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

By Anna Lou Dehavenon | Go to book overview

mothers were also present, but less than half had their own beds.

Recommendation #6. Public health officials at all levels of government should assess the impact on family health of inadequate nutritional provisions for over- crowded, doubled-up families. In the present study, many of the homeless guest units had difficulty cooking or could not cook at all. Others could not store their own food or eat together as a family. The federal government should also enact a system of universal health care and immediately undertake a national assessment of the prevalence of malnutrition among the homeless. This should include those who live doubled-up, those on public assistance, and those working for the minimum wage.

Recommendation #7. Federal and state governments should exercise their over- sight role more effectively by helping welfare recipients obtain the postal and phone services they require to maintain work, school, clinic, and other appointment schedules in a complex society. This recommendation follows from findings in this study that more than 20 percent of the doubled-up guest units could not receive mail and 30 percent lacked access to a phone.

Recommendation #8. Public housing and public health authorities at all levels of government should enforce existing health and housing codes in public and private housing. Local governments should develop and employ a risk profile based on these codes to determine in home visits which individual double-ups are adequate for healthy family life and for how long. They should also provide public assistance payments, food stamps, and support services to the other families living in the same double-up when the assessment process finds them eligible. This study revealed that it was sometimes the inability of both the guest and the host units to pay, or pay enough, that forced them both to leave their double-ups and seek emergency shelter from the city.


CONCLUSION

The findings from this study demonstrate that many impoverished homeless families forced to stay in overcrowded doubled-up conditions are unable to act in the domestic sphere in accordance with the prevailing norms of mainstream U.S. society. They cannot afford to rent their own homes because the purchasing power of the minimum wage and public assistance payments have not kept up with inflation. Regardless of family size and the ages of their children, doubled-up guest units have no, or at most one, room of their own in which to live. Many parents lack their own beds, and most slept with their children whether or not the husband or father was present. A substantial proportion of doubled-up families can not store their food, cook, or eat their meals together as a family.

Overcrowding was by far the most frequent reason families are forced to leave double-ups, and almost all their other reasons for leaving were similarly nonnegotiable. Many doubled-up families have no access to the accepted forms of communication for interacting with the outside community of work, school, health care,

-64-

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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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