Seasons Such As These: How Homelessness Took Shape in America

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Transaction Publishers, 2003 - 256 pages
Homelessness had become a social problem that was primarily not about solving the nation's housing crisis. The pressing question becomes: How (and why) did homelessness become the social problem in its own right, one that was only tangentially related to the problem of inappropriate or insufficient housing? Why, when people demanded that something be done about homelessness, did they get specific policies and unintended outcomes? Cynthia Bogard is not content with the shorthand answers that rested on bias and ideology, such as "conservative politics bred conservative policies" or "American individualism precludes government investment in housing." This did not explain homelessness sufficiently, especially given all the advocacy and research that had occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.

Examining these "claimsmaking activities," as constructionists call them, however, is a daunting task because the activities engaged in by people in the attempt to persuade others are fluid, subtle, and complicated as are the responses to these social actions. This raised a second set of issues that the author is concerned with: How can we adequately represent and sociologically examine this very complicated human activity of social problems construction? Who does the construction, and to what effect?

Bogard's answer to these questions is a book that can be read in two ways and on multiple levels. For those who are interested in the story of the career of homelessness as a social problem in America's two "national" cities, the book should be read from the beginning through the conclusion as a straight narrative. The technical matter in the appendix can be ignored. But for those readers with an interest in social problems constructionism, however, this book is meant as a "cook-book" of sorts. Each chapter emphasizes a feature of constructionism, such as an important group of claims makers or an important aspect of the claims making process.

The work highlights a major feature in advanced societies: the intersection of interests and claims. Social constructions may be real, but they are comprised of no less real social interests. The work marks a real departure and advance over the original formulations of construction theory in social research.

Cynthia J. Bogard is associate professor of sociology at Hofstra University.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Activists and the Emergence of Homelessness as
9
Government Officials as Claimsmakers
29
The Role of the Media in Constructing Homelessness
47
The Interactions of Claimsmakers and Issues
69
How Many Homeless? Experts Advocates and
97
Building the Moral Momentum for Federal Action
125
The Outcomes
149
The Unintended Consequences
195
Postscript
205
References
219
Index
249
Copyright

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Page vi - Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you From seasons such as these ? O, I have ta'en Too little care of this ! Take physic, pomp ; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst shake the superflux to them, And show the heavens more just.

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