There's No Place like Home: Anthropological Perspectives on Housing and Homelessness in the United States

By Anna Lou Dehavenon | Go to book overview
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Introduction

Anna Lou Dehavenon

This book shows that shelter--one of the most basic elements of human adaptation--is lacking for substantial numbers of people in the United States, the world's wealthiest, most advanced industrialized nation. That not all of a society's members realize that society's shelter norms shows that its social organization fails to meet a basic human need--for the shelter they require to live in aggregated rather than isolated, atomistic groups.

When a society's standard approaches to securing shelter fail, people with the fewest social resources are forced to break the rules in order to survive. These chapters explore some of the rules and behavior patterns that evolved after the middle 1970s when different groups of Americans could no longer secure stable housing for themselves and their families. Essentially, what these new rules and behaviors demonstrate is a conflict between human and legal rights. This book is also about health and disease, since many of those whom American society fails to shelter are failed first when their chronic medical problems are not adequately cared for.

The idea for this book emerged from two symposia organized by the Task Force on Poverty and Homelessness of the American Anthropological Association for the association's annual meeting in 1988. One of the primary goals of the task force was to look more closely than others had yet done at the causes of the poverty and low-income housing shortage associated with U.S. homelessness. It seemed to the task force members that the methods anthropologists use are particularly well- suited to examining the impact of the lack of stable housing on the daily lives of low-income people.

This book's chapters also reflect two other goals: documentation of the experiential and geographic diversity of U.S. homelessness and articulation of policy recommendations based on the analysis of primary data collected using ethnographic methods. As a result, this book examines the homelessness of both adults with children and adults without children in three different settings: rural, urban,

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