Check Out
The Bestselling Books of All Time
See the List
The ReadDown

Books to Better Understand (and Solve) Homelessness in America

The modern form of homelessness in America, as we know it, began more than thirty years ago during the Ronald Reagan administration. The country had not seen such a magnitude of upheaval since the Great Depression. It continues to afflict Americans today, and while it is often attributed to clipped social safety nets, issues surrounding mental health, and financial instability, homelessness overwhelmingly stems from a lack of affordable housing.

The nationwide crisis is perceived to be a chronic and incurable social condition by too many people. It’s not. It’s a problem with a number of concrete solutions, but one should begin by dismissing certain myths surrounding homelessness.

Misperceptions only make it a greater challenge to tackle the problem. Faulty statistics that mask the true size of the homeless population also obstruct efforts to work toward effective change. Rather than dismiss the homeless as addicts or miscreants, society needs to take a clearer look at who is affected and why. When you accurately recognize at-risk populations, strategies to solve the issue rise to the surface. Identifying military veterans as a considerable percentage of American homeless has led to direct action that has provided housing and channels to guide people to better options.

Today, more young people are homeless than ever before. The San Francisco Examiner reports that nationwide in January 2016 there were over 35,000 unaccompanied homeless youth (aged 18-24). This population is largely “invisible” due to a sustained misperception surrounding homelessness. Yet, recognizing this specific population, urban planners may develop shelters that can provide for their needs, safely accommodating them so that they may transition to find long-term housing, education, and job training. In order to gain a more truthful foothold into the problem, these books provide a powerful cultural exploration of homelessness in America.
  1. 1
    Evicted Book Cover Picture
    Evicted Book Cover Picture

    Evicted

    by Matthew Desmond

    Published in 2016, Evicted has already become an American classic. Chronicling the experiences shared by eight families in Milwaukee, Matthew Desmond shows the ways in which every day Americans struggle to pay rent. Facing the reality that the majority of poor renters devote over half of their income to housing, Desmond exposes the desperate means by which these families struggle to avoid eviction while also eking out a life of dignity. While Desmond captures strong personal stories, Eviction is backed up by years of deliberate research and fieldwork. Offering solutions as well, Desmond drives home the fact that it’s almost impossible to combat other social problems without first addressing the issue of affordable housing.
    Evicted Book Cover Picture
    Evicted Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  2. 2
    Tell Them Who I Am Book Cover Picture
    Tell Them Who I Am Book Cover Picture

    Tell Them Who I Am

    by Elliot Liebow

    Through this searing study of women in homeless shelters, Elliott Leibow disabuses us of the myth that the homeless are generally lazy and disinterested in altering their condition. Tell Them Who I Am places the reader squarely in the shoes of the inhabitants of a Washington, D.C. homeless shelter for women. Walking the reader through a day in the life of a homeless person, hour by hour, Liebow presents the obstacles placed in front of women who ache to regain the dignity they once possessed.
    Tell Them Who I Am Book Cover Picture
    Tell Them Who I Am Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  3. 3
    Rachel and Her Children Book Cover Picture
    Rachel and Her Children Book Cover Picture

    Rachel and Her Children

    by Jonathan Kozol

    As one of America’s foremost education scholars, Jonathan Kozol (known for Death at an Early Age and Savage Inequalities) also recognizes the challenges that homelessness brings to bear on American families. This 1988 title remains sadly relevant almost thirty years later. Pulling from his months he spent interacting with homeless men, women, and children, Kozol paints a stark portrait of life on the streets. The immediacy of his writing brings an unflinching eye to the issue of homelessness as a nightmare that cannot be ignored.
    Rachel and Her Children Book Cover Picture
    Rachel and Her Children Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

  4. 4
    Girlbomb Book Cover Picture
    Girlbomb Book Cover Picture

    Girlbomb

    by Janice Erlbaum

    At fifteen, sick of her unbearable and increasingly dangerous home life, Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s Brooklyn apartment and didn’t look back. From her first frightening night at a shelter, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. As Janice slipped further into street life, she nevertheless attended high school, harbored crushes, and even played the lead in the spring musical. She also roamed the streets, clubs, bars, and parks of New York City with her two best girlfriends, on the prowl for hard drugs and boys on skateboards.  A wry, mesmerizing portrait of being underprivileged, underage, and underdressed in 1980s New York City, Girlbomb provides an unflinching look at street life, survival sex, female friendships, and first loves.
    Girlbomb Book Cover Picture
    Girlbomb Book Cover Picture

    Buy now from your favorite retailer:

Find other titles in

Related Lists:

Back to Top