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

By Anna Lou Dehavenon | Go to book overview

one else, to bring as much love as we can to these people, because that is how we serve God. That is what we are called to do."

The sense of being personally called to serve is a distinguishing characteristic of mainstream providers. Many of them express the belief that it is not their place to tell others how to live their lives. "That would be too judgmental," asserts Sister Mary Rose. Instead, the goal is to share oneself with those who need help, particularly the poorest of the community. The agencies provide environments where members of the congregation may experience personal religious growth in the service of God. They are places where staff and volunteers may practice a Christian ministry. Marie, a staff member of a day shelter stated, "My job is not just to help meet the needs of the homeless, but to help provide an experience for volunteers who want to serve God. We [the staff] want to help the community make contact with the homeless so they can have a chance to experience true ministry."

Homeless relief agencies thus represent an opportunity for mainstream religious organizations to volunteer community service. One of the day shelters alone has volunteers representing over twenty denominations. Meeting the needs of the volunteers is a major concern of these agencies. Service to others is thought to be psychologically therapeutic, as well as morally uplifting. As Marie put it: "our volunteers have as critical a problem as the clients. This is really a challenge--I mean our volunteers, like 20-30 percent, are in recovery programs of one kind or other. What better place to help work on your problems than helping others work on theirs?" In contrast to the fundamentalist agencies, then, the goal of mainstream providers is less to change the homeless than to change themselves.


SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Because there is a gap between public, governmental supports and private, religion-based organizations, partnerships between the public and private sectors should be encouraged. Coordination of services is a frequent suggestion, one given so continually that it has become a cliché. In fact, little has been done to bring public and private agencies together.

In the city of Albuquerque, no one has yet asked how religious agencies might be willing to forge alliances with the public sector. Some mainstream providers and contacts in city government have expressed a willingness to begin a dialogue over the matter. Even some fundamentalists would consider working with government agencies in certain defined roles. Some Albuquerque city officials in the Community Services Department believe that there are ways to get around the inherent difficulties in church/state coordination, in order to forge alliances. For example, religious agencies would have to agree that religious practice will not be a requirement for service. On the other hand, federal regulations may make participation by some religious organizations difficult. Regardless, all levels of government should reexamine their requirements in the area of church/state partnerships to see if adjustments can be made that would foster greater interaction and

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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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