Thinking About the Homeless

Thinking About the Homeless

They seemed at first like an apt symbol: a tragic embodiment of all that needed fixing in America. Dirt poor, out of work, without a safety net, the pitiful army of the “homeless” pricked the country’s conscience. Like blacks in the sixties and Okies before that, the homeless reminded us of the still yawning gap between our lives and our ideals. This uncomfortable symbolism had a special power in the self-indulgent eighties. Indeed, it seemed to many, the misery of homelessness was the other side of the eighties: the inevitable underside of heartless, unregulated Reaganism. New York City advocate for the homeless Robert Hayes stated the argument: “The homeless are indeed the most egregious symbol of a cruel economy, an unresponsive government, a festering value system.”

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels