and their personal networks.
In response to prevailing economic, social, and political conditions, doubled-up
homeless families were forced to develop alternative domestic structures and modes
of functioning that they could not sustain permanently. Furthermore, doubled-up
families were unable to maintain the other stable groupings and relationships required to ensure their continued participation in mainstream American life. Also
because of the city's faulty administration of social services and the emergency
shelter system, families who request emergency shelter are not placed in their
former communities where they could maintain their previous ties as required by
law. As a result, families who lack stable housing of their own are unable to sustain
the social relationships and groupings on which their participation in mainstream
American life would have to be based.
The recommendations that flow from this study are based in part on the social
theory of vertical linkages in complex societies between forces operating both in
the larger society and in local events. For example, federal policy and actions, or
non-actions, related to the minimum wage and to public assistance and subsidized
housing programs influence the behavior of homeless and doubled-up families in New York City. The absence of federal support for low-income housing and inadequate federal oversight of the administration of social programs can strongly
affect the conduct of those programs and the personal decisions of impoverished
families at state and city levels.
The Action Research Project on Hunger, Homelessness, and Family Health is supported by the Foundation for Child Development, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, J.P. Morgan & Co., Incorporated, the New York Community Trust, the Olive Bridge Fund,
and the 1990 Josephine Shaw Lowell Award of the Community Service Society.
The cultural materialist approach distinguishes between mental and behavioral events
and usually involves two kinds of methods: one capturing the perspective of the informant,
the other that of the observer. In the first, or "emic," approach, the observer uses logical
concepts and distinctions that are meaningful and appropriate to the informants; in the
second, "etic," approach, the observer uses concepts and distinctions suited to the community of scientific observers ( Dehavenon 1995; Harris 1983; Lett 1990).
The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan are the boroughs of New York City with the
highest rates of unemployment, poverty, and family homelessness.
In 1991 I testified as expert witness in two cases brought on behalf of homeless
families by the Legal Aid Society in the Supreme Court of New York State. First, in Jiggetts
v. Perales, findings from my research were introduced in support of an increase in the public
assistance shelter allowance. As of March 1996, the court's subsequent favorable ruling had
enabled 30,000 families to remain in apartments from which they would have otherwise been
evicted for nonpayment of rents above the allowance. In the second case, McCain v. Koch,
other findings from the study were credited with having contributed substantially to the
same court's ruling New York City in contempt of court in 1992 and 1996--when the