Research for What? Thirty Years of Homelessness Inquiry...and Counting


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This presentation provides critical insight on the homelessness.

Kim Hopper
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Research for What? Thirty Years of Homelessness Inquiry...and Counting

  1. 1. Research for What? Thirty Years of Homelessness Inquiry . . . and Counting Kim Hopper Wellesley Institute Mental Health Commission of Canada Toronto, December 4, 2008 1
  2. 2. A tribute to two heroes . . .  Elliot Liebow (Tell Them Who I Am, 1993) (Tell Am,  6 closely documented chapters on the daily grind – the active work – of homelessness (an ethnography) plus 12 pages of recommendations (policy implications)  Problem: part 1 has nothing to do with part 2  [compare Luhrmann, Amer. J. Psych., Jan. 08] Psych.,  Michael Marmot (Eugene Litwak Lecture, 2007) (Eugene Lecture,  Monday through Wednesday: More research needed  Thursday through Saturday: We know enough; action needed For the record: 12/04/08 = a Thursday. 2
  3. 3. Research for what?  Robert Lynd’s Stafford Lectures at Princeton, published in 1939* as Knowledge for What?  A Depression-era tour of the troubled heart of Depression- American culture – a call for an engaged professoriat  Not uniformly well received – and a certain irony in the more vehement objections to his challenge  Lynd’s functionalism and the irrelevance of American academic life * At the end of “a low dishonest decade” – more parallels to our own 3
  4. 4. About that engaged professoriat – not always/inevitably a good thing  As some of you recall – 1980s and 1990s a good deal of commentary space taken up by warring camps of “experts” (some of whom actually were, sort of) on causes and solutions to homelessness  Not over yet:  “Look at who the homeless really are. The various subgroups of them overlap, so that separating them into categories yields only approximations. But the overall picture is clear. . . .What you see if you to look, is craziness, drunkenness, dope and danger. Far from being the index to the nation’s turpitude, the homeless are an encyclopedia of social pathology and mental disorder.”  (Magnet 2000: 83) 4
  5. 5. 5
  6. 6. Fundamental (cultural?) puzzle  How did it happen that Jackson (no dummy) could have been so wrong, so soon?  “The housing industry trades on the knowledge that no Western country can politically afford to permit its citizens to sleep in the streets.” Anthony Jackson, A Place Called Home, 1976 6
  7. 7. Huge changes – time and culture  Then . . . when all this investigative labor began (circa 1979):  Brittany  “Depends”  Hannah, Montana  Beatles  NY Cares collected 8,000 coats on its winter drive  Phil Mangano (Interagency Council on Homelessness)  More changes 7
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  9. 9. Pictured is Ray Ware, Michael Leon Gossett and Phil Mangano at the Solid Rock Records offices during the mid 1970s. 9
  10. 10. 10
  11. 11. Changes in 30 years – New York City  Funding  Federal: $14 billion (Mangano) vs. $50 million (FEMA, ’83)  Shelter explosion (coming)  Affordable housing – continues to grow scarcer,* even with substantial development beginning 1980s**  Informal shelter – doubling up (is anybody looking?)  From “optical assault” (Giuliani) to evidence driven policy (Bloomberg) – mixed results to date  Litigation and advocacy  The Jarndyce v. Jarndyce of shelter litigation plods on (Callahan) * See Bach & Waters (CSS, 2006) ** May only replace what’s lost 11
  12. 12. “Single” adult shelter census Source: New York City Dept. Homeless Services 12
  13. 13. Mapped against percentage black population Source: Naa Oyo Kwate, 2007 13
  14. 14. Mapped against average income 14
  15. 15. “Cultural metabolism” – domesticating homelessness as a fact of public life  Baumohl’s observation  A stint in shelter system = de rigueur practicum in social work education  Unremarked in last 3 presidential elections  As a (troublesome?) fact of childhood?  What do parents tell kids? (a small experiment: try at home)  Stock-in- Stock-in-trade of journalists, novelists, playwrights, documentary and other film-makers film-  Capitalism unchained . . . market niche (Marx gone mad) 15
  16. 16. Films 16
  17. 17. Mc Cann’s Acknowledgments: “Finally, my thanks to the men and women of the tunnels of New York who allowed me into their lives and their homes, especially Bernard . . .” 17
  18. 18. 1987: Extensive excerpts from what would be come Jonathan Kozol’s best-selling book, Rachel’s Children (1988) – daily life in the Martinique Hotel July 1991: James Lardner, Local Correspondent on “Shantytown,” a settlement on a dusty hummock adjoining the Canal Street end of the Manhattan Bridge, called the Hill. The settlement is small, only about 20 people living in fifteen structures. It is the most permanent-looking of all the city's current shantytowns. In February 2006, The New Yorker published an article written by Malcolm Gladwell entitled "Million Dollar Murray." The article, working off the results of a study by Culhane (one that found 80 percent of homeless shelter residents to be in and out very quickly), and makes the case for concentrating on the 10% or so of those who are "chronically homeless" – people with myriad (and costly) problems . . 18
  19. 19. Method: Review of 2500 internal tobacco industry documents re homeless, mentally ill, homeless service and advocacy organizations, psychiatric institutions 19
  20. 20. “. . . in 1994, Philip Morris . . . distributed PROMO magazine, November 1998 7000 Merit cigarette brand labeled blankets to New York homeless shelters and homeless individuals.” ( Apollonio & Malone 2005) – but, an internal memo reports, “since we are not in control of the distribution of the items, we could possibly leave ourselves open to negative coverage . . .” 20
  21. 21. Research for what? Taking stock, 1991  We had learned:  Much about the historical specificity of contemporary homelessness  Something about what works in engaging homeless people, earning their trust, relocating in own housing  Fair amount about scale of present-day need present-  A little about dynamics of homelessness, larger survival strategies, entries and exits, circulation flows  Not much at all about what a solution adequate to the scale of documented need would look like 21
  22. 22. Unaddressed questions, circa 1991  Link to employment for single men (abeyance)  Opposition to shelter placement, queue jumping and general concerns about “need trumping”  Polarization of debate: deviance (impaired capacity) vs. structure (housing, labor, supports)  The object lesson of the spectacle of homelessness  The dilemma of shelter: de fault facility of last resort vs. emergent need (Stuart Rice [1923!] revisited)  Institutional contributors/circuits of temporary care  David Easton: the reflexive question – what about us? 22
  23. 23. Add 17+ years – stock of research capital  Some working categories  Original research that has made a difference  Research that has confirmed field practice  Research that was really important, but had no impact  Vanity research (ignored here*)  Methods  Unscientific survey  Very deep reflection and a scrupulously examined conscience  Engaged colloquy (this is where you come in)  Results (in a minute . . .) *available on request 23
  24. 24. Liebow revisited?  Burt (2001): What will it take to end homelessness?  So: housing, jobs, institutional neglect, discrimination – but not more research? 24
  25. 25. Two National Symposia (2nd by invitation only, sorry . . . but just posted ASPE/HUD)  October, 1998*  March 2007**  Estimating needs  Accountability  Special pops./youth  Chronic homelessness  Outreach/case mngmt  Families/youth/rural  Accountability and voice  History and context  Clinical/survival needs  Housing models  Shelters/transitional hsg  Incarceration  Systems integration  Systems change  Reconnect w/community  User integration/self-det. integration/self-  Prevention  Employment * Note: nothing addressing affordable ** Ditto? hsg? Not important? Or not research? 25
  26. 26. Two National Symposia (2nd by invitation only, sorry)  October, 1998*  March 2007**  Estimating needs  Accountability  Special pops./youth  Chronic homelessness  Outreach/case mngmt  Families/youth/rural  Accountability and voice  History and context  Clinical/survival needs  Housing models  Shelters/transitional hsg  Incarceration  Systems integration  Systems change  Reconnect w/community  User integration/self-det. integration/self-  Prevention  Employment * Note: nothing addressing affordable ** Ditto? hsg? Not important? Or not research? 26
  27. 27. My initial candidates (partial) Original/Impact Confirmatory Wishlist Shelter flow dynamics Art of outreach/haven Street encampment (Burt, Culhane, Caton, From early Baumohl, to clearance . . . Where do Lennon et al.) Barrow et al. to Rowe they go? Housing 1st – effective Deterrence: deflecting True prevalence, other- other- (Tsemberis); cost-effective cost- people elsewhere?  wise accommodated (Culhane); limited (Kertesz) Baumohl et al. (Link et al.). al.). Intensive s-t transitional s- Subsidized housing for What works when court case management families (Shinn, gets involved – Simon (Herman, Samuels) Weitzman) & Sabel “flexible” C.D. Supply- Supply-side – foster care; “art of our necessities Prevention using place- place- criminal justice, is strange” (Koegel, based targeted assistance? institutional circuit; Lovell, Desjarlais) Diversion programs? 27
  28. 28. What do we need to know? Some initial candidates  NYC homeless administration:  Empirically based ways of tagging people when they arrive at shelter that are – based on some aggregation of covariates – best predictors of how long they’ll stay (color coded beds?)  Marti Burt:  “Every available study indicates that giving homeless people housing, through [a variety of] mechanism[s], helps ensure that they will not be homeless any more. On the other hand, giving them a vast array of different services, absent housing . . . does not.” 28
  29. 29. Need to know (cont’d)  Litigator:  Now is no time for more research. We already know enough to act. Invest in practices that have been shown to work.  Sociologists:  Link between the Gulf War and homelessness  November ’93 NCH report on 1st Gulf War vets + homelessness  How European social welfare states prevent homelessness  Anthropologist:  How ordinary people reconciled to visible misery  Meaning of “crazy” to women on the street 29
  30. 30. Institutionalizing the makeshift . . . Crossroads, a new homeless shelter in East Oakland, was built “green” from the ground up, including solar panels on the roof. NYT, 1/28/08 30
  31. 31. Policing the streets  NYC  Church steps controversy – court ruling 2002  New encampments initiative,’ 06 – 68 housed  Los Angeles  “Here's what is passing for progress on solving Los Angeles' homeless problem: People won't be arrested for sleeping on the street between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. . . . That cheerless scenario will exist until the city creates 1,250 additional units of supportive housing, at which point the city will again be free to arrest people for the crime of sleeping on sidewalks. The central antidote to homelessness is not a police sweep or a shelter bed. It's housing . . .” (Mangano + Blasi, October 2007)  Miami 31
  32. 32. Enlisting the informal sector  A tacit confession of failure? Or a necessary adjustment to scarcity?  Examples (are we documenting this stuff?) (are stuff?)  PATH – discouraging family units from leaving makeshift residential arrangements if they can be made tolerable  “3/4 housing” The missing public debate on thresholds of adequacy – how “good enough” is established? 32
  33. 33. Cro w n He ig h ts , B ro o kly n : “. . . here, miles from what was not long ago the most notorious skid row in America . . . a new kind of Bowery makes its home. The building, an eight-unit residential property at 69 Kingston Avenue, has been converted into a rooming house for nearly 30 men. The tenants, many of them formerly homeless and recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, live in small rooms with space for a bed and little else. Some of the men are covered with bedbug bites, and some complain about the 11 p.m. curfew and not having a key to the front door. Still, the rent for most rooms is a merciful $215 a month, which many of the men can pay with government assistance checks. The building is neither a homeless shelter nor a certified adult care facility, and its use as a rooming house violates the city’s Housing Maintenance Code. Inspectors found in September 2005 that five apartments had been illegally converted to 18 bedrooms. The violations remain outstanding.” “The blessing is these guys ain’t homeless,” said Warren Carter, the manager at 69 Kingston Avenue. “But technically, yes, I guess this is illegal.” New York Times, 1/25/08) 33
  34. 34. The curious tale of Housing First . . .  “Choices” vs. TAU  Extending reach of psych rehab to the streets; experimental design; McKinney II; outreach + respite  permanent hsg.  Early results (mid-’90s): (mid-  Experimental group: > in housing, day program; < trouble meeting basic needs, < time on the street  Reception: “Access to housing resources, even specialty housing for homeless persons, proved very  Ho hum difficult to obtain. To gain access to needed housing for this street-dwelling population,  Response: we developed close relations with a supported apartment program and ultimately  Career change for Director were forced to initiate our own supported apartment program. Shern et al. AJPH 2000 34
  35. 35. Upshot . . . making the case what was a plea borne of conviction and commitment is now an argument bolstered by evidence and experience. Data diligently collected, rigorously analyzed, reputably published and avidly circulated, the case for Housing First is now so well-established that even a moron could make it . . . In fact, in the first term of the Bush administration, unexpected embrace – cornerstone of its “chronic homelessness” initiative – of what, in its shamelessly bleeding liberal heart, is a program founded on a principle (H.R.) that dare not speak its name in the hallowed corridors of that White House . . . Q.E.D.??? Stroke of pragmatic genius: Incompletely theorized agreement . . .(Sunstein) 35
  36. 36. Neoliberal State Psych Rehab. Public Health  reduce services  Revised Standard Ed.  therapeutic pragmatism  lower costs (!)  return to full social  feasibly build to scale  privatize functioning  empirically based  not- not-4-profit institution  “choose, get, keep”  “harm reduction”  market collaboration  nonjudgmental aid Preference for Housing First On grounds of:  economy/efficiency  consumer empowerment  lesser evil/respect/data Despite: Despite:  harm reduction policy  case mgmt. (paternalism)  coercion (money mgmt.) 36
  37. 37. The (other) historian’s view . . . “. . . the homeless have been an integral part of American civilization for well over two centuries [and] in many respects, the homeless of the postindustrial era are better understood as a variation on a very old theme than as a genuinely new phenomenon. The same is true of the public response to the reemergence of the homeless as a social issue. . . . Like the tramps of the industrial age, the homeless of the postmodern era are an embarrassing reminder that economic growth has not benefited all.” Kusmer 2002: vii, 244-247 So maybe Jackson -- “The housing industry trades on the knowledge that no Western country can politically afford to permit its citizens to sleep in the streets.” – just didn’t look hard or far back enough . . . 37
  38. 38. Positioning ourselves? Spreading gospel vs. practicing sociology of religion . . . "Generally, as you know, over the last 20 years we've been demoralized on this issue," he said. "The only reports we've had is, 'The numbers are going up.' In this country in the last five years we've moved from being demoralized that the issue is intractable to being re-moralized that our efforts are making a difference. There are visible and measurable, quantifiable changes in the streets, in the neighborhoods and in the lives of homeless people in many cities in the country." Phil Mangano, Los Angeles, October 2007 Telling the rest of the story, after the sun sets: “What tends to take place in the dark . . . is either application of force to ensure conformity to the values of those who possess the force; a vacuous tolerance that, engaging nothing changes nothing; or . . . where the force is unavailable and the tolerance unnecessary, a dribbling out to an ambiguous end.” Clifford Geertz, Tanner Lecture (1985) 38
  39. 39. Final caution . . . One worry: “When challenged, [researchers*] argue that the premise is justified, and rationalize the involvement, in part because they need to defend the practice in which they have been engaged.” (Luhrmann 1989: 317) * I note, but will not comment upon, that the original subject of this sentence was “witches.” 39