Sociologist Roschelle (SUNY, New Paltz) here examines the rise of familial homelessness in San Francisco during the 1990s. While this case study of the causes and consequences of homelessness focuses on one location, its social policy lessons can be applied nationwide. By illuminating the intersections of race, gender, and class, Roschelle unpacks economic restructuring and urban renewal efforts since the 1960s, in addition to 1990s welfare and public housing reform programs that deeply impacted employment and housing opportunities for low-income families. At the family level, she shows the devastation that domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse play in contributing to ever-increasing rates of homelessness among poor women of color. Her ethnographic portrayals of families also give readers a ground-level view outlining the violence (physical and emotional), stressors, and continued erosion of extended kinship networks associated with the effort to find and maintain safe and affordable housing. The consequences of familial homelessness feed into a cycle of cumulative disadvantage and erect barricades to stable housing. Through her detailed descriptions, the author provides powerful insight into the link between experiences of homelessness and broader structural factors that shape the lives of families.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.— ChoicePoignant and provocative. . . . Roschelle’s detailed analysis gives voice to otherwise hidden elements of the homeless experience, elements that reveal its complexity and help us to understand its sometimes chronic nature. As we listen to homeless mothers convey the rationality of their seemingly irrational choices, we come to understand the difficult decisions they sometimes must make for the sake of their families. . . . This book would fit nicely in course on social stratification or gender as it vividly portrays both the structural and interpersonal disempowerment that can render women homeless. At the same time, the accounts presented here remind us that the hopes and dreams of homeless families are not all that dissimilar from our own. — Gender & Society
In Struggling in the Land of Plenty, Roschelle effectively situates individual experiences of poverty among families affected by homelessness within larger systems. These include social, political, and historical structures and American ideals like work and self-sufficiency. While it is well known that homelessness has plagued the United States since the 1980s, Roschelle’s book provides an insightful narrative that helps us to better understand what was happening in 1990s in San Francisco and other urban centers across America. . . . we need more researchers shining a spotlight on the ways systems oppress and how this is felt in individuals’ daily lives.