Real Change News: The long-term campaign to vilify the homeless

By Mike Wold
Real Change News

Author and sociology professor Teresa Gowan was recently in town promoting her book “Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders: Homeless in San Francisco” [RC, “Life on the streets of San Francisco,” Nov. 10, 2010]. Gowan’s approach differs from most sociological studies of homelessness in that, rather than presenting the issue from the perspective of academics or service providers, she presents the ways the homeless men she studied in San Francisco see their own lives.

She found some major differences between those who believed their problems originated in the system: those who believed that they were just “bad,” though in a cool, street-smart way, and those who accepted the prevalent idea that they were sick and needed to be cured. Ironically, the hardest workers and the ones she admired the most tended to be those who thought their problems were a result of the system. I chatted with Professor Gowan about her book in a near-empty café on Second Avenue in downtown Seattle.

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