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History of Homelessness

PJ 5000-001
8:30 am 9:45 am TR
Corr Hall 103
Course Description
We will examine the diverse societal perceptions of homelessness and poverty, and how those perceptions have
shifted over time. We will also study changes in government policy and how policy has affected homeless people.
We will seek to understand the changing nature of homelessness. It is the intention of this course to provide a
framework for understanding the root causes of the expansion of homelessness in the U.S., and to convey a sense of
the experience of homelessness and its consequences. We will explore the current efforts to meet the immediate
needs of people experiencing homelessness and understand how we can advocate for long term change which can
prevent homelessness.
Learning Goals

To gain a greater understanding of how homelessness and societal reactions to it have changed over time.


To understand how homelessness is related to larger social and economic forces in U.S.


To gain an experience of and a "feel for" the situation of homeless people in order to have one's own
observations to compare to the rhetoric of public debate and to use as a basis for clarifying one's own
values and commitments..


To understand the history of services which have been developed to assist people who are homeless and to
begin to develop one's own analysis of what is needed


To develop skills in critical thinking about social issues and social policy, and to apply those skills to
questions related to homelessness.


To develop skills in thinking as a social scientist about social issues.

Required Readings
Kenneth Kusmer, Down and Out on the Road
Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

Responses to your assigned readings (50%).
You should send me your responses your assigned readings through WebCT each Sunday and Tuesday. (Due by
11:29 pm. Responses that are more than 1 minute late will receive half credit). Responses should be approximately

one double-spaced word document page in length. You should include 1. short summary of the readings 2.your
thoughts and analysis of the ideas in the readings, and 3. at least three questions that the readings elicit. Your
notes can be in paragraph or bullet point form.

Source Papers (20%):

Source Paper (20%):
You will have a 5-7 page paper due at the end of the semester. Your paper should include information learned from
the books and lectures, as well as the first-hand experience of working at The Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit
of Philadelphia. Your paper is worth 10% of your final grade.
Paper Topic Options:
Compare and contrast the experiences of poverty among selected individuals (two or three examples from
each book will suffice) described in each of your source books, as well as from the people you meet at SREHUP.
What are the critical factors which account for their poverty and homelessness? How different or similar are the
lives of the people portrayed in each book, and in SREHUP? Consider in your comparative analysis "structural"
versus "individual" factors which may help explain their poverties.
Examine the intersection of poverty and one of the following topics: race, housing, immigration, education,
healthcare, or wages. You must use either The New Jim Crow or Reign of Terror.
Examine possible solutions to the problem of poverty and homelessness. What are the pitfalls and/or merits
of each solution?
Midterm (10%):
Your midterm will consist of short essay questions about your readings.
Final (10%)
Your final will consist of short essay questions about your readings.
Writing Partnership (5)%:
For your source papers you will meet in two- or three-person teams to discuss, critique, and help revise each others
papers before turning the papers are due. This work may be done on e-mail. Each team member should read and
critique at least one complete draft of each paper. On the day that the assignments are due you must submit to me
some evidence of work with your partners -- comments on your first draft, or a printout of email correspondence.
You must allow time to actually incorporate your partner's suggestions; you cannot give your partner the paper the
day before it is due, and then turn in two virtually identical papers, one with a partner's comments.
The reason for the partnership plan is twofold. First, writing is a process of inquiry, an opportunity to develop ideas
and construct arguments. It pushes our thinking: every time we see something we have written we have to confront
whether we actually believe whats on the page or the screen. This process is inherently hard, and the partnership
provides extra help with it, both intellectual and emotional. Secondly, writing is a process of communication, not a
solipsistic exercise. Partnership provides you with an initial audience, a first reader, someone who can tell you
whether you are making sense.

Attendance and Participation (5%):

Your attendance is mandatory in class and on your scheduled shelter shifts. You are entitled to three excused
absences. You will drop one percentage point for every class that you miss after your three excused absences. Your
weekly shelter shifts are also mandatory. You will drop one percentage point for every shift that you miss. You will
also drop percentage points for sleeping, texting, or using your computer or phone while in class.
Grade Breakdown:
Student Partnership: 5%
Reading Assignments: 50%
Source Papers: 20%
Exams: 20%
Attendance and Participation: 5%

T Jan 13
TH Jan 15
T Jan 20

Topics and recommended readings

1st day of class
Explanation of class, SREHUP
Homeless Statistics, Definitions
Stages of Homelessness/ Middle Ages

TH Jan 22

The Birth of Modern Homelessness: Industrial Revolution

T Jan 27
TH Jan 29
T Feb 3
TH Feb 5

Ideas about Poverty: Thomas Malthus and the Myth of Overpopulation

Ideas about Poverty: Eugenics
Treatment of Poverty: Orphan Trains and Foster Care
Treatment of Poverty: Jacob Riis, The Jungle, muckraking, and
journalistic passing or slumming
Treatment of Poverty: White Industrial Savior Complex
Undercover Boss
The Corporation, Case Histories
Slavoj Zizek
Treatment of Poverty: Jane Adams and Service Learning
Race: The Power of an Illusion
Race: The Power of an Illusion
Race: The Power of an Illusion
Race: The Power of an Illusion
No Class: Fall Break

T Feb 10

TH Feb 12
T Feb 17
TH Feb 19
T Feb 24
TH Feb 26
T Mar 3
TH Mar 5
T Mar 10
TH Mar 12
T Mar 17
TH Mar 19
T Mar 24
TH Mar 26
T Mar 31
TH Apr 2
T Apr 7
TH Apr 9
T Apr 14

No Class: Fall Break

Framing the argument: Housing as a Right, and Cost of homelessness,
Ayn Rand vs. Karl Marx
Deinstitutionalization and Homelessness
Deinstitutionalization and Homelessness
Schools as Pipelines for prison and homelessness
War on Drugs
Urban Renewal
Easter: No Class
Change from industrial economy to service economy
Special Groups: Age, Veterans, Foster Care, HIV

TH Apr 16
T Apr 21
TH Apr 23
T Apr 28
TH Apr 30

No Class- Thanksgiving
No Class- Deemed a Friday