The 1990 Decennial Census and Patterns of Homelessness in a Small New England City
To protect themselves and ensure a certain amount of privacy and freedom of action, homeless single adults and families with children observe rules different from those of mainstream society. The creativity of homeless individuals in Glasser's small New England city is apparent, especially in their manipulations of surprisingly wide-ranging social networks. Glasser recommends increases in rent supplements and transitional housing, enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, and improvement in methods for enumerating different types of homeless and precariously housed individuals and families. (Pseudonyms are used for all proper names in her study.)
I first noticed Brian in October walking down the highway coming into town each morning, carrying plastic bags. I approached him in the soup kitchen by asking him if he had a place to stay. He is a good-looking man who appears to be about forty, but later I learned he is really sixty years old. He seemed to have shaved. In a later conversation, I found out that he had been using the Legal Services bathroom to wash up, but they had told him not to. He was pacing and angry as he said, "I am organizing for the 4-H club--it is very important for youth to know about 4-H--to know about sheep." I said something about the shelter. He asked me, "Can you guarantee that it will be clean for the next ten years? For the next ten days?"
Two days later, Brian approached me in the soup kitchen. He said that he wanted a gift of a room a few blocks from the soup kitchen. He said again that he wanted a shower. I asked him if he got a check somewhere. He asked loudly if I was an Americanist or a Nationalist. I said I was born in the USA. He yelled that he didn't need money, just a room.
After this encounter, Brian was not around town for several months. In February I again saw him in the soup kitchen. He shook my hand and seemed to remember me.