Homelessness in America

Homelessness in America

Homelessness in America

Homelessness in America

Synopsis

Jonathan Kozol describes "Homeless in America" as ". . . a valuable collection of enlightened writings by those who know the challenges and realities first-hand". An authoritative work on a compelling subject, this comprehensive title offers investigative essays on key policy-related issues surrounding homelessness. It also answers hundreds of questions about the magnitude and implications of this complex social issue. Illus.

Excerpt

This book is about homelessness rather than homeless people. The distinction is important, for like most social problems, homelessness involves socioeconomic arrangements that exist quite apart from those troubled by them. Moreover, in the meaning I want to invoke here, social problems do not exist without politics; they do not arise spontaneously, even from widespread and visible suffering. Rather, they result from a collective definition of distress: Interested people and organizations bring private troubles to public attention by broadcasting claims about what such phenomena mean and why they're worth worrying about, and they recommend what should be done. In response, other interested parties contest these interpretations and prescriptions. We citizens come to recognize social problems and the possibilities of social policy largely through such public discourse. We pick up news and commentary from the radio or television and read newspapers or books like this one, and we discuss these opinions over coffee with friends or colleagues, in the neighborhood bar, around the family dinner table, or in any of the primal scenes of democracy.

Not all opinions have the same weight, of course. Because they are persuasive and have access to audiences, some people wield influence. In popular parlance, they are often called opinion makers, and to the extent that they influence elected and appointed officials, they shape public policy. Understanding this, wouldbe opinion makers of similar views frequently coalesce into organizations dedicated to asserting their claims about the nature of social problems and appropriate responses to them. Whatever their political hue, these advocates, as they are called in social policy circles, are scouts of misery and unrest and promoters of some plan of social betterment (even if that plan is merely to leave things alone). Unlike lobbyists, advocates do not write checks to political action committees, but they do orchestrate constituencies to pressure officials, and they are always ready to educate politicians, bureaucrats, and media representatives about their causes. As they spread the word, some turn up frequently in sympathetic newspapers and magazines, on television, in court cases, and in public hearings. Depending on the political climate, advocates of one stripe or another sometimes . . .

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