choose this organization? does it have a particular appeal to you, or do you see its approach as particularly compelling for some reason?
What type of population is served by this setting?

What did you expect to do when you decided to go to this organization? Did the plan for your activities change when you were actually there?
Who did you work with? Clients? Other volunteers? Staff?

2. What did you learn?

You, can think of this work and learning as similar to a small pilot research project. While you will have a limited amount of “data” to draw conclusions from, go ahead and suggest what you have learned even from this limited information. Often in these initial insights and hunches are the seeds for ideas which could be pursued later and which may prove to be important.

The following are meant to suggest possible areas to write about; pick and choose among them, or identify your own.

Possible areas of learning:

– the daily life and routines of people you studied
– the ways the people adapt to their situations (or rebel against them
– the causes of their situation
– description of the community project
– how is this program or project addressing the needs of the people?
– how would you judge the effectiveness of the program or project?

Reflection on what you learned:

Whatever the topic of your learning, consider what this new learning means to you and what implications it has. For example, you could consider questions such as:

*Did what you learned confirm what you had previously expected or was it a surprise? (Compare with any relevant readings; look for confirmation or contrasts).
*Did this learning raise new questions for you? What are they? What might need further exploration?
*What implications does this have for social policy?
*What implications does this learning have for you personally or your future pursuits?

School: Antioch University - Seattle
Professor: Mary Lou Finley
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