Teresa Gowan talks homelessness and recycling in San Francisco
Teresa Gowan is a small English woman who spent over a thousand hours on the streets of San Francisco with homeless people while earning her PhD in Sociology at UC Berkeley. Her thesis, revisited and and reworked, morphed into the now well known ethnographic book, Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders: homeless in San Francisco. This engaging and compassionate manuscript, part story-part study, introduces a substantial number of poverty stricken and homeless men living hand-to-mouth in the pretty city by the Bay. From panhandlers to recyclers, Gowan brilliantly transposes the multitude of experiences she encounters into a structure of sin-talk, system-talk, and sick-talk, all of which illuminate how the homeless person is deconstructed into a social problem rather than a complex human being. Now an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Gowan continues her research on these pressing social problems in our cities’ urban structure. Last year, upon completion of her book, she gave a talk on homelessness and recycling at Booksmith on Haight Street as part of their Community Forums on homelessness in San Francisco.