Cover image for Beside the golden door : policy, politics, and the homeless
Beside the golden door : policy, politics, and the homeless
Wright, James D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Aldine de Gruyter, [1998]

Physical Description:
xix, 238 pages ; 24 cm.
The homeless : what are the issues? what are the controversies? -- Counting the homeless -- Why the homeless can't be counted -- Poverty, housing, and homelessness -- Families and family estrangement -- Mental illness and substance abuse -- Why alcohol and drug treatment is not the solution -- Health and health status -- Outside American cities : rural and European homelessness -- Street children in North and Latin America -- Homelessness in the twenty-first century.
Reading Level:
1420 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV4505 .W76 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



James Wright's Address Unknown: The Homeless in Americafocused on the problem of homelessness during the mid-to-late 1980s, making an important contribution to the then-emerging public debate of a rapidly growing and increasingly visible social problem. Beside the Golden Doorupdates the story and our knowledge of homelessness through the middle 1990s, advancing the thesis that an emphasis on factors such as mental illness or substance abuse is descriptively accurate but fails as a causal account of the rise of homelessness as a social problem. The authors reject efforts to cast the issue in "either-or" terms, as social structure versus individual deficiencies, arguing that poverty and housing trends have created a situation where some people are destined to be homeless, but personal factors such as mental illness or substance abuse are critical in predicting who those people turn out to be. Beside the Golden Doordetails numerous dimensions of the homelessness issue: the rise in poverty; the decline of low-income housing; conceptual, measurement, and practical problems of counting the homeless and the Census Bureau's ill-fated 1990 effort to do so; the role of familial estrangement, mental illness, and substance abuse; and health status and behaviors. It concludes with discussions and comparisons of rural versus urban homelessness, street children in North and Latin America, and homelessness in post-industrial societies. The material in Beside the Golden Doorwill be accessible to undergraduate students and interested lay readers as well as specialists. "Both the content and style of this book make an excellent instructive read for students, practitioners, and scholars, alike."--Social ForcesJames D. Wrightis Charles and Leo Favrot Professor of Human Relations, Department of Sociology, Tulane University and author of over thirteen books including Address Unknownand Crime and Violence in America. Beth A. Rubinis associate professor, Department of Sociology, Tulane University. She is the author of Shifts in the Social Contract: Understanding Change in American Society. Joel A. Devineis professor, Department of Sociology, Tulane University, and coauthor of The Greatest of Evils: Urban Poverty and the American Underclass.

Author Notes

James D. Wright is Favrot Professor of Human Relations, Department of Sociology, Tulane University
Beth A. Rubin is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Tulane University
Joel A. Devine is Professor, Department of Sociology, Tulane University

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Wright et al. have skillfully assembled a competent and readable introduction to the issue of homelessness in the US. Their firsthand involvement with various projects such as the New Orleans Homeless Substance Abusers Program, Health Care for the Homeless, and efforts during the 1990 census to count the homeless will also provide undergraduates with valuable examples of linkages between sociological theory and practice, and demonstrate how both are relevant to the creation of public policy. At one level the book is a sustained attack against the position of Alice Baum and Donald Burnes (A Nation in Denial, CH, Nov'93), who, according to the authors, argue that homelessness is explained by the personal deficiencies (e.g., use of alcohol and/or drugs, mental illness) of the homeless. In contrast, they identify poverty and policy decisions leading to the loss of low-income housing as creating a social context within which "some people are destined to be homeless." Despite the fact that the work is dated (based on materials written between 1989 and the middle 1990s), it represents a solid background resource. Brief discussions of homelessness in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Europe add a valuable, if somewhat arbitrarily selected, international dimension. General readers; upper-division undergraduates. M. A. Olshan; Alfred University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
1 The Homeless: What Are the Issues? What Are the Controversies?p. 1
Theories about Homelessnessp. 7
Who Are the Homeless? Social and Demographic Characteristicsp. 14
How Many Homeless?p. 19
Is Homelessness a New Problem?p. 21
Is Homelessness a Growing Problem?p. 23
Is Homelessness a Mental Health or Substance Abuse Problem?p. 24
Do People "Choose to Be Homeless?p. 26
The Political Economy of Homelessness: Poverty and Housingp. 28
2 Counting the Homelessp. 31
Counting the Homeless in Chicago: A Cautionary Talep. 32
How Many Homeless?p. 37
The 1990 Censusp. 38
The S-Night Experimentsp. 40
S-Night Results: An Overviewp. 41
S-Night in New Orleansp. 43
The Shelter Count in New Orleansp. 44
The Street Count in New Orleansp. 47
3 Why the Homeless Can't Be Countedp. 53
The Uncounted Homelessp. 54
Housing Dynamics and the "Uncountable" Homelessp. 55
Conclusionsp. 62
4 Poverty, Housing, and Homelessnessp. 65
The Urban Poverty Situationp. 67
Low-Income Housingp. 79
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Programsp. 79
Federal Housing Policyp. 81
If Not Housing, What?p. 82
Skid Rowp. 85
Poverty and Low-Income Housing: The Legacy of the 1980'sp. 86
Final Thoughts on Povery and Housingp. 91
5 Families and Family Estrangementp. 93
Homeless Familiesp. 93
Family Backgrounds and Familial Estrangementp. 98
6 Mental Illness and Substance Abusep. 105
Mental Illnessp. 105
Substance Abusep. 110
The New Orleans Homeless Substance Abusers Program (NOHSAP)p. 112
Characteristics of NOHSAP Clientsp. 112
Educationp. 113
Employmentp. 115
Incomep. 116
Substance Abuse and Housing Outcomesp. 123
Conclusionsp. 124
7 Why Alcohol and Drug Treatment Is Not the Solutionp. 127
Program Designp. 128
Treatment Issuesp. 129
Evaluation Designp. 130
Randomizationp. 132
Attritionp. 134
Process Evaluationp. 137
Outcome Evaluationp. 140
Conclusionp. 142
8 Health and Health Statusp. 147
Introductionp. 147
Prior Researchp. 149
Research Design and Preceduresp. 150
Poor Health as a Cause of Homelessnessp. 152
Homelessness as a Cause of Poor Healthp. 154
Homelessness as a Complicating Factor in the Delivery of Health Carep. 168
Health, Health Policy, and the Homelessp. 171
Conclusionsp. 174
9 Outside American Cities: Rural and European Homelessnessp. 177
Rural Povertyp. 178
Rural Homelesnessp. 182
Homelessness in Europep. 184
On Definitions and Numbersp. 185
Characteristics of the European Homelessp. 187
Causes of Homelesnessp. 189
Social Policyp. 190
Conclusionsp. 193
10 Street Children in North and Latin Americap. 195
The Honduran Contextp. 196
Proyecto Alternativosp. 198
Children in and of the Streets of Tegucigalpap. 200
Poverty, Homelessness, and Child Health in the United Statesp. 205
Conclusionp. 207
11 Homelessness in the Twenty-First Centuryp. 209
Referencesp. 217
Indexp. 233