Homelessness and Our Society: A Deeper Dive

Follow us throughout the fall for posts which highlight library resources and information that supports the Tiny: Streetwise Revisited exhibit at the Central Library and its community programming.

As you may know, the Central Library is currently presenting a thought-provoking and poignant exhibit, called Streetwise Revisited. We’ve put together some great resources that focus on the “heart” of the matter—the poignancy and sometimes despair of living without a home, the interaction of feeling and art, fiction and film treatments of homelessness, and more.  But what about the “head” aspect, of why homelessness exists in our society, why it is so persistent and pervasive, and where we can go in addressing it?

If you want to do a deeper dive into these questions, take a look at these three examples to spur thinking and discussion in these works!

at-home-on-the-streetIn At Home on the Street: People, Poverty, and A Hidden Culture of Homelessness, you’ll get a better idea of how an individual’s struggle to live with homelessness day to day does not match the policies created to address the problem—in fact, the policies and their enforcement often alienate the individuals further.

Author Jonathan Kozol, in Rachel and Her Children:
Homeless Families in America
, writes what School Library Journal called a “horrifying, staggering book about the homeless in this country arachel-and-her-childrens specifically exemplified by those who are housed in the Martinique Hotel in New York.”  Kozol spent many hours with the women and children he interviewed, eliciting life stories and then placing them in the context of frustratingly misdirected social policies.  But, don’t let the darkness of this description scare you away—while there is tragedy here, there is also triumph and hope in the people who survive the system.

securing-the-spectacular-cityIt’s hard not to wonder how homelessness persists and even increases in places and societies of great wealth.  In Securing the Spectacular City: The Politics of Revitalization and Homelessness in Downtown Seattle we see this phenomenon take shape in Seattle in the 1980s and 1990s.  From a down-to-earth industrial city, Seattle is transformed into being spectacular, but this can only happen by advancing some sets of interests at the expense of others.  We see those results today.

And, for some overlap, you might want to hone in on this list called Homelessness
Written, Voiced and Seen
.   It includes an amazing new memoir, Catching Homelessness: A Nurse’s Story of Falling Through the Safety Net, written by local author Josephine catching-homelessnessEnsign, and selected to be the University of Washington’s Health Sciences Common Book for the coming year.  As she was working to help the homeless population, an endeavor that changed her deeply, Ensign herself became homeless, which completely defined her approach to her patients, the health care system, and her own life.

Another possibility is to connect with local organizations that work on these issues every day.  The Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness is a great place to start; their mission is to “advance reasonable solutions and solid program models; to protect and strengthen the civil rights and dignity of people who are homeless and poor; and to accomplish legislative victories that promote housing, human services, and the public good at the local, state and federal levels.”  They work with a wide range of coalition members, many of which provide direct services, on these goals.

Whether you read, listen to, or watch some of the items mentioned (fiction and non), connect with local organizations, or engage with thinking about homelessness in some other way, we really hope you can pay a visit to Streetwise Revisited—it will be worth the journey!

The roots of homelessness are complex, interwoven and deep, and the solutions must be the same. Here are print and online resources that illuminate this multifaceted phenomenon. This list was created by a librarian at The Seattle Public Library for the “Streetwise Revisited: A 30-year Journey” exhibit, September 15th through November 3rd, 2016 at the Central Library: Streetwise Revisited: Political and Social Aspects of Homelessness

~posted by Ann G.

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