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

By Anna Lou Dehavenon | Go to book overview

Finding 8: Increase in Household Density. The density of persons per household in Jefferson-Chalmers increased in 1990 by 10 percent to 2.91 persons per household, as compared to 2.64 persons in 1980. This increased density, at a time when overall birth rates were declining, is a predictable result of doubling-up.


SUMMURY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Summary of Adaptive Strategies

To "stay afloat," Detroiters in Jefferson-Chalmers, and other Americans like them, select and combine a variety of survival strategies. These may involve: (1) wage-work in the mainstream economy, as enjoyed by those Chrysler workers who were called back to assemble the Jeep Grand Cherokee at the new Jefferson North Assembly Plant; (2) public assistance, such as aid to dependent children, which is collected by many single parents; (3) poverty-wage work or involvement in an "underground economy," such as year-round windshield washing near freeway entrances and other busy intersections, criminal activity related to drugs or alcohol, and reciprocity--all typically unreported to tax authorities.

The rate of household experience with unemployment can be very high in communities like Jefferson-Chalmers. The aggregate unemployment rate in that community appears to be the chief factor in promoting helping-behaviors among all residents. For example, 45 percent of all households in the Jefferson-Chalmers random sample experienced unemployment during the three recession years preceding the 1977 survey.

An oft-repeated strategy in Jefferson-Chalmers and similar communities is the commencement of low-paying, service-sector employment after the disappearance of higher-paying union-shop employment. Low-seniority, unskilled industrial workers who never regained the jobs from which they were laid off in years past can now be found working for minimum wage in fast-food restaurants near those same industrial work sites, or working as "rent-a-cops" at nearby clinics and check- cashing stores.

An emerging pattern of repeated deindustrialization, unemployment, and racial discrimination can decimate a community's stock of affordable housing. After 1970, for example, bulldozing, burning, and abandonment reduced Jefferson-Chalmers' housing stock by 30 percent. Almost all of this demolition took place in the census tract closest to the Chrysler factory--the part of the community that had housed African Americans the longest. Once set in motion, these processes increase the risk of poverty and homelessness for everyone in the community. Low-income housing, public transportation, and child care are unprofitable and are relegated to the margins of any for-profit economy. Yet deficiencies in these areas, as in primary health care, consign many of the poor in Jefferson-Chalmers to joblessness, poor health, and homelessness.

A pivotal strategy for Detroiters, who are long accustomed to the fluctuations

-46-

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

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contemporary Urban Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Prologue: Azdak Lives xi
  • Notes xiv
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Conclusion xx
  • 1: Poverty and Homelessness in Rural Upstate New York 1
  • Introduction 1
  • Summary and Recommendations 13
  • Conclusion 16
  • Notes 16
  • 2: The 1990 Decennial Census and Patterns of Homelessness in a Small New England City 19
  • Introduction 19
  • Summary and Recommendations 30
  • Conclusion 33
  • Note 33
  • 3: Doubling-Up: A Strategy of Urban Reciprocity to Avoid Homelessness in Detroit 35
  • Introduction 35
  • Summury and Recommendations 46
  • Conclusion 48
  • Notes 48
  • 4: Doubling-Up and New York City's Policies for Sheltering Homeless Families 51
  • Introduction 51
  • Summary and Recomendations 63
  • Conclusion 64
  • Conclusion 65
  • 5: A Home by Any Means Necessary: Government Policy on Squatting in the Public Housing of a Large Mid-Atlantic City 67
  • Introduction 67
  • Summary and Recommendations 76
  • Conclusion 78
  • Notes 78
  • 6: Huts for the Homeless: A Low- Technology Approach for Squatters in Atlanta, Georgia 81
  • Introduction 81
  • Summary and Recommendations 100
  • Conclusion 102
  • 7: Piety and Poverty: The Religious Response to the Homeless in Albuquerque, New Mexico 105
  • Introduction 105
  • Summary and Recommendations 114
  • Conclusion 116
  • Conclusion 117
  • 8: Suburban Homelessness and Social Space: Strategies of Authority and Local Resistance in Orange County, California 121
  • Introduction 121
  • Summary and Recommendations 140
  • Conclusion 141
  • Conclusion 142
  • 9: "There Goes the Neighborhood": Gentrification, Displacement, and Homelessness in Washington, D.C. 145
  • Introdution 145
  • Summary and Recommendations 160
  • Conclusions 162
  • Conclusions 163
  • Conclusion 165
  • Epilogue: A Perilous Bridge 175
  • References 177
  • Index 193
  • Contributors 203
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