Caught in the Mix: An Oral Portrait of Homelessness

Caught in the Mix: An Oral Portrait of Homelessness

Caught in the Mix: An Oral Portrait of Homelessness

Caught in the Mix: An Oral Portrait of Homelessness

Synopsis

Through interviews with homeless people, Bulman provides readers with a unique perspective on homelessness. Conducted in soup kitchens, in homeless shelters, and on the street, the interviews reveal the human face of homelessness, which is often obscured by statistics. Chapter one explores the underreported link between domestic violence and homelessness through interviews with women who became homeless when they fled from their abuser. Homeless teenagers are interviewed in chapter two. Chapter three documents the link between crime and homelessness through interviews with homeless crime victims. In chapter four, people who became homeless because of economic factors, such as the loss of a job or of health insurance, are interviewed. Addicts are interviewed in chapter five, and chapter six covers those who have been homeless for some time. In chapter seven, the author turns to those who have found permanent housing after being homeless.

Excerpt

At least 600,000 Americans are homeless on any given night. They sleep in shelters, cars, abandoned buildings, tents, parks, under bridges, in doorways, cardboard boxes or just out in the open with nothing but a jacket or discarded newspaper to cover them. Some manage to get off the streets quickly, but they are replaced by others who have lost their housing; between 1.3 million and 2 million people experience homelessness in the course of a year. A still larger number of people, perhaps as many as 3 million, live on the edge of homelessness. This group includes many who were once homeless and now live in substandard housing as well as others who live in precarious economic circumstances; many of them live "doubled up" with friends or relatives.

Homelessness is a direct result of poverty. Tens of millions of Americans live below the poverty line, and members of this group are more likely than others to lose their housing. Additionally, many middle-class people become homeless after one or more family members loses a job.

The economic recessions of the 1980s and 1990s have pushed millions of people into the streets. At the same time, the "safety net" that once helped people who were faced with a financial crisis has been torn by relentless cuts in housing and social welfare programs. Additionally, many government programs designed to help low-income people have failed to keep pace with inflation. These programs are no longer sufficient to deter hunger or homelessness. For example, a record 23.6 million Americans received food stamps in August of 1991, yet many food stamp recipients report that it is impossible to feed their families for an entire month on . . .

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