YUGIOH Children of Prometheus 2 – Duel 21: Quiet Moves

DAY 5 : 5:38 PM : LUXOR

Our team led a quiet morning. They went to the marketplace to buy some food for they ran out of rations and needed to restock and brought back bread, eggs, and fava beans, and garlic to their small hut. Maya and Yukio wanted to play a couple so they created a makeshift stove outside, lighting a fire over a borrowed pan. The couple squabbled with each other as all couples do. Maya berated Yukio for how could a man whose parents owned a restaurant fail to cook? Yukio fired back, calling Maya “Kyle’s mom” and telling her she didn’t need to wear the pants in every relationship!

Yukio sang in a very fast-paced, breathless voice, “Maya’s a bitch she’s a big fat bitch, she’s the biggest bitch in the whole wide world she’s a stupid bitch if there ever was a bitch, she’s a bitch to all the boys and girls! On Monday she’s a bitch, on Tuesday she’s a bitch, on Wensday though Saturday she’s a bitch, then on Sunday just to be different she’s a super King Kamehameha beeyotch!” Sophia danced and clapped her hands without a second thought. She knew the lyrics all too well.

“Shut you’re fucking mouth, Yukio!” Maya shouted. She pretended to be angry but could barely suppress her laughter and tackled Yukio head on, plummeting them both to the sandy ground. She lowered her voice to that of a gruff, American black man, barking, “Where you think you goin’, Anna May! I’m the Ike Turner in this relationship!” Yukio kept shouting, “You shall not silence me!” He muffled under Maya’s hands, trying to wriggle away from her grip. “I really mean it! Maya, she’s a big, fat, fucking bitch! A big ol’ fat fuckin’ bitch! ARRGH!” And he ended his song.

Sophia would never dare let such a chance pass her buy. She filmed the entire scene on a video camera for posterity. Let every future duelist who worships these two heroes for their skills and deeds know what they’re like in the flesh. By the time the two heroes stopped trying to kill each other their slapdash dish burned black but they had to eat it. The beide hamine and ful medames they tried to cook became black gruel instead but everyone ate without complaint because they were so hungry. Maya and Yukio vowed never to cook anything again. Next time they would buy something already made, even if they went to a nearby city, or so they swore. Sophia knew they lied.

Maya and Yukio did tell each other how awful they smelled. How could they not know after trying to kill each other a moment before? So everyone took a shower, which they didn’t have in a long time. The water, heated by the desert, was barely cold but it still felt like an icy, crystal paradise. It was a rather uneventful morning.

Maya now set herself to work. She opened the team’s laptop, dumped all her cards out of her back, spread them out, searched for Rex Raptor’s records on the Dueling Network, used Millennium Key Card to unlock the full recipe for every deck Rex ever used throughout the entire tournament; she did everything she could to learn her opponent’s tricks and stratagems to outmaneuver him in their coming duel.

Maya held a thought that gnawed her from inside her head for a very long time. She was shackled somehow. Her dueling, no, her everything, was not as good as it could be, her full potential still unfulfilled. She suspected an upsetting fact, that she herself kept her chains on her wrists and ankles steadfast. And now, more than ever, she wanted to break them. Her approach was nothing knew. Even when she was a child she always strove to grow stronger, clear all challenges, and break past limitations. The greater the challenge the happier she felt, especially if it meant snubbing the nose of a rich white kid or corporate stooge. She still fondly savored her last duel with Matthew when she completely scorned his pride. Once, after Maya defended her National Champion title, Maria spoke how she dueled without grace or humility, as if she was always annoyed by the game’s limitations.

And Maria was right. Limitations always annoyed Maya. Once again she struck a wall and once again she wanted to break it down. But how? That was a puzzle she couldn’t solve. Perhaps she needed to figure herself out and solve herself to do it. It would be a hard task indeed, maybe even harder than Yugi solving the Millennium Puzzle. She took a first step, something she always did to break a deadlock when she was in one. She changed her deck so she had more monsters with different Levels, expanding her Extra Deck options, and changed her Extra Deck accordingly. She wanted her deck to be faster, to get more monsters to her hand even faster. There were some traps she wanted to try out too. As she said to Yukio just yesterday, every other boss monster can’t be destroyed by card effects. She needed to work around it.

She heard a singing voice, seeming to come from nowhere, such a sweet yet sad enchanting voice; a tender alto more full than the viola! Who was this muse? Where was she? Maya and Yukio found Sophia singing outside under the shade of a palm tree to pass the time. She was in her own universe, somewhere in the lonely Russian winter, oblivious to the sweltering Egyptian heat or the effect her singing had around her. Maya and Yukio slowly crept up to her as to not disturb her, patiently waiting for the fallen angel to end her serenade.

When Sophia did, Maya embraced her, kissing her in the cheeks. “Why didn’t you tell us anything about your talent? We are musicians too!” Sophia’s cheeks blushed red against her pale white face. No one could tell if she was shy or sunburnt, or both.

By sunset the team wandered back to the marketplace, for trinkets and souvenirs. Villagers harassed them as always, “Only five dollars! Real alabaster relic! No hassle! No hassle!” And when they left the villagers insisted, “Three dollars! No hassle! No hassle! Americans! Mr. Washington! Mrs. Washington! Only three dollars!” This prompted Yukio to say, “Three dollars? Who does he think we are, the Kardassians?” And Maya remarked, “He’s a good conman. If he moved to America he’d make millions.” One of the villagers proudly stated to Sophia, “If you marry me I’ll give you ten thousand camels!” Maya dragged Sophia away, one of the rare times she had good sense.

The team explored further, even getting a boat across the Nile with a few tourists. A village on the other shore greeted them with open arms. Our protagonists sat on rugs and drank coffee under a wooden canopy, visited the insides of small brick houses layered with white plaster, admiring the tapestries with complex designs, and even went out to the small plots of farmland, which meant petting a few goats. Of course Sophia took pictures and videos of the whole thing.

Maya sat by the Nile’s shore, gazing at the sun as it descended behind the Valley of the Kings and into the underworld. She held the card Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal and thought of Sophia. She asked a villager what he thought when he saw the setting sun but he merely gestures. He probably didn’t understand. If she and her teammates dueled well they would be at the tournament finals very soon. Her dueling was decent but if she wanted to win she would need to take a step further. She needed to not hit a high target but hit a target that no one could see. And this was more than about winning some tournament. Dueling was one of her talents, one of her intelligences, but all her talents and intelligences were linked together. Yukio and Sophia called on her to take the boat back to the Valley. As she was about to leave, the same villager came to her and said, “I think of being forever young.” Maya looked at the Sun, the Beatrice card, and thought of Sophia. Maybe this was the answer.

Dusk became darkness. The dueling grounds opened again to blazing torches, loud music, and dancing villagers. Maya saw her opponent, Rex Raptor, across the darkness. They shook hands and took their places opposite each other in dueling pit.

Mathias, who made himself the leader and referee of the dueling grounds announced, “MAYA BOSCH VERSUS REX RAPTOR    ! DINO VERSUS DINO! LET’S GET READY FOR SOME JURASSICE RUMBLE!”

Maya: 8000 || Rex: 8000

MAYA’S TURN: “I activate Terraforming to search a Field Spell, and I activate it: Seventh Heaven!” Before anyone could know it, a gust of wind from the seventh region of the air lifts them from the dark, shallow sand pit of the dueling grounds to the highest clouds, a place so high the skyline was red and outer space could almost be seen. “And I use its effect. Once per turn, I can banish one WIND monster from my Deck, and I choose Mountain Pterra. I set a monster and a card facedown. You’re move.”

Rex’s TURN: Now that was a setup Rex didn’t see before. Anyway, it’s his turn and he has the perfect combo to seal every play she could make. Now he just needs to set it up. “I activate Prohibition and the card I call is ‘Inferno Reckless Summon.’” Maya feels her back tingle in mild shock. Not bad. Does he have more? Rex seems to have read her thoughts for he carries on, “And there’s much more! I activate Pendulum Call! This card let’s me –”

“I activate Macro Cosmos!” Maya cuts him off. “Now you’ll have to banish the card you discard if you want your two dragon magicians.”

Rex grunts as he does so. “That won’t stop me one bit. I activate Dragonpulse Magician and Dragonpit Magician in my Pendulum Zones.” Two neon columns of light, one blue and one red, flank Rex’s field, a magician soaring high above each column. “Go! Pendulum Summon two Dinomist Rex, Dinomist Stegosaur, Dinomist Plesios!” Four great dinosaurs made from steel and hydraulic pistons not from flesh and blood march by Rex’s Side: two T. Rexes, a stegosaurus, and a plesiosaurus.

“Go, Xyz Summon! I overlay Spinos and Rex to make Cyber Dragon Nova and overlay it to make Cyber Dragon Infinity!” The Dinomists merg into a wormhole to create a cybernetic serpent plated in black steel, which then collapses into the wormhole to create a larger serpent of black steel. “I overlay Stegosaur and Plesios to make Bahamut Shark.” His other Dinomists fuse in space-time to make a powerful blue beast with wide wings, more a water dragon than a shark. “And I use its effect to summon Nightmare Shark right from my Extra Deck and overlay it to make Full Armored – Black Ray Lancer.” A large shark with fins so huge they look more like wings appears only to replace itself with a black armored warrior of the sea, armed with a mighty trident.

“That’s a pretty big combo.” Sophia remarks, to which Yukio nods, adding, “And if Rex is as good as Weevil, he has way more where that came from.”

“Black Ray Lancer, attack Maya’s facedown!” Rex commands, and his undersea warrior spears the facedown card, impaling a fiery D.D. Velociraptor in the heart. “And I use my Lancer’s effect. Say goodbye to Seventh Heaven.” And his Lancer smites Maya’s card with his spear, returning both duelists to the dark desert.

“I activate D.D. Velociraptor.” Maya begins, her monster opening a dimensional portal behind her, but she knows it’s pointless.

“I use Cyber Dragon Infinity to negate its effect.” One orb, one Xyz Material, disappears, the black serpent spreads its wings, glowing a bright orange, and Maya’s portal is sealed. “Cyber Dragon Infinity, direct attack!” And his machine snake strikes Maya with a ball of plasma. (Maya LP 8000 à 5700)

Maya bears the assault with no hardship. She faced much worse, but she knows Rex has more in store. Prohibition, Cyber Dragon Infinity, Black Ray Lancer: seeing these cards Maya knows Rex is building a lock combo just to beat her. What she just observed is the tip of the iceberg, or so she hopes. She doesn’t want Rex to waste her time. Weevil jumps up and down, punching his fists in the air, happy as a little grasshopper. “Yes! Bring out your dino-might, Rex! Get back our Item Card!”

Rex declares, “You’re not the only clever antimeta duelist out there. I do my homework too. I researched all of your duels and made the perfect combo to stop all your strategies.”

“Perfect, huh. Now I’m skeptical.” Maya rebukes. “A bold claim from one of the Two Stooges.”

Rex insists, “I mean it. Once my combo is complete you won’t be able to do a single trick against me. I’ll cancel every wily stratagem you have hidden in your deck. I set one card and end my turn. No amount of cunning or foresight will get you out of this hole.”

“That’s what she said.” Yukio, Mathias, Maximus, and Ivy say in unison, chuckling at each other over the happy accident. Sophia covers her face with her hand, embarrassed her older peers are such manchildren.


YUGIOH Children of Prometheus – Created Cards (Duels 19 & 20)


1 Tuner + 2 or more Insect-Type non-Tuner monsters
Unaffected by card effects. Decrease the ATK of all monsters on the field by their Level x400. If a monster has 0 ATK: destroy it.


When this card is activated: move the turn count forward by 6 turns (3 rounds). During each Standby Phase: place 1 Infestation Counter on this card. Decrease the ATK and DEF of all non-Insect type monsters by the amount of Infestation Counter on this card x100.


When this Set card is destroyed by a card effect, you can destroy all monsters you control; activate one of the following effects based on the number of turns this card has been Set:
@3 turns: Special Summon 1 Level 8 or lower Insect-Type monster from your Extra Deck (ignoring Summoning conditions).
@4 turns: Special Summon 1 Level 10 or lower Insect-Type monster from your Extra Deck (ignoring Summoning conditions).
@5 turns: Special Summon 1 Level 12 or lower Insect-Type monster from your Extra Deck (ignoring Summoning conditions).


YUGIOH Children of Prometheus 2 – Duel 20: Raid of the Gods

Weevil: 8000 || Yukio: 5300

“Now that you and your girlfriend stand corrected you will never take me lightly again.” Weevil even dramatically points at an accusing finger straight at Yukio’s face. “Let’s see you get out of this situation.”

Rex hops with joy at the edge of the dirt pit of an arena at the sight of seeing Weevil take the lead. “WOOHOO! Yes! You get ‘em, Weevil!”

Yukio, still smarting from Weevil’s last attack, dusts his shirt as if he was trying to get rid of mountains of hale and frost from it, but, being holograms only, they aren’t there. Perhaps this is why duelists dodge or brace themselves for monster attacks, and maybe even come out with a bruise or two. Gameplay is so intense and the holograms are so realistic their minds make it real. Weevil’s last play was far from the worst think Yukio ever faced, but it was a very decent play – and a shocking one! It came from someone so laughable and weak.

So it is Yukio’s turn to eat humble pie, though he does wish Maya would have her slice since she needs it more. “Weevil, congratulations. That was an amazing play.” Yukio admits.

“You mean it?” Weevil asks, shocked and skeptical. “No one has ever praised us before. If we ever did anything cool people would call us lame anyway.”

“I mean it.” Yukio says. “You’re a worthy opponent.”

Rex is as shocked as Weevil is. “Did he just call us worthy?”

“I think he did, Rex.” Weevil says. “Oh, God!” His eyes start watering. His little heart fills with so many intense emotions he never felt before. “What does this even mean? I don’t understand it.”

“It’s called pride. For once in your life, you feel good about yourself.” And Yukio turns to Maya and says, “See. You’re cynicism about Yugioh is completely undue. This game does bring people together and help us grow as human beings. It’s not just a marketing scheme for wealthy pricks.”

“Pfft! Preach to this, Card Game Jesus!” Maya says and flips him off.

“Up yours where you enjoy it!”

And Sophia once more covers her face in embarrassment. Aren’t they at least five years older than she is? Maximus nudges her in the shoulder and whispers, “Psst! It means they really like each other.”

Yukio says to Weevil, “Anyway, now I’m taking you seriously this means something really big. It means I will fight in my full strength. You want a serious duel? You got it!”

YUKIO’S TURN: “Draw card! I activate The Warrior Returning Alive, retrieving Shadow Mist back to my hand. I Special Summon Heroic Challenger – Assault Halberd from my hand and summon Elemental HERO Shadowmist again.” A bronze-armored hero and a caped counterpart stand together size by size. “I activate Xyz Change Tactics. Each time I summon a Utopia monster I can pay 500 Life Points to draw a card.”

Weevil gasps, “Oh no!”

“Oh yeah! I got a fresh can of Raid! I overlay Halberd and Shadow Mist to Xyz Summon Number 39: Utopia!” Yukio’s heroic monsters collide in a wormhole to form a new hero: a familiar platinum-armored space warrior. “I pay 500 and draw one. I overlay Utopia to Xyz Summon Number S39: Utopia One!” The space warrior adds extra armor to its arms and legs, and even obtains a sword. “I pay 500 and draw one. “I activate Rank-Up Magic – Barian’s Force to replace Utopia One with Number C39: Utopia Ray V!” His space warrior mutates again, growing in size and adding a full exoskeleton of red armor to its arsenal.

“I pay 500 and draw one, and I use Ray V’s effect. Destroy Trishula and damage Weevil equal to its ATK!” Yukio’s massive monster fires its massive clawed fists from its wrists like rockets, cracking the ice dragon’s heads and heart. The dragon’s body breaks into a hailstorm of ice shards, which rain down on a frightened Weevil. (Weevil LP 8000 à 5100) “Since I detached Shadow Mist, I add Stratos to my hand.” Yukio proceeds further. “I activate Rank-Down Magic Numeron Fall! I transform Ray V back into good old fashioned Utopia!” Ray V sheds all its armor, causing it to shatter around him like glass. “I pay 500 and draw one. I overlay Utopia to Xyz Summon Number S39: Utopia Prime!” Utopia adds extra gold to its armor and acquires a huge golden sword. “I pay 500 and draw one. Now I discard a Rank-Up Spell Card to Xyz Summon Number S0: Hope ZEXAL!” A black hole – or was it a white hole? – opens up high above in the sky, and Utopia fearlessly flies through it. Thunder strikes the earth and among the jovial bolts of pure power a golden-haired space warrior wielding a staggering sword comes into view.

Weevil comes close to peeing his pants just looking at Yukio’s new super monster, but thankfully he holds it. “H-How strong is that thing!?”

“8000 ATK!” Yukio boldly declares. “And bigger than anything Maya can make or handle.”

“BOOOOO!” Maya hollars from the sidelines. “Even your mom can handle that!”

“Here I come, Weevil!” – “Phrasing!” Maya interrupts. – “Its time I blow it all out with my ultimate attack!” – “Phrasing!” Maya interrupts again. – “ZEXAL, kill Crimson Blader! End the duel!” Yukio commands. His greatest soldier, surrounding by so many so many orbiting Xyz Materials it almost looks like atom, dashes at Weevil’s far lesser warrior, swinging its huge blade, ready for the attack.

Weevil, at the end of his rope, has one last trick up his sleep. “I activate Xyz Drain!” ZEXAL slashes Crimson Blader to pieces, there mere contact jettisons a blazing radio wave shower engulfing Weevil’s entire field. Everyone, even the stout Mathias and the impious Maya, duck for cover. As the blast fades, everyone is shocked to see Weevil still standing, still in the game. (Weevil LP 5100 à 1900) Weevil seems to sense everyone’s complete surprise, so he quickly explains, “My trap took away 2 of ZEXAL’s Xyz Materials, and since both of them are Xyz Monsters themselves, I can draw two cards.”

“And since ZEXAL had only 6 Xyz Materials when it battled, it only had 6000 ATK. So you survive.” Yukio concludes. The duel is far from over. Yukio has a massive hand and field advantage but at only 1800 Life Points he is in precarious position. Taking Weevil seriously is not about being nice anymore. He needs to survive. “I set two cards facedown and end my turn.”

WEEVIL’S TURN: “I draw a card.” Weevil declares.

“And right after you do, ZEXAL activates.” Yukio counters. His great warrior sends a photon wave sweeping over the entire field, losing 1000 ATK in the process. “You can’t activate any cards this turn.”

“I know what it does. I set a monster and a card facedown.”

“Damn it, Weevil! You were so close!” Rex throws his beaner on the ground in disgust.

Sophia almost jumps for joy in excitement. “Yukio got his best monster out! He bagged this duel! Right?”

“I wish.” Maya shakes her head and replies, “Zexal is powerful but overrated. I mean, just look at it. It looks like a Super Saiyan, so you know how lame it really is. If Weevil is truly smart and not an old joke he’ll work his away around it.”

“You’re scoffing at a monster that had 8000 ATK!” Sophia protests.

“Exactly. Had.” Maya corrects her junior.

“But still, 5000 ATK!”

“It could have infinite ATK and still be lame.”

Shocked, Sophia turns to Maximus who nods in agreement, “ZEXAL can only stop effects during your opponent’s turn, not when it’s your turn. So Weevil can still turn things around during Yukio’s turn. By the way, Maya really is digging into Yukio right now.”

“I heard that!”

YUKIO’S TURN: “I summon Elemental HERO Stratos.” A superhero wearing dark teal spandex and hoisting a jetpack on its shoulders flies into play. “I use its effect to search a HERO monster in my deck. Now, Stratos, attack Weevil’s facedown monster!” The superhero dove straight through Weevil’s card, punching out what looks like a massive cricket.

“You killed Howling Insect, which lets me Special Summon another one from my Deck.” Weevil hastily summons a second cricket.

“ZEXAL, kill the other Howling Insect.” A few seconds and a swift, clean slash of a sword later, the next insect goes down.

“I activate its effect and Special Summon Naturia Butterfly from my Deck.” A pink butterfly with large, sentimental blue eyes flutters into play.

Yukio has no choice but to end his turn.

WEEVIL’S TURN: Yukio activates ZEXAL’s effect as soon as Weevil draws his card, again dousing Weevil’s field in a swamp of photon particles.

“I only have to endure one more turn. Then my best combo will be complete and my mightiest monster will rise.” Weevil thinks to himself. “Just live one more turn.” Out loud, he says, “I set a card facedown. You’re move.”

Out loud, he says, “I set a card facedown. You’re move.”

YUKIO’S TURN: “Hmm. Weevil’s traps can’t be terribly useful. If they were, he would have activated them already, unless, he’s setting up some super combo.” Yukio thinks to himself so intensely he almost mumbles the words out. He can’t let Weevil finish his combo. He has to break him now. “I return Stratos to my hand to Special Summon Nova HERO Bouncer.” The flying superhero disappears, replaced by some kind of superhero from the distant future, its ghostly luminous body almost invisible. “I summon Elemental Hero Stratos again,” The flying superhero reappears. “And use its effect. I pop your middle facedown card.” The superhero hovers above Weevil’s set card and blazes a torrent of fiery wind at it.

“You fell into my trap!” Weevil shouts with glee. “Activate Insidious Infestation! It skips the duel by three rounds!” Time speeds ahead and, to Yukio’s nasty surprise, his monsters are decaying on sight, with maggots chewing through their necrotic flesh. “I forgot to mention my maggots. Your monsters lose 100 ATK and DEF for each turn this card stays on the field, and this card has already been around for six turns.

Yukio shrugs this blow off. “Regardless, Stratos destroys your facedown card.” And surely, Stratos vaporizes it with the fuel from its jetpack.

“And here is my real trap! Underground Chrysalis activates! Thanks to Insidious Infestation, five rounds (read: ten turns) passed by the time you destroyed it, which means I can summon a Level 12 Insect monster from my Extra Deck! Arise, Infinity Great Moth!” Weevil’s facedown card turns out to be a massive cocoon. The flames from Stratos’ jetpack crack it open, and a moth bursts from the chrysalis, a creature so massive it seems to be as large as the Pyramids themselves. Yukio sees – and smells! – something more. With each beat of its wings so wide they blot out the stars, the great moth pollutes the air with a poisonous miasma. Yukio’s two superhero monsters clutch their throats in suffocation, their bodies dissolving in the corrosive atmosphere. Weevil chuckles at a horrorstruck Yukio, “All your monsters lose 400 ATK times their Level or Rank and if their ATK becomes 0, they’re through.”

“YES! YES! YES!” Rex hops and hops again as a tiny adorable velociraptor. “You pulled it off, Weevil! Now you won the duel we can celebrate by going to xhamster.com!” The entire arena falls silent. Weevil covers his face in embarrassment but Rex remains undeterred. “What are you looking, you hypocrites. Everyone goes to xhamster. Even your grandma goes to xhamster.” An unfortunate duelist faints upon hearing this awful truth.

“Don’t celebrate just yet. We’re still dueling.” Yukio reminds Weevil. “I change ZEXAL to defense position and set two cards facedown.”

WEEVIL’S TURN: “Like that’ll help.” Weevil snorts. “Did you also know my moth has 4000 ATK and is unaffected by card effects? Well now you do. The more you know. Infinity Great Moth, get rid of ZEXAL! It’s been a blight on my plans long enough!” His great moth dissolves even the mightiest of Yukio’s monsters with its gale of poison.

YUKIO’S TURN: The pressure is too much. Weevil’s monster is simply too strong. He collapses, one knee on the sand. He honestly doubts if he can go on anymore. He just lost his team an Item Card.

“Don’t give up, Yukio! You can do it!” Yukio hears Maya’s voice and instinctively glances at the sidelines. Maya runs to him and hugs him. “You know no matter how much I talk trash to your face I’ll always believe in you, right?”

Yukio chuckles dryly, “Same here.”

“Uh-oh!” Weevil mocks, “Trouble in paradise!”

“THAT’S MY LINE! MY LINE!” Mathias roars from the sidelines. He tries to bulldoze Weevil over but Maximus and Ivy restrain him with all their might.

Maya ignores the spectacle, saying, “A monster card is only a monster card, no matter how strong it is. It has 4000 ATK? You can easily top it. It’s immune to card effects? So is every other monster in Yugioh these days.”

“But he’s got that infestation card out. My monsters can’t even stay alive as long as it’s out, unless –“ He bolts up, straight as a rocket. “I have an idea.” They hug each other, and Maya returns to the sidelines.

“I set a monster and a card facedown. You’re move.” Yukio says.

WEEVIL’S TURN: “You think a full back row is gonna’ help, cause it’s not. Twin Twister!” Weevil discards a card and two tornadoes storm Yukio’s facedown cards, sweeping away two of them. “My Great Moth, attack Yukio’s facedown monster!”

“Activate Mask Change!” Yukio shouts, I tribute my facedown Bubbleman to summon Masked HERO Acid!” A portly superhero with an aqua-themed costume seizes a mask, puts it on his face, and he transforms into a taller superhero wielding what looks like a large water gun. Except it’s no water gun.

Weevil scoffs, “Big deal! My Great Moth’s poison kills it instantly.”

“Yes, but its effect still goes off.” The superhero acts quickly, close to dissolving entirely. it sprays a wide mist of acid from its gun all over Weevil’s cards, making every card in his back row dissolve, to Weevil’s chagrin. Then the superhero dissolves away.

“No matter! Great Moth, attack Yukio directly!”

Yukio blocks, “I activate Oasis of Dragon Souls! I revive Utopia in Defense Position!” Water bursts from the ground as if from a deep underground spring. Yukio’s space warrior emerges from the water back into the plane of the living, but not for long, as it soon perishes under the great moth’s poisonous storm.

“You escape for now, but on my next turn I’ll finish you!”

YUKIO’S TURN: “You won’t have a next turn.” Yukio smirks, “I figured out how to beat you, yes, even beat your Great Moth.”

“I’d like to see you try.” Weevil scoffs.

“You’ll see. Let me put it this way. You’re the bug!  I’M THE WINDSHIELD! Activate Xyz Reborn! I revive Utopia!” Yukio’s future space warrior returns again. “And I overlay it to Xyz Summon Number S39: Utopia the Lightning!” Utopia upgrades again, donning on blue and white armor this time, its body crackling with lightning. “Utopia, attack Weevil’s Great Moth!” His monster flies straight at the massive beast.

“Ha! My Great Moth’s too strong and it reduces Utopia’s ATK to 900.”

“True, but I detach 2 Xyz Materials, allowing Utopia’s ATK to become 5000, no matter what its ATK was before. Plus it is unaffected by card effects.” Utopia crackles with ever stronger lightning, its entire body blazing a bright platinum color, fierce as a blue-white star. “Utopia, finish the duel!” The space warrior punches deep into the great moth’s gut with such strength and drives through the monster’s whole body and bursts from the other side. The great moth moans as close as an insect can moan, crashing to the ground in a catastrophic blaze as if it is a huge bomber plane. (Weevil LP 1900 à 900)

Weevil cries to the heavens, his whole world gone down in flames, “NO! My bug! My beautiful bug! My precious little butterfly! AHH!” Weevil refuses to go on. He surrenders. The duel is done.

Weevil: SURRENDER || Yukio: 1800

“YUKIO WINS! FATALITY!” Mathias announced, making his voice deep and ominous as the announcer’s in the Mortal Combat games! The entire audience burst into cheers and applause, not for Yukio or Weevil but for both of them and for the spectacle of a duel they just displayed.

Yukio shook Weevil’s hand. “Good game. You dueled extremely well. No one should take you lightly again.”

Weevil smiled, his appreciation beyond words. He reached into his pocket and gave Yukio an Item Card, the Millennium Eye Card.

Rex didn’t feel as good as his friend, but his fighting spirit caught fire. Maya gestured to him, catching his attention. “Your trials aren’t over yet. Tomorrow, we duel. Same time. Same place. Be prepared, because I definitely will.”

Rex accepted the challenge, but warned her that he would completely beat her tomorrow. He patted Weevil’s shoulder and the two left, disappearing into the darkness of the village beyond the firelight. Meanwhile, the restless carnival went on without our protagonists as if Yukio’s duel against Weevil never took place. Two brand new duelists were already jousting each other on the field.





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Part 1 – Abstract & Our History

Part 2 – Critical Geography & Intersectional Feminism

Part 3 – Current Literature

Part 4 – Case Studies

Part 5 – Analysis, Conclusion, Discussion

 Part 6 – Bibliography

“Basic Facts About Homelessness: New York City – Coalition For The Homeless.” Coalition For The Homeless. February 2016. http://www.coalitionfor thehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/.

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“Some Facts on Homelessness, Housing, and Violence Against Women.” National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. 2010. http://www.nlchp.org/ content/pubs/Some Facts on Homeless and DV.pdf.

“The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness.” The National Center on Family Homelessness. 2011. Available at http:// www.familyhomelessness.org/media/147.pdf.

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Brown, Gavin. “Marriage and the Spare Bedroom: Exploring the Sexual Politics of Austerity in Britain.”  ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. Department of Geography University of Leicester  14, no. 4 (2015): 975-88.

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Gattis, Maurice N., and Andrea Larson. “Perceived Racial, Sexual Identity, and Homeless Status-related Discrimination among Black Adolescents and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness: Relations with Depressive Symptoms and Suicidality.”  American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 86, no. 1 (2016): 79-90. doi:10.1037/ort0000096.

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Hellegers, Desiree.  No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death, and Resistance  . New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Koyama, Emi. “Disloyal to Feminism: Abuse of Survivors within the Domestic Violence Shelter System.” In  Disloyal to Feminism: Confronting the Abusive Power and Control within the Domestic Violence Industry. Portland, OR: Confluere Publications, 2003. http://www.eminism.org.

Kramer, Ronald. “Political Elites, “Broken Windows”, and the Commodification of Urban Space.”  Critical Criminology 20, no. 3 (2011): 229-48. doi:10.1007/ s10612-011-9137-9.

Lowe, Eugene, and Gail Thomas.  Hunger and Homeless Survey: A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America’s Cities  . Report. Washington D.C., MA: Ity Policy Associates, 2006. http://www.usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/ 2014/1211-report-hh.pdf.

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Mohan, Erica, and Carolyn M. Shields. “The Voices Behind the Numbers: Understanding the Experiences of Homeless Students.”  Critical Questions in Education  5, no. 3 (2014): 189-213.

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Toth, Jennifer.  The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels beneath New York City . Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 1993.

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Part 1 – Abstract & Our History

Part 2 – Critical Geography & Intersectional Feminism

Part 3 – Current Literature

Part 4 – Case Studies

Part 5 – Analysis, Conclusion, Discussion

 Part 6 – Bibliography

ANALYSIS: Geography and Feminism Together
Spaces of poverty and isolation, factors related to critical geography, frequently bleed over into systemic racism and sexism, factors related to intersectional feminism, especially prevalent among homeless nonwhite people. Nonwhite neighborhoods in the inner city have higher rates of domestic violence than middle class neighborhoods. Nonwhite women are less likely to disclose the violence they suffer under their husbands to police, either because they fear deportation, such as Latina women, or fear police violence in their communities, such as black women. Police violence is especially relevant in the case of black women since it is deeply entrenched in systemic racism and the neoliberal power structures that keep nonwhite neighborhoods impoverished. Since poor nonwhite women cannot rely on state justice, they have fewer resources than middle class white women, and have even fewer resources when they flee abusive husbands.

For example, issues of critical geography and intersectional feminism can be seen in the literature review. Homeless women, as well as homeless men, tend to be nonwhite and poor. Nonwhite homeless women in particular come from poor nonwhite communities in the inner city, spaces that have endured economic and infrastructure decline after decades of urban sprawl, outsourcing of jobs, neglecting inner city projects, and red zoning. Such policies, as critical geography shows, created a space of increasing impoverishment and isolation. The inner city has a limited infrastructure, with only handfuls of functioning hospitals, grocery stores, and schools. People who live in the inner city have limited ability to travel, meaning they can frequently only stay in the derelict spaces they grew up in. With little education, people in the inner city are less likely to know of any knowledge of the outside world or alternative ways of living. Gentrification policies exacerbate these problems; the turning of poor neighborhoods into wealthy middle class enclaves expels the original people from their living spaces, and pushes them into even poorer and more isolated spaces.

Factors related to critical geography, such as spaces of poverty and isolation, also relate to systemic racism, factors related to intersectional feminism. The decline of the inner city, the neglect of inner city projects, urban sprawl, red zoning, gentrification – all of the history, all of the aforementioned factors related to critical geography – could not have happened without systemic racism. Prisoners around the United States are, on average, largely poor blacks and Latinos who mostly grew up in inner city neighborhoods, as impoverished and dense city spaces have a high crime rate and the justice system gives nonwhite offender disproportionately higher sentences than whites.

Imprisonment, a factor seeped in geographical and racial issues, plays an important role in homelessness. Released prisoners have a very hard time reintegrating into society because imprisonment profoundly disconnects prisoners from the outside world. Prisoners not only experience the crime and brutality that happen in prison but also carry the burden of those experiences with them when released. Prisoners are less likely to stay with their families or have stable housing, and are more likely to lose welfare benefits and voting rights. They also have great difficulty gaining employment because of their prison record and frequently return to the very inner city neighborhoods they used to live in. Mortgage scams and red zoning, other factors seeped in geographical and racial issues, also play a role. They either prevented nonwhites from owning homes or limiting them to poor quality homes or government projects.

Critical geography also relates to LGBT rights. LGBT people are often stereotyped as affluent gay people but in reality most LGBT people are poor or poorer on average than straight people. The visibility and acceptance of LGBT identities is tied to gentrification and poverty. Gentrified middle class enclaves, for example, only accept LGBT identities that are more conventional and fit with the nuclear family model while other LGBT identities are seen as radical and dangerous. Thus, LGBT people who do not fit the gentrified norm are pushed away and made less visible. Homelessness among LGBT people have two prominent factors specific to LGBT people: poverty and stigma. In this instance, gentrification is not only an issue of class but also an issue of culture, identity, and acceptance. As in the cases of systemic sexism and systemic racism, critical geography and intersectional feminism intertwine.

It bears noting that after looking at the stories of homeless people in the case studies and comparing them to the literature review, there exists a level of nuance and detail I had not seen before. Not every homeless black person grew up in poverty and not every woman ran away from an abusive husband. One would think that these facts weaken my hypothesis but in reality they do not, because they show nuanced ways different factors relating to critical geography and different factors relating to intersectional feminism interact with each other in each person’s life. The causes of homelessness are rarely one-dimensional and each homeless person has a different story to share.

What can critical geography tell us about the homeless people interviewed in this thesis? There are important differences in the demographics of guests in NYC Rescue Mission and Holy Apostles Church. While both shelters had over half black guests, Rescue Mission had significantly more Asian, Latino, and white guests, and even had a few guests of other ethnicities, such as one Indian woman. Holy Apostles Church, however, was less diverse, with more guests being either black or white, and not as many Asian and white guests. Rescue Mission is only a few blocks away from Chinatown, meaning homeless Asians have easier access to Rescue Mission. The Lower East Side of Manhattan has a more culturally diverse history than the Lower West Side, with Chinatown and Little Italy being only two examples. The politics of the Lower East Side are frequently a battleground over city territory by ethnic minorities such as Chinese Americans, Jewish Americans, and African Americans.

Rescue Mission guests did not necessarily come from poor inner city spaces, as the example of Dederick, whose wife could afford her son to go to a top rate foreign film school. However, inner city backgrounds appear to be the norm. The most notable examples are Iggy, who grew up in poverty and was imprisoned twice for selling weed, and Frankie, an Italian American from the Lower East Side who owned a gym and worked many blue collar jobs throughout his life. Unfortunately, I could not tutor any of the Holy Apostles Church guests, which is one limitation of my case studies.

Another limitation of my case studies is the lack of clarity in describing some homeless people’s social and geographic backgrounds. However, some case studies were more explicit about their interviewees’ social and geographic background than others, such as the case study of the New York Times reporter in 2015. All of the following people grew in inner city poverty and suffered many inner city problems. Theys lacked financial support, job opportunities, or stable families. Jose grew up in a poor Bronx neighborhood, his family shattered as his mother was sent to prison for drug charges and his upbringing dysfunctional as he hopped from one foster home to another. He was eventually expelled from his final foster home since they would not tolerate his girlfriend. Dawn and Mohammed lived in a negligent Bronx apartment with limited employment opportunities, the couple’s only source of financial security being Mohammed’s employment. When Mohammed lost his job, the couple could no longer support themselves. Jerelyn lived in a lower middle class neighborhood in the Lower East Side, teaching. When she lost her job, she no longer had any financial support and very limited employment opportunities, leading to homelessness.

It is difficult to interpret space for any specific interviews for “Voices Behind Numbers” as no specific information is given about where the interviewees grew up or came from. The calamities each child endured also seemed to have little in common with each other. Mariah’s mother had Post Partum Depression and her family was robbed. Ramona’s mother had a brain tumor and her father went to jail. A mortgage broker scammed Michael’s parents. Rosa and her mother fled to a shelter from an abusive father. However, the issue of space as a general theme is pertinent. All the children spoke of constantly having to change shelters or hotel rooms to the point where they frequently changed schools. It is difficult to overestimate how difficult the constant moves made their education, combined with the other stresses of homelessness. The constant displacement also easily leads to isolation. Each time a child changes schools, they have to say farewell to any friends they made. The children were also so embarrassed about their homelessness they spoke little to teachers and peers in fear they would be found out, even if they needed help.

The “mole people” interviewed by Thoth, those who live underground in New York City’s sewers and subways, are the most extreme examples of social and geographic isolation. If poor people in the inner city can be considered to be at one layer of poverty and isolation, homeless people can be considered to be in a deeper layer, exiled and invisible among poor people. Further down, “mole people” can be considered to be at the lowest layer, exiled and invisible even among other homeless people. Ironically, a substantial amount of “mole people” were highly educated and had upper middle class backgrounds. Buckley came from a white, middle class suburb in New Jersey while Bill was a black man with degrees in business and economics. Both men very consciously chose to live underground, Buckley disdainfully rejecting the “nine to five” workweek and Bill showing fascination for an outcast group of people.

Housing projects and inner city neighborhoods are places of isolation, much like the underground. In this case, people of color’s isolation means they are likely to stay in the poor area they grew up in rather than leave. White men, on the other hand, tend to be more geographically free because of their privileges, less likely to bound or isolated in the neighborhood they grew up in. In an odd way, the white men had a choice to go underground in a way people of color did not have. It is worth mentioning how many of the underground homeless people were very well educated, providing them with a spatial mobility they otherwise might not have. The lack of women and children underground can also be explained by space. Most homeless single adults are males. Homeless women tend to be a part of homeless families, often as single mothers looking after young children. Most mothers do not take their children to live in a sewer or subway tunnel for obvious reasons.

However, most of the other “mole people”: Bernard, Bob, Virginia, and Don, went underground for more typical reasons. Bernard fell into deep depression after he broke up from his girlfriend, while Bob, Virginia, and Don all suffered from drug addiction. Unfortunately, the author of “The Mole People” does not go into much depth describing their background before becoming homeless, making it difficult to make an analysis using critical geography. However, it is significant that most “mole people” flee underground to escape the violence of the streets, violence most often present in the inner city. It’s as if going underground is a sort of geographic solution to the systemic problems of the inner city and the bureaucratic ineptitude of most shelters. While “mole people” descend what could be described as the nadir of poverty and isolation, they somehow find deliverance down at the lowest point.

The homeless women whose interviews were compiled by Helleger have stories with distinct factors related to critical geography. Elizabeth grew up in a working class family in Seattle, Washington during a time when society stripped working women’s rights on the belief that the poor were morally depraved. She hardened into a life of crime by being secluded in religious schools that effectively functioned as prisons to “discipline” poor girls. Mama Pam did not grow up in a poor neighborhood but her family frequently moved since her father was from the military, creating a form of isolation because of a lack of an extended family support structure. When she was sexually abused by her father and emotionally abused by her mother, she really did not have anyone else to turn to. Later, she stayed with an abusive husband out of financial necessity until she eventually fled him into homelessness, reflecting a more typical pattern in the lives of homeless women.

What can intersectional feminism tell us about the homeless people interviewed in this thesis? The demographics of NYC Rescue Mission and Holy Apostles Church differed not only with race but with gender as well. Rescue Mission had almost as many women as men, with the women tending to be either white or black. However, there were much fewer women in Holy Apostles, and more people, both men and women, were black than in Rescue Mission. Rescue Mission practices more discriminatory practices than Holy Apostles Church, as Rescue Mission is a shelter while Holy Apostles is a soup kitchen. This is especially true as Rescue Mission is a high standard shelter with relatively little violence among guests. Rescue Mission accepts only homeless people who are willing to work on their condition through education or employment. Thus they reject single males who are violent or disruptive. Holy Apostles, being a soup kitchen, has lower standards of acceptance.

For white people, factors causing their homelessness, especially those related to drugs, alcoholism, and depression, are easier to see because race and sex do not intersect. John did not endure the police brutality reserved for blacks when he was arrested for burglary or lived in the isolation and poverty of the housing projects. Scott did not have his head cracked open by an abusive wife. Heather enjoyed being in a Jewish middle-class home before she ran away. However, it is doubtful John, Scott, or Heather were affluent, for they seemed to have been lower-middle-class. This fact raises the issue of classism and may explain why John and Scott had little family support when they came down with mental illnesses.

For people of color, systemic racism crops up in their lives in myriad forms, and where there is race, aspects of space are not far behind. Jose grew up with a Hispanic family, living far up in the Bronx, away from the affluent Upper East Side. Like most families in poor city spaces, Jose’s family was a troubled home. Jose’s mom went to prison on drug charges as drug abuse festers in poor, tightly packed city spaces, spaces filled with blacks and Hispanics because of systemic racism and poor urban planning. Jose, in turn, went to foster homes, further destabilizing his living. Dawn and her husband, Mohamed, lived in a neglected apartment in the Bronx, as many poor nonwhites in New York City do, and once Mohamed lost his job the couple did not have the extra money to support themselves, so they became homeless. Neglect and poverty are once more revealed to be a fact of life for many poor nonwhites: a neglect and poverty caused by systemic racism.

Among the “mole people”, intersectional feminism can be used to analyze a gender equal society, distinct and separate from the patriarchy of mainstream society. Most of the “mole people” are white men but women, most of whom are white too, live equally among them. Most of the “mole people” live in small groups that forage for resources, with each individual fulfilling distinct obligations. Such communities may have self-proclaimed leaders like Bernard, but such leaders have no rule or ownership of anyone. There are no social classes and Bernard is ultimately as equal as everyone else. Bernard is ultimately a volunteer protector of his group and fulfills his own niche obligations as everyone else does. Women’s bodily autonomy is respected at least in Bernard’s group, as Bernard and his comrades swiftly punished a rival homeless group that raped Sheila. However, that feud shows that patriarchal behavior still manifests among different homeless “tribes”, such as men raping women as a way to do violence to a rival group.

Almost all of the women in Helleger’s interviews grappled with issues of both sexism and racism. Domestic violence was a huge factor in the lives of most of the homelessness of women, arguably larger than the staple factors of mental illness and drug abuse. Mama Pam was sexually abused by her father at thirteen and later physically abused by her husband and a preacher when she became an adult. Pam also became pregnant at a time before Roe v. Wade and before sex education was as widespread as it is today. These facts add new intersections of sexism in Pam’s life, as women had fewer reproductive rights in the past and sex education is one of the most useful ways for young women to avoid pregnancy and health problems. Elizabeth Thatcher lived in a time when the state took children away from “unfit” mothers to indoctrinate them in religious schools. In fact, had Elizabeth been born a few years earlier the state would have sterilized her. In Elizabeth’s case, sexism and classism intersected to produce not only insidious sexual morays but even a form of eugenics.

Racism, sexism, and place all come together in Dolores’ story. Dolores grew up in Louisiana when racial segregation was still widespread, especially in the Deep South. In Seattle, her best friend was murdered by her husband, domestic violence taken to its extreme, and her son was sent to prison, perhaps because of factors linked to systemic racism. The murder of her friend and imprisonment of her son were the two calamities that sent Dolores on her downward spiral to homelessness. I cannot say exactly where Delores lived in Seattle, because she does not specify the exact neighborhood herself, but it seems she most likely lived in a poor neighborhood, where domestic violence and arrests of racial minorities are much more common than affluent neighborhoods.

On the whole, the case studies of all the interviewed homeless people, both the case study I conducted at New York City Rescue Mission and the case studies conducted by other authors, supports my hypothesis and literature review. Among most homeless people regardless of demographics, mental illnesses and drug addictions seem to be the most widespread factors that ruin their lives and drive them to homelessness. However, homelessness is caused by many different intersecting factors, each set of factors unique to each person. However, causes of homelessness do have general trends. Poverty and different forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, and heteronormativity tend to cause homelessness in two ways. First, they erode a person’s ability to make a living and keep a home, so when a person does experience a calamity they are less likely to recover from the blow. Second, they directly contribute to a calamity, such as domestic violence, mortgage scams, or the stigmatizing of LGBT people.

Both critical geography and intersectional feminism frequently intersect each other. Factors relating to critical geography often work in concert with factors related to intersectional feminism aggravate poverty and increase the likelihood of homelessness. Factors increasing the likelihood of homelessness can be so intricately woven together one can conceive of them as a web with each strand pushing an individual deeper into the traps of poverty, isolation, and oppression. Homelessness is the nadir of poverty, isolation, and oppression, a continuation of the downward spiral, not a separate entity. One could even conceive the ideas presented in this thesis as a “web theory” or a “funnel theory”, reflecting how pervasive and tightly wound together are factors leading to homelessness while at the same time showing the relationship between poverty and homelessness.

As in the analysis, it is important to stress nuance. The ways factors relating to critical geography and factors relating to intersectional feminism contribute to homelessness are different for each person. The case studies show that each person’s life is deeply subjective to the person experiencing it, so no two lives are the same. This prevents anyone, no matter how brilliant, from reducing human beings to any simple theory. One cannot merely say, “Poverty plus racism plus sexism causes homelessness” because it would be so broad subtleties of all kinds would be lost.

The interviews and other case studies have added benefits that the statistics in the literature review cannot provide. They add a realism and emotional depth beyond statistics and academic theories. The interviewed homeless people are the voices behind the numbers. Reading about how homeless women are likely to have a history of domestic violence is one thing. Hearing a homeless woman tell you how the husband she trusted and lived with betrayed that trust and hurt her for years with a pain that never fully goes away is something else altogether. Whenever one wishes to collect data, such as statistics or interviews, for any academic purpose in the social sciences, one must always remember of the people behind the numbers.

DISCUSSION: Thoughts on the Homeless Shelter System
A theme related to neither intersectionalism nor critical geography, but nonetheless important, is how problematic many homeless people found the shelter system to be. Throughout the case studies, homeless people described the bureaucracies in homeless shelters as either inept or corrupt. John described New York City as a place that enabled people to be homeless, implying that the shelter systems anesthetize homeless people’s suffering but does not effectively provide a cure for it. John also mentioned how terrible Randell Island was for drug rehabilitation, though he never specified exactly why. Scott went to a men’s shelter only to be locked up in an asylum in Belleview as if he was dangerous or insane rather than suffering from severe depression.

At least two of the children and their families from “The Voices Behind the Numbers” did not like the shelter system any better. Mariah mentioned how much her father hated the different shelters the family stayed in since the shelter system split her father from the rest of her family. Her father had to stay in a separate shelter for single men, threatening the integrity of the family. Reba experienced something like joint custody through the shelter system even though her parents did not divorce, living either in a shelter with her mother and siblings or living with her father.

Buckley, protector and leader of his community underground, criticized liberal churches for drawling a thick line between donors, people who have money, property, and “good” lives, and recipients, homeless people who have none and need guidance. Churches, even those with many liberals, also have an evangelical side: they anesthetize homeless people by “working on their souls” rather than on their material conditions. Bernard regards the Coalition for the Homeless and other institutions as condescending. He despised the tedium of cutting through the bureaucratic red tape, and even rejected a shanty apartment an agency gave him.

In all cases, the homeless people above criticized the shelter system extensively, but most still relied on them for support, indicating ambivalent feelings. Their complaints reveal a few overall themes about the shelter system. Bureaucracies saddle the homeless shelters, systems created by the very neoliberal capitalism that isolates the poor and homeless in the first place. Homeless shelters separate men from women and children, understandable enough, but go so far as to even separate fathers from their families. For that reason, some families avoid using shelters all together. The shelter system tends to anesthetize their residents by providing a system where they can live off of without changing their lifestyles. This fact is true, to a degree, even for New York City Rescue Mission, the shelter I volunteered and tutored in. Only a small number of the residents went through an educational and job program to get them back into a working life. The rest of the homeless people seemed either to be incapable or unwilling.

Emi Koyama discussed how bureaucracies corrupt women’s shelters in “Disloyal to Feminism: Abuse of Survivors within the Domestic Violence Shelter System”. As executive directors and bureaucracies take over women’s shelters, the shelter ceases to become places of solidarity and self-empowerment and becomes places of enforcing unjust rules and punishments. This is an extremely important fact. It reveals how women’s shelters turn from places that help and empower abused women to change their situation to places that merely tolerate and house them. Women’s shelters lose their ability to truly help abused women and instead become part of a larger system that helps keep homeless and abused women in their situation.

Both homeless people and activists, who have been homeless, such as Koyama, speak similar messages. Homeless shelters far too often function less as places to empower homeless people to leave their situation and more as places that anesthetize the homeless, keeping them in poverty. Homeless shelters essentially function as a business to manage homeless people, to keep homelessness in check, sequestered away from the mainstream, rather than actually tackling homelessness as a society-wide concern. If one were a radical leftist, one could go so far as to say that homeless shelters, with their bureaucracies, function as instruments of neoliberal capitalism to keep homeless people out of sight and out of mind. If we want fewer people to be homeless, we seriously need to tackle homelessness more thoroughly and attack the root causes for homelessness and poverty.



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Part 1 – Abstract & Our History

Part 2 – Critical Geography & Intersectional Feminism

Part 3 – Current Literature

Part 4 – Case Studies

Part 5 – Analysis, Conclusion, Discussion

 Part 6 – Bibliography

METHODOLOGY: Original Research and Other Case Studies
In order to gather data for my thesis I did research at homeless shelters by observing the guests there, using the disciplines of critical geography and intersectional feminism as lenses for my observations. To that end I volunteered in as many homeless shelters as I could. There exist around twenty-five homeless shelters throughout the five boroughs; around twelve of them in Manhattan. Most are private, nonprofit organizations that are managed by either a board of directors or president. They are frequently religious, such as Rescue Mission and Holy Apostles Church and Soup Kitchen. Covenant House, a secular organization, specializes in homeless youth while Sylvia’s Place, another secular organization that specializes in LGBT youth. The Praxis Housing initiative is a transitional housing program that seeks to rehabilitate homeless people back to an independent lifestyle, while some are only soup kitchens. Most shelters serve around one hundred to two hundred guests. Shelters that work with guests in special programs and transitional housing choose at most around a dozen guests, guests who proved themselves willing and capable of leaving their situation.

I originally tried to obtain permission to interview the guests, but every shelter I visited declined my offer. Some shelters, such as Covenant House, required me to pass an extensive background check just to volunteer, but never got back to me. Other shelters such as Sylvia’s Place were limited in their demographics, such as only having women, which was not broad enough for my thesis. After unsuccessfully trying to get interviews during June and July in 2015, I settled for a new goal: observation and tutoring. I would volunteer in two or three shelters from July to October in 2015, carefully observing everything: the guests, employees, volunteers, the culture, the nature of the work and volunteer schedules, and the architecture of the shelters. I would also tutor the guests and make observations in the same detailed matter. I would then record my observations and analyze them using critical geography and intersectional feminism to reveal new insights. During my volunteer work I feared that I would not have enough information from my case studies. After my volunteer work, I relied on other researchers’ interviews of homeless people in New York to supplement my own research. I studied all interviews with the same attention to detail as when I observed the homeless shelters as a volunteer.

Ultimately, I volunteered in two places from July to October in 2015: NYC Rescue Mission and Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. NYC Rescue Mission is a homeless shelter in lower east Manhattan near Chinatown, a private Christian mission dedicated to providing food, clothing, and shelter to homeless people and tutoring them until they obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma. Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen is a soup kitchen located in lower west Manhattan close to the Hudson River, another private Christian mission that serves food to homeless people, provides free counseling, writers’ workshops, and computer classes. I volunteered at Rescue Mission every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and I volunteered at Holy Apostles every Monday and Friday.

NYC Rescue Mission
Overall, I spent significantly more time at Rescue Mission, which means I acquired more observations. Rescue Mission is a shelter that provides food, beds, and means of training the guests to reenter the workforce. Each day the guests would wake up from their bunks and leave the shelter before noon to work or to do something else. During and after work hours, tutoring and computer labs were available for the guests. Tutoring lasted from 3pm to 4pm while dinner lasted from 5pm to 6:30pm. Volunteers were required to arrive at the kitchen from between 4pm to 4:30pm to prepare the tables, drinks, and food for the guests. After dinner, the guests went to an auditorium near the office. Staff performed music, church services, and drew lots to determine which guests could stay for the night, as there were only twenty or so bunks. Female staff was mostly responsible for maintaining the bunker room.

My first job at Rescue Mission was to volunteer in the kitchen. I always had to put on an apron and wear latex gloves before work to keep my hands clean to prevent transmitting any disease. The kitchen had three rows of foldable tables. My jobs at first were to put refrigerated jugs of water on the tables and assemble the cups, forks, and napkins together in a box. Staff and volunteers, including me, would often eat the same dinner as the guests. When dinner officially began volunteers and staff would take on new jobs. Both volunteers and staff shared about the same jobs. Both would serve cooked food over a counter, serve desserts and drinks, refill the jugs, serve cups, spoons, and forks to the guests as they entered the kitchen, clean the tables, collect used dishes, or mop and sweep the floors.

Demographically about half of the guests were black. The second highest numbers of guests were white. While Asians and Hispanics were the lowest in number they were about the same in number. The number of male to female guests was about the same. However, the racial demographics of the women were slightly different. There were significantly more white women, almost equal to the number of black women, while the number of Asian and Hispanic women was very small. Most of the guests were either middle aged or into old age, though there were some young people. One young man looked barely to be in his twenties and two babies arrived once. One of the infants was with his mother and father while another infant only had his mother.

The demographics among staff and volunteers were slightly different. Most staff were black with some whites and only a few Asians. Most, if not all the staff were male and in their mid twenties and thirties, with only a few older staff members. Among the volunteers it was different, with almost all of them being white. The number of male to female volunteers was almost the same with slightly more males, and all of them were young.

Overall, the guests in Rescue Mission were lively and talkative. They were often courteous and socially interacted with staff, volunteers, and each other. They could sometimes even be garrulous. While they were usually in good spirits they could sometimes break into fights with each other, such as one young black couple that constantly quarreled. However, rarely did staff have to intervene beyond giving a stern warning. Rarely was there an apathetic or sad spirit. The only exceptions I could notice were a few of the very old guests, who were hoary in appearance and limped when walking.

The staff and volunteers were not as obviously lively as the guests but they too were in strong spirits. Many of the staff and volunteers were efficient and thorough in their work and were quick to help the guests. Since they had little division of labor and everybody was crammed in a small kitchen, there was a lot of interaction between the staff and volunteers and the guests. Close and frequent interaction among volunteers and guests, as I will stress later in my report, is an extremely important part of serving homeless individuals.

Getting to know the staff, volunteers, and guests, was the most important and interesting part of my volunteer work. To protect their identities, I will give them false names. Sadly, I could not get any interviews after many failures throughout the entire summer to do so. Shelter managers considered interviews too invasive of people’s privacy, especially the privacy of a vulnerable population. Instead I had to rely on talking to people casually. I want to emphasize how important it is to see homeless individuals’ lives even in areas outside of their homelessness that may seem trivial. Too much past literature fixates only on their homelessness and the tragedies in their lives. I’m not denying their extreme importance but there is a risk of turning them into “only” victims. In the process we cut them off from our own lives, turning them into pitiable shadows that exist beyond our “ordinary” lives and beyond our help, which dehumanizes them.

I have many vignettes of the staff, volunteers, and guests during my time at Rescue Mission. Dederick was one of the first guests I met and one of the most important. One of the first things he said to me was “one of the first things you’ll learn, homeless people are people”. He was a black man in middle age, bald, well-groomed, friendly, and frequently talked to people. His son was an honors student in university, mastering in film. His son even studied abroad in Switzerland, producing a film with his colleges there. Dederick’s homelessness may seem odd considering that his son could afford a college education. It is likely that he lived at least a middle class existence before becoming homeless and that his wife or a guardian is providing for his son.

Dederick seemed unable or unwilling to give any specific factor as to why he became homeless, but I consider him giving me any reason at all a privilege and a sign of trust. He told me that he simply “lost his way”. He later advised me to go to a shelter called All Souls that allowed volunteers to serve from 9am to 7pm. The last time I saw him he said he was “doing good” and “getting on the right track”. His son was doing well at university and he was going to visit him for a few days. He was coming to the kitchen less and less, which could mean he was getting a house and job.

Joe was an old white staff member who showed me the ropes on my first day. He taught me how to properly refill the jugs and how to mop the floor. He liked my commitment to volunteering. One day I got extremely wet from a heavy downpour while coming to volunteer. When I was done Joe asked whether I was dried up and padded my head. On my first day volunteering I wore a Rocky Horror t-shirt. Joe was intrigued. He told me he saw the Rocky Horror play in LA way back in 1972. The guy who played Rocky was Tommy Tune.

Jezebel was a middle-aged black woman guest who, like Joe, was one of the first people I met. She was very friendly towards me. Noticing my Rocky Horror shirt on my first day, she told me about the time she first saw Rocky Horror in 1980 when she was in college. Jezebel’s account makes me wonder how many of the guests have gone to college. Statistical data suggests that lower class backgrounds, dysfunctional families, and mental illness are the most common factors in making people homeless. Lower class people can afford college too, even though it is rarer for them to do so. It does raise questions as to what factors can make people who come from “wholesome” and “comfortable” homes to lose their houses and jobs. Like Dederick, Jezebel stopped appearing at the shelter after a while. I wonder where she is now.

On my second day volunteering I met Jamal, a young man who also worked at the shelter for free. He told me that he was very grateful for Rescue Mission. Other shelters, as he said, were very poor quality, with poor food and violent guests. Ex-convicts were even hired as staff members. Occasionally, violence and even murder would break out in other shelters. A guest murdered the head (I don’t know his exact position) of a shelter Jamal used to work for. When I visited Covenant House to volunteer, the staff gave me a stringent background check. In my application I was to put down every single place I ever lived. At the time I thought such a strict background check to be ludicrous, but now I see it to be more sensible.

After I volunteered for quite some time at Rescue Mission I met Cade, a tall black man, seventy-one years old, for the first time in the auditorium. Many of the guests and staff members were kind to me, grateful at having a long-term volunteer, which was a rarity they sorely needed. Cade was especially kind to me, even by those standards. He commented on my posture, telling me I should straighten up. Ever since he was fourteen he would work out every day. Part of his regimen was to learn how to keep a good posture. The key, he said to me, was to be proud and to feel tall, allow your chest and your body expand, be comfortable in yourself. He also worked many different jobs before he became homeless. Sadly, I don’t know much information outside of that.

Twice I saw infants in Rescue Mission. The first infant was at most three years old. He was in one of those small car strollers with his parents, who were a young couple. The parents were a white woman and a man of mixed race who seemed to be in their twenties. The child never cried but he did have a lost look on his face and he solemnly ate his food at the table with all the other guests, on his mother’s lap. When they left I gave him an extra cup. His parents thanked me. The second infant was far younger, at most one year old. He was always on the chest of his mother, a white woman who seemed to be in her thirties. The father was nowhere to be seen. The child was always quiet.

On my first day of tutoring, Henrico, one of the managers, took me upstairs to my first student. Until then I didn’t see much of Rescue Mission other than the kitchen. A small room holding all donated used clothes was tucked at the end of a thin winding hallway. Staff workers, all of them black, ordered the clothes in a group. It made me think of ways segregation can exist even in places that try to be racially egalitarian. The bunks were on one of the top floors and were cots at most, like in boot camp. The guests kept what little possessions they had here. Most guests kept backpacks or suitcases that held everything they owned. Some owned thick books and some owned crossword puzzles. One of them owned two stereo players. Many of them owned an iPhone.

I was brought to my first student, Barry, a middle aged black man with a mustache. I taught him the order of operations, a form of advanced pre-algebra math Barry barely learned before. He was a good student, becoming moderately proficient at it by the time the lesson was over. He said he had not done any math beyond handling money in the last forty years. When he began lessons a month ago he did not even know how to add. He must be intelligent to have learned or at least brushed up on math so quickly.

Over the next few months I tutored other guests. As I got to know them better I learned of their many backgrounds. The student I taught most often was another middle aged black man named James. I taught him grammar with a GED textbook, which prepares students to pass a High School Equivalency Test. James quickly learned subject-verb agreement and different verb tenses. He told me that he wants to marry a blonde woman before he dies, preferably Jessica Simpson, so I often joked with him about blondes and sex when I tutored him.

Frankie is a middle-aged Italian-American in his fifties with wavy white hair. In one session I helped him write his resume. Frankie had two seasoned careers behind him. In his twenties he was a professional body builder who owned his own gym and business. He hosted celebrities like sitcom actors in his gym and was a cameo in a film with Steven Segal. He won contests like Mr. New York, Mr. Brooklyn, and Mr. Eastern America in the 1970s, and even searched for newspaper headlines from the ‘70s to prove it. He made acquaintances with a lot of celebrities. He personally knew Arnold Swarzeneger but didn’t like him, finding him arrogant.

Frankie worked as a sanitation engineer for his second career for 26 years; a huge amount of experience. He plowed snow off streets during blizzards, even betting stuck in snowstorms. He would also pick up people’s garbage. In winter he would put salt in street drains to prevent the sewers from freezing over. He told me of moments where he was trapped in his truck during huge blizzards, alone in the highway in the dead of night. His decades of labor were clearly hard but he spoke of them with fondness. He earned decent wages too, about forty dollars an hour. Frankie said to me that you have to be humble, and to always be a kid at heart no matter how old you are. He said that if I ever wanted to do something, I would do it. He really liked me. Overall, I am skeptical of Frakie’s claims of knowing celebrities in person. They are more than likely embellished, but still based on truth. I know some homeless people try to impress young, naive volunteers with tall tales of their lives because they feel undistinguished by comparison. All of Frankie’s claims could be true but if not his motivations for lying are all too human.

Iggy was one of my other students, a tall lanky young black man. He was twenty-seven years old and has one baby girl. In our session my job was to proofread an essay he wrote to prepare for a high school equivalency test. The test instructed him to write about an opinion he used to believe in but now doesn’t. His answer was thoughtful and with great grammar despite him using “choppy” sentences. Iggy grew up poor and started selling pot in his teens. He said he did this for easy money, specifically so he could get the newest clothes and electronics. However, he was caught and imprisoned twice, the first time for a few months, the second time for a year.

Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
My time volunteering at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen from July to October in 2015 was a different experience. While Rescue Mission is far from perfect I do believe it served both the guests and volunteers much better than at Holy Apostles. Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen serves food to homeless people during the weekdays while holding religious services during the weekend. It is a much larger and more prestigious place than Rescue Mission, which works both for and against it. The food is much better quality than at Rescue Mission, there are many more volunteers, and there is much greater division of labor. The church owns a large, flat screen TV. Joan, one of the managers, would announce the divisions of labor as they sorted volunteers every morning before work was to begin.

My volunteer work at Holy Apostles was limited. On my first day of volunteering I stood with a staff member behind the baptismal fountain in front of the office. Guests would request toiletries such as razors, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. We gave the toiletries too them, then tallied the number down. The staff member told me seventy to a hundred guests requested toiletries on average. On my first day ninety-two did. Every day afterwards I would serve food to the guests. Volunteering at Holy Apostles was different then volunteering at Rescue Mission. There were many more volunteers so there was a very specific division of labor. One day I put butter on bagels and bread while the person before cut the bread in half. On another day I put protein bars on trays to serve to the guests. The person before me put bread on the tray, while the person after me put beans on the tray.

This style of work created a very different way of acting and feeling than my previous work at Rescue Mission. I felt like I was in a conveyor belt, and I essentially was, doing the same small thing over and over again. I made very little contact with the very guests I was trying to serve. There was always a gap between the guests and myself, whether it was the baptismal fountain in front of the office or a table with food on top. I felt uninvolved and isolated as a result. The work at Holy Apostles could be described as easier but it was ironically more stressful for me. The work was very repetitive, with little sense of completion or appreciation. I didn’t reach out and serve a guest, clean the tables, or tutor them. I just put butter on a hundred loaves of bread and put power bars on fifty trays.

Demographically the guests at Holy Apostles were mostly black with whites, Latinos, and Asians in the minority. There were slightly less black people at Holy Apostles than at Rescue Mission but noticeably more white people. Furthermore, there were noticeably less Latinos and Asians at Holy Apostles than at Rescue Mission. While Rescue Mission had about an equal number of men and women, Holy Apostles’ guests were almost entirely men with only a handful of women. The guests were noticeably older than those at Rescue Mission. The youngest guests were in their thirties, with no guests in their twenties and no families.

There was more diversity among the staff and volunteers at Holy Apostles than at Rescue Mission. The staff was mostly white and black. However, Holy Apostles was more segregated, with more space between white and black staff members. Most of the black staff members worked in the kitchen, some speaking with a noticeable African accent. The kitchen was tucked far away from the main hall. Volunteers could go for an entire day without seeing the kitchen and the people who worked there. While most of the white staff were in the main hall, most of the black staff were unseen. In Rescue Mission the kitchen was in the same serving room, just across the tables. The kitchen was a constant presence, the sights and smells of food nearby, serving just across the counter. In Holy Apostles the food was produced far away, delivered in complete form as if by magic.

The volunteers at Holy Apostles were significantly more diverse than at Rescue Mission both in race, sex, and age. The volunteers were mostly older whites who may be part of the church’s community. Many Asians also volunteered, many of them female. Most significantly, a few of the volunteers were families that came to work together. Even some children about ten years old were present. There were many female volunteers, perhaps even more than male volunteers. From an anthropological and intersectional perspective, my observations bring up intriguing questions about how a church and its religion creates a community of volunteers, especially among women and families.

The demeanor of the guests, staff, and volunteers was less lively than at Rescue Mission. Everyone was more solemn, docile, and obedient. The guests did not talk to each other as much and never loudly. I did not see any obvious sign of a strong emotional connection among the guests. This does not mean that no emotional bond existed but that the main hall was not conducive to such warm displays. The mess hall of the church was much bigger than the homely cafeteria at Rescue Mission, but it was also a lot emptier.

There was less engagement between the guests and volunteers. Volunteers were either on the other end of a table doing conveyer belt work or dutifully standing by as waiters, waiting to fill the water jugs. Filling water jugs in Rescue Mission was, as Joe told me, “hectic”. I had to be in constant motion. Volunteers frequently spilled drinks and so did the guests, which volunteers then rushed to clean up. Holy Apostles volunteers seemed to rarely fill jugs and spent most of their time standing still, leaning against the columns in the mess hall. In Rescue Mission the tables were rectangular, connected to each other, crammed in a small kitchen. This arrangement forced everyone together so a lot of engagement and even jostling took place. In Holy Apostles the main hall was huge and spacious. The tables were circular and spaced far apart. This resulted in guests inhabiting little islands, the space isolating them from eating together as a large group.

Sadly, I had little interaction with the homeless individuals there because of the isolating nature of my volunteer work, but I did have some interaction with volunteers. I had the longest interaction wth Jasmine. She was right next to me when I volunteered to put power bars on the food trays. Jasmine was very young, only seventeen years old, and in her senior year of high school with a GPA of 3.6. It was her first day volunteering and she was impressed how organized the place was. I was too, to an extent, but Holy Apostles’ impressive organization detracts from it for reasons I gave above. Nevertheless, I’m aware that such heavy organization is probably needed, since Holy Apostles is a very large place with a lot of staff and volunteers, larger than Rescue Mission by far. Organization is important but it is not a virtue in and of itself.

Other Case Studies
To supplement my research, I included interviews conducted by other researchers. My sources are diverse and come from many different places in America, including New York City. The studies are the journal articles, “A Picture is Worth…?” and “Voices Behind the Numbers”, the informal interviews on the WordPress blog “Tales of Endurance”, the anecdotes of homeless people living under the New York City subways in “Mole People”, and the collected accounts of interviewed women in “No Room of Her Own”.

In 2013, Deborah Padgett and her colleagues at the Qualitative Health Research in New York City, conducted interviews with thirteen people who were recovering from homelessness in New York City. The researchers asked the participants to take eighteen photographs that described parts of their lives, then reported their findings in “A Picture is Worth…?”. Their study was guided by “empowerment theory”, the optimistic hypothesis that homeless people could recover from severe mental illness by focusing on self-determination. Statistics from mental health services in New York City support the effectiveness of empowerment theory.[1] Throughout the study, “negative events included loss of child custody, childhood sexual abuse, deaths of close family members, extended periods of incarceration, and past acts of violence against others.” Participants needed thought, planning, and introspection when taking photographs representing their negative experiences.[2]

Ian lived with a girlfriend he loved deeply, but he was an alcoholic and she a heroin addict who died from an overdose. Ian took pictures of his girlfriend’s apartment in the East Village and of his current apartment under George Washington Bridge. The latter photograph reminded Ian than even though his family lived in New Jersey they could easily visit him. Walter began smoking crack with a woman he had a sexual encounter with. He described his decline into homelessness as an obsessive pursuit of the next high while being blind to everything else in his life. As he recovered, he was weary of neighborhoods he saw as negative spaces, such as a neighborhood in Queens he stayed in while recovering. Walter took a picture of sculptures in a park in Queens to remind him of beautiful scenery he could not see because of his crack addiction, but can see now.[3]

Lawrence avoided mentioning his childhood in the interview but took many pictures of long-forgotten places around the city boroughs, including a lonely boardwalk in Coney Island. To Lawrence, the long-forgotten places represented old memories of places he had visited before he became homeless. Jose challenged the viewer by taking a single picture of a missing persons flyer in a subway. Jose described how he had been like a missing person when he had mental illness, essentially lost to society and at the mercy of fate. Claude had his friend take photos of him doing productive things, such as doing push-ups and cooking. Claude took pride in his cooking, as it was a talent, a productive skill, and a way to live healthy. For Claude, cooking was a way of living well.[4]

Stacey went to prison many times and eventually became homeless. Stacey took photographs of her mother in a nursing home, saying that the nursing home reminds her of prison and homelessness. Stacey’s mother visited her daughter while Stacey was in prison. Now Stacey visits her mother in a different kind of prison. To Stacey, the nursing home, with the anonymity, neglect, and powerlessness it gave to the elderly, was equivalent to prison life. Jane took only positive photos from everyday scenes in her life such as the dishes after she washed them and a walk in the park. However, she did talk about her deep feelings of loneliness during her interview, wondering how one could take a picture of something so strong yet intangible.[5]

In 2007, an anonymous man conducted his own research, conducting unstructured interviews three homeless men, John, Scott, and Adam, in New York City and posted his interviews on YouTube. All three men were white. John and Adam were middle aged while Scott was in his senior years. On his website, the interviewer states that the homeless are a group of people he cannot overlook and he wanted to overcome people’s misconceptions about them. He discovered that the homeless people he interviewed underwent two kinds of catastrophes that rendered them homeless: several life crises such as deaths in the family, prison, or unemployment, and severe psychological disorders and mental illnesses including depression.

John has been homeless on and off since he was eighteen. He originally lived in New Jersey but after breaking up with his girlfriend he became addicted to drugs, which later led to his depression. He was later evicted from his apartment and after a few months ended up in prison for four years for burglary. He tried returning to his family, but his family rejected him, not wanting law enforcement to constantly disrupt their lives. He came to New York City in 2013, describing it as “enabling you to be homeless” because of the city’s numerous of shelters and social programs. He has been in the shelter system twice, describing Ward’s Island as a terrible place to be clean.[6]

Scott’s path to homelessness began when he endured a chain of losses for eighteen months. His wife died at forty-one years old. Then, Scott and his mother moved back to New York City, selling most of their belongings to settle his mother’s affairs in Florida. Later his mother got dementia and died of a heart attack. Scott said he had always worked and had always been able to weather hardships, but the deaths of his wife and mother were too great. He became extremely depressed and homeless in the process. He went to a men’s shelter in 29th St for housing but was also required to undergo a medical examination. He was taken to a Belleview asylum, the doctors fearing he would hurt himself. Scott insisted in the interview that he was misjudged for being insane when he was depressed.[7]

Adam lives by using freight trains to drift between New York City and Canada. Among the three homeless men interviewed, Adam seems to most live the bohemian lifestyle people in the past associated with homelessness. He was born in Canada but has been travelling back and forth from Canada to New York City for the last eleven or so years. He stated that he had friends in the city, perhaps a network of homeless people who support each other.[8]

In 2015, a reporter and photographer visited homeless encampments in new York City and interviewed the people who lived there. Nate Schweber, a journalist for the New York Times, compiled their reports in an article titled, “Life on the Streets”. The homeless people talked about the facets of their lives most pertinent to their homelessness: serious medical and mental health conditions, job losses, and drug abuse. Jose grew up in a troubled home in the Bronx. His mother landed in prison due to drug charges. Jose was sent to a foster home but he rebelled, so he was sent to another foster home. He met his girlfriend, Kimberly, around that time. Kimberly’s grandmother kicked his girlfriend out of her Long Island home because of a family fight. Jose let Kimberly live with him, but both were evicted either by the foster family or landlord. Jose and Kimberly, now pregnant, live in a makeshift tent under the No. 4 train.[9]

Dawn and her partner, Mohamed, lived in a Bronx apartment while Mohamed worked as a mechanic. The couple took their landlord to court for his negligence maintaining running water and heat, but the bureaucratic legal process was too obscufating and time-consuming. Mohamed lost his job in 2013 and the couple became homeless. Dawn and Mohamed tried to live in a shelter but it lacked resources for couples without children, while Dawn also suffered from depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. The couple live together in city parks and train stations, refusing to go to a shelter because they do not want to be separated from each other.[10]

Heather formerly lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania with an abusive ex-husband who shot her in the belly. Heather’s father brought her back home in Staten Island. Unlike Hose and Dawn, Heather grew up in a middle class Jewish family, her mother a lawyer, her father a policeman. Her father died in 1999, and Heather ran away from home. Homeless life was far from easy. A mugger bashed her head with a brick, taking her two years to relearn to walk. Heather cannot work because of fatigue and vertigo so she scrapes a living by recycling cans.[11]

Jason formerly served in the Army but took to drink by 2006. He lived with relatives and girlfriends before winding up in Ward Island Shelter. His shelter roommate introduced him to other homeless people in McCarren Park. Jason easily became friends with them, spending the summer with them, but he worries about winter so he intended to take part in a back-to-work program.[12] John emigrated from Puerto Rico to Yonkers, New York when he was only three years old. After his family died, John lived alone. He got into a fight with a neighbor and was arrested. When John left prison he learned he could not return to his home. He suffered from depression, high blood pressure, and leg problems. He once lived in a shelter but caught tuberculosis.[13]

C.J. and Tiffany, a couple married for sixteen years, became homeless when they fell behind their mortgage and were both fired from their jobs. Since then they made public transportation in the city their home. Tiffany appreciates the support shelters and soup kitchens provide but does not consider them a living.[14] Jerelyn lived for years in an apartment in 3rd St and Ave D, teaching sewing in New York City public housing and a fabric store until she lost her job in 2003. Unable to find a job, she became homeless, but refuses to go to a shelter because she finds the other residents angry, bitter, and difficult to deal with. She turned to Christianity to deal with the stresses of homelessness and now preaches to others.[15] Manuel immigrated to America and became a building superintendent for twenty years. He became an alcoholic, losing his job, and he, his wife, and his three children were thrown out of their apartment. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, becoming sober for two years before relapsing. Now, he strikes a deal with a friend who owns a bodega. If he bought beer from the bodega his friend would let him sleep for a few hours in the storage room.[16]

Though researchers, academics, and the public pay the most attention to homeless adults, homeless children in truth make up the vast majority of homeless people. Homeless children are often part of homeless families, usually under the watch of a single mother. In 2014, Erica Mohan from Community Education Partnerships and Carolyn Shields from Wayne State University interviewed five homeless children across the United States, putting their stories in context of the McKinney-Veno Act of 1987, federal legislation mandating the education of homeless children, and previous empirical research conducted on homeless children. The researchers titled their paper, “The Voices Behind the Numbers: Understanding the Experiences of Homeless Students”.

Overall there were myriad causes of family and child homelessness such as the parents suffering from physical and mental illnesses, home robberies, a mother and her children fleeing an abusive home, and sometimes even bad money decisions by the parents. Inept housing bureaucracies were also a key player because they would take excruciatingly long or even fail to provide a family with even temporary housing. Nonetheless, parents still impressed on their children high expectations to do well in school and were very involved in their children’s’ education, such as coming frequently to parent-teacher conferences. The children often felt deep embarrassment at disclosing their homelessness at school and peers often bullied them for being homeless. The children also frequently changed schools since they bounced with their families from one shelter or temporary living space to another.[17]

Mariah was ten years old and in 5th grade at the time of her interview. Five years ago her family lived in a three-bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood. After her brother was born, her mother had severe Post Partum depression and their family was robbed. Mariah and her family spent weeks in one emergency shelter and weeks in another, causing her to go to four different schools. She lived with her mother and brother at a transitional house for two years, but her father, forced to separate from his family, went to a nearby men’s shelter since the housing program only accepted women and children. He hated the arrangement but made the best of it by sleeping in a car near the family’s new home. Mariah had a supportive school. Her teacher treated her kindly, the school gives her free food and supplies, and she saw a tutor to help her with her reading, spelling, and math.[18]

Reba was eight years old and in special education. Her mother quit her job and so the family lived with a grandmother for a short while. However, the grandmother soon expelled the family for being too loud. The family lived in a shelter and lived with the father temporarily while Reba went to two schools at the year of her interview. Reba’s peers frequently bullied her in her old school but she found the peers in her new school nice. Her new teachers, upon realizing she was homeless, were charitable with money but tactless by making her homelessness public to the rest of her peers, something she was deeply embarrassed about.[19]

Ramona was thirteen at the time of her interview. Her mother had a brain tumor two years ago, which scared everyone in the family. Her father got so desperate he resorted to crime and went to jail. The family slept in the father’s taxi rather than a shelter because sleeping with so many strangers terrified Ramona. Her brother and father would be separated by the shelter system. Ramona is very withdrawn at school, rarely speaking to anyone. She wants to do cheerleading but she does not want the school to compensate for her, because that would mean her telling the school about her homelessness. Thankfully, the school principal knew they were homeless and was very supportive of the family. Still, Ramona’s mother placed high expectations on her children and would punish Ramona if she got anything less than a B+.[20]

Michael was eleven when he was interviewed. Michael had two brothers, two sisters, and his family lived in a hotel room. Michael’s parents wanted to buy a house that cost too much, so they made a deal with a mortgage broker only to be scammed of their money. The family took the broker’s company to court and won their money back after several years. They rented a house with three bedrooms but eventually their money ran out and Family Services found them a hotel room. Michael’s mother used to work at a bank but then worked at Macy’s. His father works a decent job but was poor at managing money. Michael at the time of the interview attended a decent school, unlike the last school, which was awful.[21]

Rosa was nine years old at the time of her interview. Her father lived half an hour away with his girlfriend while she and her mother lived at a transitional home for women and children who have been abused. Rosa did enjoy hanging out with the other homeless children, however, and even grew vegetables and fruit trees at her transitional home. Rosa’s last school was terrible with a teacher who was very mean to her. Her school at the time of her interview was much better. Her teacher was very supportive of her, but she had few friends. Rosa formerly had trouble with math and reading but a tutor helped her in those subjects. She really loves doing science but does not like art anymore because her art teacher was so mean to her.[22]

In 1990s, Jennifer Toth, a British journalist and writer journeyed beneath New York City’s streets to explore the lives of the “mole people” in subway and sewer tunnels. The “mole people” are homeless people who live in the most extreme isolation from mainstream society, effectively forming their own little neighborhoods and almost never interacting with anyone aboveground. In 1993, Toth published her book by the same name as the people she interviewed, “The Mole People”. Though she was an undercover journalist and did not structure interviews as a researcher, she still recorded her conversations with the homeless people she befriended below ground, which are still full of insights.

Buckley, a young white man originally from from a white, middle-class, New Jersey, described the condition of living underground well, saying that being homeless was, in some very important ways, a conscious decision. As he said, not everyone wants the “normal” life of a nine-to-five work week, a family with two kids, and the status as a “productive member of society”. People go through different stages of homelessness, which could be measured by how isolated the homeless person becomes from mainstream society. Over time, the homeless person may join a community of other homeless people or they may be alone, but the isolation is generally a gradual downward slide, as the homeless people slowly cuts off from mainstream society.[23]

Bill was a black man in his fifties with good education, earning a business degree at Fordham University and masters degree in economics. Bill deliberately chose to be homeless, even claiming to enjoy it. He treats his life as a fascinating journey as if he was an anthropologist studying a remote, lost culture. Naturally, Bill’s descriptions of the “mole people” were very analytical. The underground homeless formed small communities where everyone had informal but unique duties. The communities even managed to obtain their own water and electricity to some degree.[24]

Bernard and Bob were two homeless men who have been close to each other for many years. Bernard stumbled into the tunnels after a very bad break up with his girlfriend. Since then Bernard became a leader and protector of sorts of his own tribe, describing himself as Lord of the Tunnels. He related a story when a gang of homeless men attacked another homeless groups, destroying their homes and belongings and raping Sheila, one of the women. Bernard rallied a mob to avenge the victims while Sheila persuaded the police to arrest the delinquent gang.[25] Bernard takes pride in his underground community. He is suspicious of the Coalition for the Homeless and other such agencies because he found the red tape made the Coalition ineffective and the Coalition itself condescending. He even rejected a bad apartment provided to him by a homelessness agency.[26]

Bernard’s best friend, Bob, a fifty-five year old white man from Chicago, was an engineer but became homeless due to his mental illness and drug addiction. In spite of his troubles, Bob has a deep sense of pride, refusing to take money from the government. Unfortunately, it does nothing to cure him of his addiction. Bob scrapes money for his addiction by picking up cans for cash and occasionally scamming people from their money. He also takes up an odd job when the opportunity presents itself for a bit of extra cash.[27]

Virginia was formerly a secretary who lost her job and husband because of her drug use, eventually becoming part of Buckley’s underground community. She met Frank, a featherweight boxer just out of jail, at All Saints’ Soup Kitchen and formed a relationship. Together, they decided to go to drug rehabilitation and return to some semblance of their former lives. Now they own an apartment and are seeking jobs. Virginia and Frank miss their old friends such as Buckley dearly and even try to take some of their friends back into mainstream society, but their expectations met disappointment, as their friends always return to their life underground. Virginia and Frank’s road to recovery is long and winding, they take steps forward sometimes and steps back other times, but Virginia is determined to make a stable family for her child from her old marriage, Vicky.[28]

Don formerly provided for his wife and children but lost them due to his drug addiction. Don decided to live underground to clean his drug habit. He works hard at a construction job, sending the money he earns to his family. He sees the tunnels as a very dangerous place but nevertheless lives underground. One night he overdosed on drugs and Bernard evicted him from his group.[29]

The largest and most descriptive interviews for this thesis were found in the book “No Room of Her Own”. In 2011, Desiree Hellegers interviewed fifteen homeless women in Seattle, Washington and compiled them into an “oral history” to give voice to the voiceless. Hellegers does not believe homelessness arrives from individual failings but rather from an increasingly dismantled social safety net, the erosion of civil society, and exclusion of the poor from public discourse. I will include five of Helleger’s interviews in this thesis.

Mama Pam came from a military background, so she frequently moved with her family since her father’s job location constantly changed. Pam, who had no access to sex education or birth control, became pregnant at seventeen at a time before Roe v. Wade passed in the Supreme Court. She later married and became pregnant a second time. Pam was abused by her father and mother in her childhood and was later abused by her husband in adulthood. Her father was an alcoholic who sexually abused her when she was only thirteen. Like her mother before her, Pam stayed with an abusive husband out of financial dependence. Her husband abused her so hard one time she was stuck in a wheel chair for a year and a half. Pam eventually fled her husband to a mission in St. Petersburg, Florida, but the preacher abused her as well. Pam then fled to work with carnival folk.[30]

Elizabeth Thatcher lived in a working class family, her father dying from black lung disease from his work as a miner. Thatcher grew up at a time when the state could suspend the custodial rights of poor and working class mothers it deemed “promiscuous” or “unfit mothers”. The state took Elizabeth from her mother and placed her in the Martha Washington School for Girls, a facility run by nuns who tried to discipline poor girls to strengthen their morals. Elizabeth beat up a nun and was transferred to the Maple Leaf School For Girls, a school even rougher than the last one. She had to fight other girls to prove her strength, sold her virginity, did heroin at seventeen, was arrested for a felony, and even had a shoot out with the police. After Elizabeth left prison, she married her first husband and had a child, but returned to prison for six months. Then she married another man who abused her for eight years.[31]

Roxanne Roberts was raped by her father when she was only six and attempted suicide at fourteen. Roxanne later moved with her mother and stepfather. Her mother was a black private investigator, a woman who was intelligent but wanted instant sexual gratification. Roxanne described her mother as a floosy who slept around with people with big names. Roxanne attended Roosevelt College with ambitions as a writer and, after her mother died in 1991, Roxanne led a catechism class in St. Clement’s Episcopal Church. She later became assistant director of STAY (Seattle Tutoring Agency for Youth) and attended the University of Washington, but left university for the army to pay for her college. In 1998, Roxanne and her friend were arrested in a thirty-dollar crack sale, was arrested again in 1999 for possession and in 2000 for dealing. Roxanne became homeless after her release from prison and struggles with PTSD, which she attributes to her childhood molestation and prison incarceration.[32]

Delores Loann Winston claimed racism was central to her life story. Growing up in 1960s Rayfille, Louisiana, Delores saw her extended family and the African American community as a security against lynching and other terrorism at the time. She descended from a family of masons, learned how to cook from an early age, and always loved to read. She was abused by a family member in her childhood and moved to Seattle after her grandfather died. Delores spent most of her interview reminiscing about the racism she faced during childhood when racial integration was still deeply controversial. When she was a child, her teacher slammed her head against the wall for not saying, “Yes, Ma’am”. She joined the Black Panthers for a year when she was thirteen. In adulthood, Delores was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness she inherited from her mother and became a drug addict in 1986. After her best friend was murdered by her husband and her son sent to prison, Delores’ life went downhill and she eventually became homeless. She found employment at the WHEEL shelter and is currently obtaining her bachelor’s degree. She indents to gain a master’s degree in the future.[33]

Marie underwent a chain of traumas that led to her homelessness for four years. She was sexually and mentally abused sometime earlier in her life and went to college on and off before becoming homeless. She had fibromyalgia for most of her life, a chronic muscle condition caused by extreme physical trauma, causing her a lot of physical problems. She never got a degree and her illness caused her to quit her job when she was a periodicals clerk at Seattle University. She married and returned to college when she was forty but her fibromyalgia returned, worse than before, and entered a long period of research, consulting with doctors, and therapy. She took care of her family but her relations became toxic as her family depended on her so much. The physical and mental strain became so unbearable to her she ran away, becoming homeless. After years of living without a home, she picked up painting during a volunteer program. Since then, Marie used painting as a profound way of coming to terms with her losses and moving forward. She now lives in an apartment and works at WHEEL to create a supportive alternate community for homeless people.[34]


[1] D. K. Padgett et al., “A Picture Is Worth . . . ? Photo Elicitation Interviewing With Formerly Homeless Adults.” Qualitative Health Research 23 (2013), 1436.

[2] Ibid., 1440.

[3] Ibid., 1438.

[4] Ibid., 1439.

[5] Ibid., 1439-440.

[6] “Week 2 of Interviews,” Tales of Endurance: Stories from New York City’s Homeless, December 10, 2007, https://talesofendurance.wordpress.com.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Nate Schweber, “Life on the Streets,” The New York Times, September 06, 2015, 3-4.

[10] Ibid., 4-5.

[11] Ibid., 5-6.

[12] Ibid., 6-7.

[13] Ibid., 7-8.

[14] Schweber, “Life on the Streets,” 8-9.

[15] Ibid., 9-10.

[16] Ibid., 10-11.

[17] Erica Mohan and Carolyn M. Shields, “The Voices Behind the Numbers: Understanding the Experiences of Homeless Students,” Critical Questions in Education 5 (2014): 197-99.

[18] Mohan and Shields, “Voices Behind the Numbers,” 193.

[19] Mohan and Shields, “Voices Behind the Numbers,” 194.

[20] Ibid., 195.

[21] Mohan and Shields, “Voices Behind the Numbers,” 195-96.

[22] Ibid., 196.

[23] Jennifer Toth,The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels beneath New York City (Chicago,

IL: Chicago Review Press, 1993), 90-1, and 94.

[24] Toth,,The Mole People, 92-3.

[25] Toth, The Mole People, 99-101.

[26] Ibid., 103 and 105.

[27] Ibid., 105 and 108.

[28] Toth, The Mole People, 95-6.

[29] Ibid., 108-10.

[30] Deseriee Hellegers, No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death, and Resistance (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 28-38.

[31] Ibid., 49-59.

[32] Hellegers, No Room of Her Own, 93-105.

[33] Ibid., 105-15.

[34] Hellegers, No Room of Her Own, 137-146.


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Part 1 – Abstract & Our History

Part 2 – Critical Geography & Intersectional Feminism

Part 3 – Current Literature

Part 4 – Case Studies

Part 5 – Analysis, Conclusion, Discussion

 Part 6 – Bibliography

LITERATURE REVIEW: Current Literature on Homelessness
Though poverty and discrimination together push people into homelessness, these factors do not impact people in the same ways. Discrimination against women, nonwhites, and LGBT do have underlying similarities but also have profound differences. The forms of sexism that push poor women into homelessness are domestic violence, the greater likelihood of women to be poor, and the pay gap. Many forms of institutional racism such as poor housing, mortgage scams, unemployment, the racial pay gap, and the school to prison pipeline assault poor nonwhites. Poor LGBT suffer many health and psychological problems stemming from the prejudice and discrimination they face, the most brutal being cast out from their homes by friends and family.

Sexism and Homelessness
In January 2012, The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless conducted a meta analysis of previous studies about homeless women throughout America, citing four major reasons why women become homeless: domestic violence, poverty, wage inequality, and lack of affordable housing.[1] Close to 100% of homeless women were domestically abused.[2] Between 22% and 57% said domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness.[3] N. J. Sokoloff, in his 2005 review of domestic violence literature throughout America, “Domestic Violence at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender”, states that abuse of women is more likely to be found among impoverished African Americans and young, unemployed urban residents. Among Latinos, a group often alongside blacks in poverty, men are frequently socialized to be macho and domineering, which increases the likelihood of abuse of women.[4]

Furthermore, poor women do not have the same resources as middle class women. Poor women who flee abusers have family members who are less capable of accommodating them and supporting them. Unlike middle class women, poor women have fewer women shelters and lower quality women’s shelters. Poverty creates isolation whether in the distant country or inner city, and this includes isolation from government services. Nonwhite women may face other obstacles. Latina women, for instance, do not report their abusers because they are raised to be nurturing and submissive. Disclosing their abusers to outsiders (non-Latinos) violates their gender role and can even be interpreted as a form of race treachery. Latina women who are illegal immigrants choose not disclose information about themselves or their abusers to clinics because they fear they may face “legal problems, loss or services, or deportation.”[5]

Women are more likely to be in poverty than men, especially in deep poverty. Of all Americans living in poverty in 2012, 55% were women. The number of poor women even increased from 2009 to 2011 while the number of poor men decreased.[6] The wage gap profoundly influences women’s economic status and is a major contributor to women’s poverty. Nationally women only have 36% of men’s wealth. In 2010 white women earned 77 cents to a white man’s dollar. Black women earned only 63 cents to a white man’s dollar. Women consistently earned less than men in all fields except lower paying jobs.[7]

Kimberle Crenshaw’s landmark 1991 intersectional analysis of battered women of color, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color”, points in a similar direction. Crenshaw observed that domestic violence is higher among nonwhites, who tend to be poorer. Consequently, more poor, nonwhite women will be homeless than middle class white women. In addition, nonwhite women are less likely to speak English, which decreases their likelihood of being accepted at a women’s shelter as women’s shelters are less likely to admit women who do not speak English.[8] Even middle class women typically have few places to go, a fact that is amplified for poor women, women with few resources. As a result, poor women who flee abusive relationships must often go to the streets. Poor women often cannot access assisted housing and women’s shelters because they have to wait on a long list and, since they are so full, shelters must turn away many women.[9]

Homelessness is not a sudden crash but a gradual downward spiral for both men and women, though women tend to encounter sexism in their spiral downwards. In 2010, Deborah Fingfeld-Connet from the University of Missouri conducted an investigation on the experiences of homeless women by conducting a meta analysis of over six thousand studies of homeless women in the United States and Western countries, titled “Becoming Homeless, Being Homeless, and Resolving Homelessness Among Women.” She concluded that homeless women grew up in very toxic environments that left them ill- equipped to deal with the world as health adults. Homeless women had to deal with hardships common with homeless men such as domestic violence, negligence, poverty, poor mental health, and substance abuse. Homeless women also encountered additional problems in their childhoods usually unique to women such as increased financial instability, lower self-esteem, and sexual abuse. In adolescence and adulthood, homeless women encountered more burdens usually unique to women such as pregnancies, STDs, and childcare.[10]

As the Coalition For the Homeless showed in their census of New York City’s homeless population from 1983 to 2016, families, not single adults, make up the majority of the homeless population, and most of those families consist of women and children. Just as many poor women are saddled with childrearing before they become homeless, a factor that economically disempowers them and increases their chances of being homeless, many homeless women are heavily burdened in taking care of their homeless families. This perpetuates the patriarchal gender roles women faced before their homelessness and makes it harder for both homeless women and children to leave homelessness.

In 2001, Ralph Nunez examined a case study from a survey conducted by the Institute for Children and Poverty. He surveyed 350 homeless families in New York City, including 600 children, titling his work, “Family Homelessness in New York City: A Case Study”, and also conducted an analyses of the survey itself. A single mother typically raises homeless children, with the father usually absent. The mother usually receives public assistance and often suffers cuts in benefits such as welfare and Medicaid. About 21% of homeless women become homeless after losing their benefits. 10% of homeless women find a job but only 40% of them manage to keep it.[11] Homeless mothers often emotionally neglect their children because of the nomadic lifestyle they lead. Homeless mothers spend a lot of time obtaining resources so the family to survive. Homeless children are more likely to suffer from physical and mental illnesses, remain sick for longer, and lack education, perpetuating a vicious cycle of homelessness.[12]

Homeless women experience sexism in other ways that hinder their chances of leaving homelessness. One such example is the sexism young homeless girls in Canada experience at school, hindering their education. In 2011, Dhillon Jaskiran contributed to the journal Feminist Formations with his study “Social Exclusion, Gender, and Access to Education in Canada: Narrative Accounts from Girls on the Street.” He based an exploratory study of the intersection between social exclusion, gender, and access to education by documenting the research and interviews he conducted on young women and girls living in poverty and experiencing homelessness in Canada. Though the girls highly valued their education, they stressed their attention to more pressing and basic needs, such as escaping violent parents, finding a safe place to live, and accessing food and health care.[13] The girls felt deeply alienated from the education system, seeing themselves as “living property”. Both school staff and peers labeled and stigmatized the girls for their backgrounds, saying they had limited intellectual ability. Most troubling was how the girls’ sexual histories haunted them in school. Teachers and students stigmatized the girls for their sexual histories through slut shaming and were sexually harassed by male teachers who took advantage of their vulnerability and of their reputations as “sluts”. The girls strongly felt they needed access to female teachers since they experienced a lot of male violence in their pasts.[14]

Racism and Homelessness

Among nonwhites, systemic racism is a constant and malevolent power structure that harms them socially and economically, with systemic racism drastically increasing their chances of being homeless. The literature that connects racism and poverty is so enormous only a small portion can be realistically included in this thesis. Historically, nonwhites have always been oppressed in many forms, whether through discrimination or outright slavery, resulting in a near permanent underclass. The most prevalent modern forms of systemic racism are in housing, imprisonment, and street violence, all of which massively contribute to homelessness. These forms of systemic racism are not unique to poor nonwhites, but they do hit them much harder. Often systemic racism directly influences nonwhite people’s housing and employment opportunities. Any person who cannot get housing or employment runs a significant risk of becoming homeless. Both disadvantages in housing and employment together arguably hit nonwhite people to a greater and more consistent degree than any other discriminated group.

The largest modern housing and mortgage crisis for nonwhites took place during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, and it still casts its shadow on the present day. Robert Fairbanks’ academic book, “The War on Slums in the Southwest”, chronicles the development of the housing projects in Southwest America, which was similar to project developments throughout the country. After World War II, upper and middle class people increasingly left the city for the suburbs. American inner cities had already declined for a long time by that point; inventions such as automobiles allowed people to live in homes farther from the inner city. Urban planners and other bureaucrats had modernist visions of a reborn city that catered to the aspirations and needs of upper and middle class people, usually white, while the needs of lower class people, consisting of many nonwhites, were an afterthought.

Thus, the urban planners demolished the slums, the homes of many nonwhite people, and placed them in housing projects. These reforms were plagued with racism throughout. Poor nonwhites were given rushed, substandard public housing, as opposed to poor whites. Afterwards, urban planners neglected to maintain the projects, which soon became dilapidated, and created a welfare system that forced poor nonwhites to submit to crushing regulations just to live there.[15] As Mary Patillo observed in her 2007 analysis of substandard housing in the projects in “Black on the Block”, a combination of mortgage scams and poor zoning laws hit poor nonwhites hard, making it ever more difficult for them to live in any decent house, or any house at all. Poor zoning laws resulted in negligent to disastrous treating of the projects, leading to such terrible outcomes as highways cutting straight through inner communities and preventing the building of more necessary apartments[16]. Real estate owners would refuse to sell homes to nonwhites or allow them to take mortgages for a home in fear of their homes losing their property value.[17]

Pettit and Western from the University of Washington and Princeton University combined administrative, survey, and cenues data to examine the racial inequalities in the U.S. Prison population in their 2004 study, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Courses: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration.” The school to prison pipeline is closely related to poverty and homelessness, especially in terms of poor education, and the lack of housing and employment opportunities for ex-prisoners. Wealthier nonwhites are more likely to dodge such a treacherous downward spiral, avoiding the slim economic opportunities and the dangerous, volatile life of poverty that push so many nonwhites into crime. Prison itself erodes a person’s ability to live in society as a normal, financially independent person. It isolates the person from his family and work connections.[18]

Homelessness is usually more than just a material condition of not owning a house. It is a state of mind and lifestyle that prevents people from functioning in society as mature, independent adults. Prison time severely damages a person’s ability to reintegrate into society, as Rodriguez and Brown from The Vera Institute observed in their 2003 report on literature about recently released inmates from New York City’s prisons in “Preventing Homelessness Among People Leaving Prison.” Ex-prisoners earn lower wages and are less likely to be employed. They are less likely to get married or stay present within their families, and are more likely to lose welfare benefits and voting rights.[19] Upon release, ex-prisoners often return to the communities they came from, where persistent poverty limits their opportunities for jobs and affordable housing. Statistical evidence links prison time to homelessness. In 2003, up to 20% of newly released New York City prisoners were homeless or had unstable housing conditions. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, 30% to 50% of people under parole supervision were homeless.[20]

Race also contributes to homelessness among ex-convicts because people who leave prison have trouble finding employment because of their criminal record. Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg from the Urban Public Health Department of Hunter College and his colleagues surveyed nearly two thousand people leaving New York City Jail between 1997 and 2004, reporting their findings in “Characteristics of People Leaving New York City Jails by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity”. They concluded that most convicts were black and Hispanic/Latino who had high rates of substance abuse, high rates of being repeat offenders, and had difficult living circumstances. Ironically, while more ex-convict women tended to be homeless than men, men had much bigger issues with finding employment and education.[21] Imprisonment is one of the many pieces of the systemic racism that contributes to poor nonwhite people becoming homeless.

Imprisonment contributes to homelessness by creating an entire dimension of marginalization from mainstream society, troubles with employment scratching only the surface. In 2012 Megha Ramaswamy from the University of Kansas School of Medecine and Nicholas Freudenberg from Hunter College wrote the article, ”The Cycle of Social Exclusion For Urban, Young Men of Color in the United States: What Is the Role of Incarceration?”. The authors gathered longitudinal data from one set of interviews with 397 men aged 16 to 18 in a New York City jail and another set of interviews taken of the same young men a year later. The authors discovered that while incarceration did not disconnect the young men directly, it caused the young men to have unstable housing, which then led to disconnectedness and social exclusion. As previous research shows, unstable housing is also a major factor in homelessness and many homeless people are isolated and excluded from mainstream society, including all the benefits mainstream society provides.

The authors extrapolated that the black and Latino ex-convicts were twice as disconnected as the white ex-convicts. For both blacks and Latinos, the doors of education, equitable housing, and neighborhood integration were closed. For blacks, their lack of opportunities stemmed from centuries of segregation and urban dislocation. For Latinos, their lack of opportunities stemmed from their immigration status and their marginalization from public schools and other mainstream institutions. The authors grouped higher disconnection to many other systemically racist ills such as more instances of arrest and incarceration, less legal employment, lack of education, violence and lack of safety in schools, and a lower graduation rate. The authors explicitly described a “school-to-jail pipeline” in their findings and blamed poor policies in education, the war on drugs, and the tightening of welfare policies as three major factors.[22]

Yet another study confirms that stigma and racial discrimination are correlated with indicators of homelessness. In 2016, Maurice Gattis and Andrea Larson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison combined a cross-sectional research design with structured interviews of 89 black homeless youth aged 16-24 years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They concluded that the depressive symptoms many of the youth experienced were closely associated with both racial discrimination and homelessness. Racial discrimination and homelessness were both chronic forms of stress that erode mental health. They were two forms of chronic stress that affected the mental health of black homeless youth. The authors recommended that policies addressing black homeless adolescents should address racial discrimination, a lack of safe housing, and mental health.[23]

Heteronormativity and Homelessness
Unlike the literature on race and gender, the literature on LGBT people and homelessness is not as large. This could be because awareness of LGBT as a civil rights is very new. LGBT rights did not really enter mainstream discourse until the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, while the discourses on women and nonwhite civil rights are older. Also, the literature on LGBT people and homelessness focuses almost exclusively on homeless youth, and not a broader population of LGBT people. In 2009, Albelda Randy and her colleagues from the Williams Institute issued a national report on LGBT poverty in “Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community.” LGBT people are more likely to live in poverty than straight people for a number of reasons including employment discrimination, exclusion from marriage, and lack of health insurance coverage. They are less likely to receive family support (the isolation of poverty again), and face family conflict about “coming out”. Randy’s statistics point in a similar direction: 24% of lesbian and bisexual women are poor compared to 19% of straight women. 6.9% of lesbian couples are poor compared to 5.4% of straight couples and 4% of gay couples. One out of five children with LGBT parents lives in poverty compared to only one out of ten children with straight parents.[24]

In 2006, Nicholas Ray of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force described LGBT youth being rejected by their families as among many other factors causing homelessness, in the nationwide report “An Epidemic of Homelessness”. Families who refuse to accept LGBT people’s sexuality often cast them out, which is a major contribution to LGBT homelessness. Again, LGBT people are more likely to be poor than straight people. As with racism and sexism, the blows that make LGBT people poor are often the same blows that drive them to homelessness if they are not poor already. 50% of gay males faced negative parental reaction when coming out with 26% of gay males told to leave the home.

As discussed earlier, domestic violence is more common in poor households than middle class households. This means most LGBT youth (and adults) who have been expelled from their homes already lived in poverty to begin with. It is not outlandish to believe that poor families are less likely to accept non-straight sexual orientation than middle class families, as poverty decreases educational opportunities and likewise breeds ignorance. In addition, LGBT homeless youth face much greater stigma and health risks compared to heterosexual homeless youth, as Maurice Gattis concluded in his 2013 study of homeless youth in “An Ecological Systems Comparison Between Homeless Sexual Minority Youths and Homeless Heterosexual Youths.” After conducting structured interviews and bivariate analysis of risk and protective outcomes between LGBT homeless youths and heterosexual homeless youth, he concluded that LGBT youth are more likely to have mental health problems, before and after homelessness, and engage in unhealthy sexual practices.[25]

The problems observed by Gattis can be traced back to the discrimination LGBT youth face and the stigma that still shrouds their sexuality. According to Gattis’ study, they experience more stigmas for being homeless than straight youth as well as exacerbated problems homeless youth everywhere face, including suicide, substance abuse, and risky sexual practices. LGBT youth had worse symptoms of depression than straight youth. 42% of LGBT youth seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, 27% made a plan for suicide, 27% attempted suicide, and 15% injured themselves while attempting suicide. Among straight youth, 12% seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, 11% made a plan for suicide, 8% attempted suicide, and 2% incurred themselves while attempting suicide.[26] LGBT youth were also more likely to engage in unhealthy sexual practices. 44% of LGBT youth had survival sex throughout their lives, 69% had anal sex, 42% had sex with a prostitute, and 34% had sex with an IV drug user. Among straight youth, 9% had survival sex throughout their lives, 25% had anal sex, 13% had sex with a prostitute, and 8% had sex with an IV drug user.

Dating violence is very prevalent among LGBT youth and a major cause of mental disorders. Abuse and mental disorders both are large factors in causing homelessness for many people. In 2013, researchers Meredith Dank and her colleagues conducted research for the Journal of Youth Adolescence, titled “Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth”. The authors employed a cross-sectional research design, using a survey of thousands of 7th-12th grade youth in 10 schools in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. They discovered that LGBT youth experienced all types of dating violence and abuse more than their heterosexual counterparts, including physical dating violence, psychological dating abuse, cyber dating abuse, and sexual coercion.[27]

Sometimes the stigma and abuse LGBT people face goes hand in hand with drugs and crime. In 2011, Danielle Ompad and her colleagues from the New York Academy of Medicine, University of Columbia, and the National Development and Research Institutes researched the health and drug habits of lesbian women. They titled their research, “HIV Risk Behaviors Among Young Drug Using Women Who Have Sex With Women in New York City”. The authors selected participants already recruited for two studies of non-injection drug users to complete a standardized questionnaire detailing the risks in their behaviors. Their results revealed that women who have sex with women (WSW) were more likely to be homeless, make income illegally such as selling drugs, and more likely to have been to prison than women who had sex with men only (WSMO). WSWs started having sex younger (often before 15), more often traded sex for money and drugs, and were four times more likely to have been shot than WSMOs. WSW also had fewer resources and were discriminated against in welfare policies. 83% of WSW were attacked for their sexuality.[28] Stigma and crime are both related to homelessness in that both marginalize LGBT people, disconnecting and isolating them from mainstream society.

When taken together, all the aforementioned literature provides a consistent message. Poverty combined with discrimination increases the risk of homelessness, with discrimination acting as a catalyst that pushes a poor person, already in a precarious condition, over the edge. It also bears noting that the same forms of discrimination that makes a person poor to begin with also push them over the edge into homelessness. Women tend to be poorer than men – poverty wears a woman’s face – because of sexism such as fewer economic opportunities and the pay gap. Those same poor women then become homeless because of sexism in the form of domestic violence. Nonwhite people are significantly poorer than white people, in large part because of systemic racism in its many forms. The same systemic racism that isolates them in dilapidated neighborhoods, denies them job opportunities, and lands them in prison, later puts them in homeless shelters. LGBT people are more likely to be poor than straight people because of the stigma surrounding their sexuality. It is that same stigma that exacerbates the suffering of poor LGBT people, either in them being rejected by their families or having unhealthy sexual practices on the streets.

[1] “The Characteristics of Homeless Women,” 1-2.

[2] “Some Facts on Homelessness, Housing, and Violence Against Women,” National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 2010, http://www.nlchp.org/content/pubs/Some Facts on Homeless and DV.pdf.

[3] “The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness,” The National Center on Family Homelessness, 2011, http://www.familyhomelessness.org/media/147.pdf.

[4] N.J. Sokoloff, “Domestic Violence at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender: Challenges and Contributions to Understanding Violence Against Marginalized Women in Diverse Communities,” Violence Against Women 11 (2005): 51.

[5] Sokoloff, “Domestic Violence at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender,” 48-51.

[6] “The Characteristics of Homeless Women,” 1.

[7] Ibid., 1-2.

[8] Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins,” 1263-1265.

[9] “Domestic Violence and Homelessness.” National Coalition for the Homeless, accessed April 27, 2016, 1, http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/domestic.pdf.

[10] Deborah Finfgeld-Connet, Becoming Homeless, Being Homeless, and Resolving Homelessness Among Women,” Issues in Mental Health Nursing 31 (2010): 463.

[11] Ralph Nunez, “Family Homelessness in New York City: A Case Study,” Political

Science Quarterly 116 (2001): 367-68.

[12] Ibid., 373-76.

[13] Jaskiran Dhillon, Social Exclusion, Gender, and Access to Education in Canada: Narrative Accounts from Girls on the Street,” Feminist Formations 23(2011): 128.

[14] Dhillon” “Social Exclusion, Gender, and Access to Education in Canada,” 121-123.

[15] Robert B. Fairbanks, The War on Slums in the Southwest: Public Housing and Slum Clearance in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, 1935-1965 (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2014).

[16] William J. Wilson, More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (New York, NY: Norton & Company, 2009), 28-9

[17] Mary Patillo, Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 35.

[18] B. Pettit and B. Western, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration.” American Sociological Review 69 (2004), 152 and 155.

[19] Pettit and Western, “”Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course,” 155.

[20] Nino Rodriguez and Brenner Brown Vera Institute of Justice, 2003, 2, http://www.prisonpolicy.org/


[21] Nicholas Freudenberg et al., “Comparison of Health and Social Characteristics of People Leaving New York City Jails by Age, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity: Implications for Public Health Interventions,” Department of Urban Public Health, Hunter College 122 (2007): 735-39.

[22] Megha Ramaswamy and Nicholas Freudenberg, “The Cycle of Social Exclusion for Urban, Young Men of Color in the United States: What Is the Role of Incarceration?”, Journal of Poverty 16 (2012): 119-46, 125-29.

[23] Maurice N. Gattis and Andrea Larson, “Perceived Racial, Sexual Identity, and Homeless Status-related Discrimination among Black Adolescents and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness: Relations with Depressive Symptoms and Suicidality,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 86, (2016): 82-86.

[24] Randy Albelda et al., Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community (Los Angeles, CA: Williams Institute UCLA School of Law, 2009), 1.

[25] Maurice Gattis, “An Ecological Systems Comparison Between Homeless Sexual Minority Youths and Homeless Heterosexual Youths,” Journal of Social Service Research 39 (2013), 5.

[26] Gattis, “Ecological Systems Comparison,” 5.

[27] Meredith Dank et al., “Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 43 (2013), 851-54.

[28] Danielle C. Ompad et al., “HIV Risk Behaviors Among Young Drug Using Women Who Have Sex With Women (WSWs) in New York City,” Substance Use & Misuse 46 (2011), 277-78.


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Part 1 – Abstract & Our History

Part 2 – Critical Geography & Intersectional Feminism

Part 3 – Current Literature

Part 4 – Case Studies

Part 5 – Analysis, Conclusion, Discussion

 Part 6 – Bibliography

CRITICAL GEOGRAPHY: Where the Homeless and Poor Live
Critical geography is a branch of Marxism that focuses on city politics and how people live and inhabit cities on a socioeconomic level. Important authors in the field such as David Harvey, CUNY professor of anthropology and geography, and Peter Marcuse, professor emeritus of urban planning, evoke the “right to the city”. The “right to the city” is an autonomy people have in owning and shaping the cities they live in in ways they wish or need to, to have a shaping power over the very process of urbanization itself.[1] Down to the very substance, critical geographers explain how neoliberal capitalism and globalism help a small number of rich people get richer and more interconnected with the rest of the world while the majority of people become poorer and more isolated. Critical geographers analyze such processes as deindustrialization and gentrification of the inner cities as factors in this overall trend.

The history of the discipline is an interesting one, evolving from the theories of radical geographers by incorporating Marxist theories into their work. Originally, only the concept “radical geography” existed as an obscure and loose collection of different ideas from academics who tried to analyze different forms of oppression and power structures by examining the geography of an area. In 1969, the journal Antipode appeared, allowing radical geographers to make their ideas visible to mainstream academia. Radical geographers published articles on imperialism, poverty, ghettos, African Americans, geography’s whiteness, women, American Indian geography, the environment and nature, remote sensing, migration, and map projection.[2]

In the 1970s, radical geographers extensively read the works of Marx, making the reading of Marx the norm for their group. At around the same time radical geographers fought against mainstream geographers in academia because more conservative members had reservations about the radicals’ new theories. Mainstream academia denied radical professors tenure and replaced those with teaching positions. Over time radical geography absorbed the radical social movements from the 1960s and 1970s, such as second wave feminism, black civil rights, and sexual liberation, transforming into critical geography by 1986.[3]

Once the discipline “critical geography” was coined, academics branched out to form their own niche categories. Antipode boasted academics of many different shades from feminists to environmentalists. By the 1990s, critical geography became mainstream in academia, but it still had its problems. The majority of critical geographers in academia are white men and most critical geographers limit their analysis to class, a truth even of the esteemed David Harvey. Nonetheless, some critical geographers such as Gibson-Graham use feminism and queer theory to inform their discipline.[4]

Currently, in it’s most recognizable form, critical geography analyses how people’s right to the city exists or does not exist under modern capitalist society. Writers such as David Harvey especially concern themselves with how capitalism excludes lower class people, deeming them to no longer own or belong in the city. For example, globalization creates a demand to gentrify cities so the cities can compete in the global market. The process involves rebuilding “blighted” areas and outsourcing industrial jobs so the city can accommodate affluent middle class people who move in.

How does critical geography relate to homelessness? The overall trends of neoliberal capitalism and globalism divide American classes further apart, with the middle class and poor becoming ever poorer, more isolated, and with less employment and resources in declining inner city infrastructures. Poverty and isolation do not necessarily cause homelessness by themselves but they increase the likelihood as poor people do not have the financial and state benefits middle class and upper class people have. Poverty also increases the likelihood of many aggravating factors that contribute to homelessness, such as domestic violence,[5] crime, imprisonment,[6] drug abuse, and mental illnesses.[7]

Poverty and its attendant factors are major features of homeless people in America and major reasons why people become homeless. Many interviewed homeless people testify to coming from dysfunctional and abusive backgrounds, where they adopted dysfunctional behaviors that make it harder for them sustain a living and coexist with other people in society.[8] Homeless people are more likely to abuse drugs than people who aren’t homeless,[9] and some even directly link their drug use to their homelessness, while many homeless women become homeless after fleeing an abusive husband.[10] All the poverty has a context, a history that reveals deeper truths about the American politics and culture that shaped it over the decades. To fully understand how and why people become homeless, one needs to have a solid understanding of the culture and environment these people live in. They act and are acted upon in that culture and environment. One must see the entire forest and not only a few trees.

Gentrification and globalism are just a few ways capitalism pushes more people into poverty. It does so by stratifying society, giving more wealth to the few rich property owners while sapping wealth from middle and working class people. At the very end of the spectrum, working class people lose their jobs and can no longer live in homes. Homelessness is the utmost extreme end of poverty. Many different policies are enacted in gentrified places to force homeless people out, such as replacing public spaces with privately owned places[11], increased police surveillance, and anti-panhandling laws[12]. The policies make it abundantly clear that homeless people are not welcome in those areas and do not have the right to the city.

Don Mitchell, professor at Syracuse University, elaborates in “The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space” the many ways capitalism has taken away underprivileged people’s right to the city through its more recent developments. He provides relevant insight on America’s notion of public space relating to the September 11 attacks, stating that the fear and anger created from the September 11 attacks did not create new ideas about public safety. Rather, they pushed forward ideas that already existed with greater urgency, especially ideas from “security experts” that public spaces are a security threat.[13] With this increased vigilance, public spaces are tightened, made less available for all sorts of “undesirables” and “dangerous people” such as teenagers, women, workers, organized unions, and the homeless.

In another example, starting from 1994, the Berkeley City Council passed stricter laws as “quality of life” initiatives to regulate street behavior. The laws ranged from forbidding “aggressive” panhandling to forbidding sitting on the sidewalk. In 1998, San Francisco issued more than 16,000 “quality of life” violations for actions such as “camping in public, loitering, urinating, and defecating in public”.[14] Passing such laws and issuing such violations targeted homeless people most severely as they depend on city space and public services more than anyone else.

Such cities with their “tough enough” policies are part of a larger picture, one of gentrification and globalism. As city spaces become ever more privatized, homeless people have less public space to live in. Thus city spaces come increasingly under the control of private owners who drive homeless people out as the homeless are bad for business. In the process “going global” uproots the need for capitalists to establish businesses in certain exact places since modern technology provides, even requires, them with resources and connections all around the world. Paradoxically, globalism instills in capitalists the need to reproduce certain kinds of spaces; mainly gentrified areas that accommodate white middle class people, the new globalist workforce [15] As industrial jobs are outsourced they are replaced by service and management jobs made ever more lucrative and essential to a new globalized economy through modern technologies such as the Internet. Lower class and homeless people, meanwhile, cannot afford luxuries such as laptops and private Internet access.

Ironically, private property owners and civil servants need homeless people and the lower classes as a justification to renovate cities. A city space needs to be seen as “blighted” or decayed in some way in order to justify gentrifying the area. The fear of homeless people, the poor, and other “undesirables” and “vagrants” is needed to control the city with strict police surveillance. It stops any behavior that interferes with the accumulation of capital and prevents people from fighting for their right to the city in solidarity.[16] Capitalists see the homeless and poor as a drain on capital accumulation and frame their problems as individual failures. This not only steers people away from debating economic issues but also justifies removing homeless and poor people from the gentrified city, as their poverty and “deviance” is seen as their fault.[17] In the end, homeless people are the butts of capitalism and class war. Gentrification and globalism ways capitalism pushes down people who don’t accumulate capital and thus are not “productive”.

A good example of using critical geography is analyzing how mortgage brokers crushed many black families during the housing crisis and how their actions paved the way for gentrification of black neighborhoods. We would like to think of mortgage brokers as honest and fair people, giving those who made mistakes with their money in the past a second chance to keep their homes. In reality, many mortgage brokers grant subprime loans as a form of investment to make a profit. Furthermore, they grant subprime loans based on a person’s race and gender, not on their credit history.[18]

In low-income neighborhoods, housing developments defined “low-income” to be higher than a neighborhood’s median income, making the prices of the homes greater than what people who lived in them could earn. Mortgage brokers took advantage of an already vulnerable population by intentionally giving them subprime loans and charging them more money than they would a white, middle-class person. As a result, tens of thousands of people, mostly black, lost their homes. Their neighborhoods sunk deeper into poverty and became targets for businessmen and urban planners with “broken windows” policies.[19]

As most Marxists would say, ideology follows from a class structure, especially when one class oppresses another. The attitudes of the “political elites”, of businessmen, politicians, bankers, and urban planners reflect this truth. The “political elite” intensely dislikes features of inner city neighborhoods such as unruly people, loud noises, and “dirty” objects such as graffiti. This seems like common sense – most people do like to live peacefully. While they are indeed common sense they do reflect underlying politics. The “political elites” dislike inner city neighborhoods because they are in conflict with both the interests of neoliberal economic machines and the socio-cultural order they want to maintain. In other words, they want to transform urban space into a middle class neighborhood commodity, which invites tourism, high property values and the comfort of the business community.[20]

The “political elites” of the 1940s to 1960s wished to clean up the blighted slums in large cities and replace them with a new middle class space dominated by large business such as megamalls and tourism. Today, “political elites” wish to gentrify inner city spaces to attract white-collar workers who will contribute to the new global market. In the process they expel poor and lower middle class people, segregating them” into housing projects and dilapidated apartments, burying them into deeper poverty and isolation from mainstream society, keeping them out of sight and out of mind. Modern day “political elites” no longer describe inner city spaces as “blighted”, but they provide the same rationale as their predecessors did to enact similar policies. The people in the projects were, and still are, denied many of the benefits middle-class people have such as good quality education, hospital care, and nutrition.

Intersectional feminism, the second discipline, analyses how different facets of people’s socioeconomic lives intersect with each other to form a person’s existence and lived experiences. Intersectionality is “”the interplay of race, class, and gender, often resulting in multiple dimensions of disadvantage”[21]. Discriminated social groups, such as lower class people, women, and people of color, do not exist in isolation from each other. A black woman, someone who belongs to two disadvantages groups, does not experience black and female disadvantage separately but together, often interacting and reinforcing each other.[22]

Intersectional feminism has a unique and specific epistemology, employing a perspectivist approach towards knowledge, recognizing that different views of the world, and consequently different truths, are arrived at from different perspectives. It stresses an alternate, “multi-axis” way of analyzing people, cultures, and events, integrating different disciplines and perspectives at once. It recognizes the limitations of analyzing the world through only one perspective or discipline, and the presumptuousness of declaring one analysis the absolute truth.[23] To do so neglects other complex realities, something intersectional feminists learned from older feminist movements. An example is how older feminist movements turned most of their focus to white, middle-class women, while neglecting women of color and non-straight women.

According to Vivian May, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University, in her book Pursuing Intersectionality Intersectional feminism counters the positivist, “objective” epistemology that originated in the Enlightenment, which is common in most Western philosophies. Positivist, “objective” epistemology is “single-axis”. It tends to analyze things through only one, or at most a few disciplines and perspectives, and assumes that people can gain a purely objective, God’s-eye view, which can see the true nature of things free of biases.[24] It tends to universalize insights gathered from a few disciplines onto everything, and frequently divides the world into an us-versus-Other dichotomy.

Intersectional feminism cannot be done in an idle and disinterested way. It is linked closely to activism and is intentionally subversive in its aims.[25] Its “multi-axis” approaches are used to aid disadvantaged people, most commonly women of color because their lives are often rendered invisible. If not made invisible, they are often Othered, made into something alien and mostly negative, outside of the social norm, which is often represented as white, male, and positive. It is a perspective like all others but is treated by mainstream culture as an objective standard to base its worldview. Intersectional feminists combat women of color’s invisibility and Otherness by bringing their lives to the forefront and subverting dominant cultural norms.

What does intersectional feminism have to do with homelessness? If critical geographers can be said to examine economic factors that cause poverty and inequality, then intersectional feminists can be said to examine cultural factors that cause poverty and inequality. For example, the decline of the inner city and the rise of housing projects and mass unemployment are informed by a long history of systemic racism. Similarly, most women make substantially less money than men and own less property than men do and women are also more likely to be impoverished than men are, both manifestations of systemic sexism.[26] Poverty has a woman’s face. Domestic violence is another serious manifestation of sexism. LGBT people are often stereotyped as affluent gay men who live in San Francisco, but the reality is the majority of LGBT people are poor. Within affluent neoliberal communities, one sees only a narrow, specific form of LGBT identity accepted, while the majority of other LGBT people, those who tend to be poor, are seen as “deviant” and “underserving” of dignity or state benefits, and are brushed away from the mainstream.[27]

As stated previously in the critical geography section, poverty and attending aggravating factors increase the likelihood of homelessness. Intersectional feminism can be used as a tool for analyzing factors such as systemic racism, sexism, and heteronormativity in depth, and drawing links to homelessness. Poverty in nonwhite communities contributes to lack of employment, drug abuse, and dysfunctional homes, which all contribute to homelessness. Women tend to be poorer than men and are also more likely to be abused, and when they flee their abusers they have few resources, especially poor and nonwhite women, which contributes to homelessness. [28] Many LGBT people face stigma for their sexuality, tend to poorer than straight people, and make riskier decisions about sex and drug use.[29] Pushing most LGBT people away from the mainstream only stigmatizes them further, increasing their likelihood of homelessness. As before, it needs to be stated how important context and history are to fully understanding factors that increase the likelihood of homelessness, racism and sexism included. The whole forest must be seen, not only a few trees. Ignorance and shortsightedness will only lead to inept policies at best and disastrous consequences at worst.

Angela Davis, veteran counterculture activist and scholar, gives a thorough intersectional analysis of black history in Women, Race, and Class. She places the history of black women in particular as the center of analysis because of the ways in which gender and racial oppression intersected each other in unique ways relative to each historical era. For example, Davis shows how “racialized gender” and “gendered race” were different in the days of slavery than the “racialized gender” and “gendered race” that existed in the 1980s. Nevertheless, they are similar to their core, and the racism and sexism black women face today can be traced back to the racism and sexism they faced hundreds of years ago.

Since the days of slavery, black women had to be independent and assertive, more than capable of doing the same labor black men did while cementing the family together. Slavery ironically allowed black women a lot of premarital sexual freedom. Their contributions to the family were as significant as their husband’s and they worked outside of the home more than their white sisters.[30] Davis points out that the nineteenth and twentieth century ideals of womanhood, though projected as universal and biological by white society, was an ideal for white, middle-class women. It was an ideal with very specific racial, class, and historical contexts, an ideal that was levered against black women, where their relative freedom and strength were twisted into signs of promiscuity and immorality.[31] The specter of the black woman welfare queen was created simultaneously with the boogeyman of the black male rapist, and both stereotypes contrasted the domestic ideal of the Christian, stay-at-home mother, and altruistic middle class white woman.[32]

Both racist caricatures are alive today. They harm black women not only through simple racism, but also through sexism. Racist white men have frequently used the myth of the bad black woman as a pretext for sexually brutalizing them. The same sexualized violence was also committed against white women, which shows how easily racism and sexism bleed together. Racism, sometimes used specifically as a provocation to rape black women, ricocheted to white women, causing white women to suffer as their black sisters.[33] This is just one of many examples of how racism and sexism intersect with each other to create the oppression of both black and white women, an oppression that comes in different shades yet has fundamental similarities.

Of course, intersectionality is used to study different forms of oppression today in all of their complexity. The civil rights advocate and scholar Kimberle Crenshaw provides a useful guide to using intersectionality in the 21st century in her essay, “Mapping the Margins”. According the Crenshaw, the mainstream liberal view is that racism and sexism as systemic forms of oppression no longer occur, that any racism and sexism experienced today are vestiges of oppression in the past. However, modern feminism says that systemic oppression is very real, such as racism, sexism, and classism.[34] However, a major problem among modern academics and activists alike is adopting identity politics to a zealous degree, making them parochial as they myopically focus on pet issues close to them but refusing to see the bigger picture.

Modern academics and activists are not the only ones to have such a tunnel vision. Their ancestors suffered from the same narrow-mindedness. Racism is a shadow that lingers throughout most of feminist history. American suffragettes appealed to white women in southern states, saying their votes would cancel the black male vote and, in a 1913 suffragette march, black women activists marched behind their white sisters. Even women’s liberation activists in the 1960s focused primarily on aiding white middle-class women while neglecting black women. Black civil rights activists at the same time had their fair share of misogynists who contended that liberating black women would further tear apart black families. The modern descendants of both women and black civil rights groups retain some of the same flaws as their predecessors, but thankfully they have greater awareness of other disenfranchised groups and reach out to help them accordingly.

There are many different ways people can endure more than one form of oppression. Latina immigrant women are more tied to their homes than middle class white women, not only because Latinos tend to have more traditional gender roles than middle class whites but also because immigrant women have fewer ways of seeking help to escape abusive husbands. Immigrant women fear reporting abuse to the police or going to a women’s shelter because of language barriers, the possibility of deportation, and the possibility of women’s shelters not accepting women who cannot speak English into their care.[35] In this case, immigrant women are burdened by sexism, in the form of domestic violence, and by racism and classism, in the form of their immigrant, low-income status, creating extra dimensions of disempowerment.

Similar forms of oppression and silence can be seen in black communities as well. When black women seek to politicize the domestic violence they experience by speaking out about it or doing some form of activism, black communities will react by ignoring or silencing black women. Black communities do so to keep the integrity of their communities, both in the sense of preserving its reputation to the outside world and to protect it from falling apart from the inside. Some black people, desiring to protect their community, can deny domestic violence as being a problem at all; feminism with internally divides communities of color. An example is Shahrazad Ali, claiming in her book, The Blackman’s Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman, that the black community deteriorated because black women are insubordinate to black men, who need to “discipline” women to reestablish their inherent male authority that racism has taken away from them.[36]

One reason women of color do not disclose the domestic violence they endure to the police is because they fear police hostility. Women of color have reasonable fears since the police and judicial system have unrightfully persecuted black and other nonwhite people for a very long time whether through shootings, lethal beatings, and long criminal sentencing. Racism can also bleed with sexism through the form of toxic masculinity, the sense of entitlement and violence men display to appease society’s expectations of being a “real man”. Systemic racism disempowers black men while white men are spared, but because of sexism black men have similar expectations and sense of entitlements as white men do. Black men beat black women both as a way of releasing the pains they endure from systemic racism while trying to claim what little masculine control they can.[37]

LGBT communities have intersectional issues of their own, such as the “austerity in the bedroom”. The subject of LGBT rights is still a polarized issue in America and the United Kingdom. Even though LGBT rights are legally protected, culture does not acknowledge all LGBT people unequally. The neoliberal societies of America and the United Kingdom reward LGBT people who make income through private means rather than relying on welfare by acknowledging them as “proper citizens”[38] and recognizing their sexual lives as “appropriate intimacies” rather than deviations.[39] Neoliberal societies choose which LGBT people to accept as “normal” and which LGBT people to marginalize under narrow criteria. Within affluent neoliberal communities, one sees only a narrow, specific form of LGBT identity accepted, while the majority of other LGBT people, those who tend to be poor, are seen as “deviant” and “underserving” of dignity or state benefits, and are brushed away from the mainstream.[40]

What does neoliberalism and LGBT identity have to do with homelessness? The popular stereotype of LGBT people is that of an affluent gay man, but in reality the majority of LGBT people are poor and LGBT people tend to be poorer than straight people. With neoliberalism and LGBT issues, one can see that gentrification is not only the commodification and exclusion of some classes over others, but also the commodification and exclusion of some identities over others. In the process the majority of LGBT people, those who are poor, are pushed away by gentrification into deeper poverty, marginalized by their identity as well as by their class. As the literature review will later show, LGBT homelessness is usually caused by poverty and social stigma. The gentrification of LGBT identities contributes to the two aforementioned factors.

As neoliberal urban planners and businessmen gentrify LGBT neighborhoods that once housed LGBT people of low income into commoditized, middle-class enclaves, a new gay identity is created in the process. The new gay identity fits with gender binary and nuclear family norms, appearing to be a statement for diversity, but in reality a standard to exclude LGBT people whose sexuality, race, or ethnicity is seen as too excessive and threatening to the neoliberal establishment.[41] There is a large difference between the newly accepted, depoliticized, desexualized, middle class gay community and the low income or homeless LGBT people of older gay communities, who are seen as threatening by neoliberals.[42]

Neoliberal urban planners and businessmen realized that they can make affluent, middle class communities appear diverse and progressive by accepting middle class people who are LGBT and nonwhite as long as they whitewash their identities into something acceptable to the gentrified city space, places still mostly white. In turn, LGBT and nonwhite people are granted access to cultures, accessories, and places that allow them to express their identities. In this way, neoliberal society assimilates gay and multicultural cultures, making the neoliberal society more diverse, at least superficially. However, neoliberal society uses the new middle class LGBT and nonwhite person as a standard, contrasting them against racial, ethnic, and LGBT people who use state-funded programs, deeming them as “threatening”, “deviant”, and a hinderance to free labor markets.[43]

Like critical geographers, intersectional feminists hold a deep interest in poverty and homelessness, seeing oppression through sexism and racism the way critical geographers see oppression through space, social class, and economics. Feminists frequently critique each other and intersectional feminists are no different, such as critiquing social workers, homeless shelters, and women’s shelters. Carol Zuffery, Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy at the University of South Australia, used intersectionality to analyze and critique homeless shelters in Australia, titling her work “Intersectional Feminism and Social Work Responses to Homelessness”. While she based her work in Australia many of her insights are relevant to American homeless shelters since America and Australia are both neoliberal democracies and hold similar racial disparities in wealth and quality of life.

Zuffery concluded that social workers were influenced by what she would call dominant, normative discourses. In other words, social workers were privileged in contrast to the homeless people they sought to help and held power over them, whether they knew it or not. Social workers also held ideas that were white, middle-class, and male, since most came from middle-class backgrounds, and acted on those ideas.[44] Her ideas are not new. It is not uncommon for people to criticize social work and other liberal causes to help the downtrodden for being paternalistic and reinforcing the very dominance the oppressed try to escape from. The most prominent critics tend to be leftist activists and academics, those who have an insider’s knowledge of social work and other government institutions.

To Zuffery, social work and bureaucratic policies at homeless shelters tend to be very simple and reductionist, applying one size to fit all. For example, many shelters and social work adhere bourgeois, middle class views of homelessness and, likewise, what having a home and being functional is like. This is similar to Riis’ own ideas about a century ago. According to many homeless shelters, not being homeless specifically means owning a house, a suburban and white, middle class ideal, as opposed to being nomadic or roofless.[45] Homeless shelters and social work also tend to be gender blind, ignoring the specific plights homeless women face. In Australia, indigenous Australians are four times as likely to homeless than non-indigenous Australians and 44% of homeless people were women in 2011. Women become homeless primarily because of domestic violence, and indigenous women are hospitalized for domestic violence 38% more than other women. Homeless women are also more likely to receive assistance from shelters if they act in a traditionally feminine way, appearing dependent, frightened, and vulnerable.[46]

In 2003, Emi Koyama, an activist located in Seattle, Washington, gives a stronger critique. She specifically speaks about domestic violence shelters for women, which house many homeless women, often women who fled from their only home. She aptly named her work “Disloyal to Feminism: Abuse of Survivors within the Domestic Violence Shelter System”. Once a homeless and bettered woman herself, Koyama explains how shelter workers would constantly police the guests by giving draconian threats and punishments, especially to black and Latina women with children recovering from drug abuse. Shelter workers encouraged guests to snitch on each other to make sure no one broke any curfew rules or relapsed. When doctors at a mental hospital asked about her background as a prostitute, Koyama learned to answer their insensitive and dehumanizing questions with “correct” answers. Another prostitute, Lulu, shared the same grievances as Koyama, noting how shelters treated the guests as “abuse addicts”, women who craved the abuse they received and needed to just “snap out of it”.[47]

After early domestic violence shelters were created in the nineteen seventies, executive directors from the mainstream entered and increasingly began to institutionalize and professionalize them. As the radical feminist Gaddis recounts, “Shared power among employees was quickly discarded and ethical practices that included the voices of battered women, basic training on the dynamics of domestic violence, and the power of shared experience among women was frowned upon…” The guests, fleeing the prison of an abusive relationship, were now imprisoned by shelters with their never-ending list of rules. Victims were seen as crazy and were swiftly disciplined for disobedience. Most insidiously, the shelters prevented women of all different social classes, races, ages, and religions from entering, which prevented women from uniting in solidarity.[48]

As state bureaucracies overtake women’s shelters, the shelters increasingly impose systemic oppressions such as racism and sexism. Women’s shelters today close their doors ever tighter: the lists of women they do not admit grow ever longer. “The list of ‘we don’t shelter those women’ just keeps growing: women with substance abuse issues, homeless women, women with mental illnesses, women who are HIV-positive, women who won’t attend parenting classes, women with physical disabilities, women who don’t want protective orders, women who won’t submit to drug tests and searches…” Priorities have reversed: the basic needs of battered and homeless women are replaced by completing the in-take list.[49]

Police increasingly arrest abused women under false accusations from their abusers or because the woman fought back to protect herself. Domestic violence “experts” use “battered women’s syndrome”, once used to explain why women stayed in abusive relationships or murdered their husbands rather than to leave or contact police, as rhetoric for stripping away battered women’s agency to confine them to state and shelter regulations. Since the state treats assaults on women as crimes, fewer nonwhite women charge their husbands for abuse, well aware of the racism in courts and prisons. Those very institutions aggravate women’s conditions through neoliberal economy and racism, since women who are poor or nonwhite are more likely to be beaten by their husbands. Furtherore, as Koyama asks, how can a state that has so much institutional racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and such a corrupt economy with a small minority owning two-thirds of the state’s wealth while everyone else becomes increasingly poorer, be expected to aid and empower battered and homeless women.[50]

Koyama also levels her complaints against radical feminists. The doctrine of shared women’s experiences, a universal oppression all women face and could bind together in solidarity, is a two-edged sword. It helps women see the patriarchy and sexism that affects all their lives in order to address them, but women who adhere to the doctrine often blind themselves to complex realities many women live in, and ironically, the complex reality of the sexism and oppression many women face. Angela Davis’ descriptions of black women facing “racialized sexism” and Kimberle Crenshaw describing the systemic racism and poverty that creates a community where domestic violence against black women is common, are two examples. The feminist euphemisms “women’s shared experiences” and “survivors’ shared experiences” only make the problems harder to address, and are also paternalistic.[51]

[1] David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (New York, NY: Verso Books, 2012), 4.

[2] Linda Peake and Eric Sheppard, “The Emergence of Radical/Critical Geography within North America.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 13 (2014): 309.

[3] Peake and Sheppard, “The Emergence of Radical/Critical Geography,” 309-14.

[4] Ibid., 318-19.

[5] “The Characteristics of Homeless Women,” Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, 2012, http://www.coloradocoalition.org/!userfiles/TheCharacteristicsofHomelessWomen_lores3.pdf.

[6] B. Petit and B. Western, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration.” American Sociological Review 69 (2004): 152-155.

[7] Martha Livingston Bruce and David Takeuchi, “Poverty and Psychiatric Status.” Archives of General Psychiatry 48 (1991): 472-73.

[8] Desiree Hellegers, No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death, and Resistance (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) 28-38, 49-59.

[9] “Policy Brief: Overview of NASADAD Priorities.” (NASADAD) National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. 2007.

[10] “Domestic Violence and Homelessness,” National Coalition for the Homeless, accessed April 27, 2016, http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/domestic.pdf.

[11] Don Mitchell, The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space (New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2003), 171.

[12] Ibid., 161-62.

[13] Ibid., 3.

[14] Mitchell, The Right to the City, 160-62.

[15] Ibid., 164-65.

[16] Mitchell, The Right to the City, 174.

[17] Ibid., 178-79.

[18] Clayton Perry, “What the Housing Crisis Can Tell Us about Racism, Sexism and Homelessness,” Blogcritics.org, June 30, 2008, 2. http://blogcritics.org/what-the-housing-crisis-can-tell/.

[19] Perry, “What the Housing Crisis Can Tell Us,” 2.

[20] Ronald Kramer, “Political Elites, “Broken Windows”, and the Commodification of Urban Space,” Critical Criminology 20 (2011), 243-44.

[21] John J Macionis, and Linda M. Gerber, “Intersectionality” in Sociology, Seventh Canadian Edition, (Toronto, CA-ON: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011), 310.

[22] Sheila Thomas and Kimberle Crenshaw, “Intersectionality: The Double Bind of Race and Gender,” Perspectives Magazine 2004), 2.

[23] Vivian M. May, Pursuing Intersectionality, Unsettling Dominant Imaginaries, (Abingnon, UK: Routledge, 2015), 33-5

[24] May, Pursuing Intersectionality, 35-7

[25] Ibid., 91

[26] “The Characteristics of Homeless Women.” Report. Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, 2012, 2-3, http://www.coloradocoalition.org/!userfiles/TheCharacteristicsofHomelessWomen_lores3.pdf.

[27] Gavin Brown, “Marriage and the Spare Bedroom: Exploring the Sexual Politics of Austerity in Britain,” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. Department of Geography University of Leicester 14 (2015): 977-980.

[28] Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43 (1991): 1263-1265.

[29] Maurice N. Gattis, “An Ecological Systems Comparison Between Homeless Sexual Minority Youths and Homeless Heterosexual Youths,” Journal of Social Service Research 39 (2013): 5-7.

[30] Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race, and Class (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1983), 3-4.

[31] Ibid. 176.

[32] Ibid., 174.

[33] Ibid., 176.

[34] Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins,” 1242.

[35] Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins,” 1249.

[36] Ibid., 1253-254.

[37] Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins,” 1257.

[38] Brown, “Marriage and the Spare Bedroom,” 977-978.

[39] Ibid., 980.

[40] Ibid, 977-980.

[41] Michelle Billies, “Low Income LGBTGNC (Gender Nonconforming) Struggles Over Shelters as Public Space.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 14(2015): 994.

[42] Ibid, 996.

[43] Billies, “Low Income LGBTGNC (Gender Nonconforming) Struggles ,”1003.

[44] Stephanie Wahab et al., Feminisms in Social Work Research: Promise and Possibilities for Justice-based Knowledge (New York, NY: Routledge, 2014), 91-92.

[45] Ibid., 93.

[46] Ibid., 92.

[47]Emi Koyama, “Disloyal to Feminism: Abuse of Survivors within the Domestic Violence Shelter System,” in Disloyal to Feminism: Confronting the Abusive Power and Control within the Domestic Violence Industry (Portland, OR: Confluere Publications, 2003), 4-7.

[48] Koyama, “Disloyal to Feminism,” 9.

[49] Ibid., 10.

[50] Koyama, “Disloyal to Feminism,” 11.

[51] Ibid., 17.



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Part 1 – Abstract & Our History

 Part 2 – Critical Geography & Intersectional Feminism

 Part 3 – Current Literature

 Part 4 – Case Studies

 Part 5 – Analysis, Conclusion, Discussion

 Part 6 – Bibliography

The United States is home to many vulnerable populations including the elderly, disabled, and children. Perhaps the most vulnerable population is the homeless. Whether they became homeless through losing their jobs because of economic hardships, living a life of extreme poverty, or because they have drug addictions and mental instability, homeless people face many economic and legal hardships. They have almost nowhere to go, are often alone, and even those with families can support them for only so long. Homeless shelters can give only temporary safety and alone cannot solve America’s national homeless issue.

What are the main causes of homelessness? My hypothesis is the following: homelessness is mostly caused by poverty. However, poverty usually does not cause homelessness on its own. Usually, in America and New York City, homelessness is caused by poverty aggravated by various forms of discrimination such as systemic racism, sexism, and heteronormativity (the discrimination of LGBT and other non-straight people). Why is homelessness not caused only by poverty? Why is homelessness not caused only by discrimination? Poverty on its own is a daily grind that puts people on the edge of homelessness, and while homelessness is poverty taken to the extreme, poverty on its own is not enough to cause homelessness. Usually homelessness is caused by major blows in life, the most frequent being drug addiction and mental illness. Poverty plays a more insidious role, undermining a person’s abilities and resources to cope with life’s blows. A middle class person has both the money to afford counseling and medication and an intact family for emotional support. A poor person is less likely to have either.

Racism and sexism are both insidious erosions that drag a person down into poverty and help cause calamities that happen more to nonwhites, women, and LGBT people. Such examples include a black man losing his mortgage, and thus his home because of racism, a woman fleeing an abusive spouse because of sexism, or an LGBT youth being cast out from her home because of her sexuality. In addition, nonwhites, women, and LGBT people tend to be poorer than their white, male, and straight counterparts, increasing the likelihood of poverty and the depth of that poverty.

The literature review is taken from research done on homelessness both throughout America in general and New York City in particular. My research studies homelessness through two disciplines: critical geography and intersectional feminism. Both will be used in my analyses of the data I collected to produce a new interpretation. My thesis includes two main ideas: 1) Homelessness is a growing American problem due to the economic crises caused by neoliberal politics and globalism, which sink lower class people deeper into poverty. 2) People are rendered invisible and Othered part of American society through multiple forms of oppression or intersections, such as class, urban location, race, gender, and sexuality. These realities especially apply to homeless people. Both aforementioned ideas are tightly interrelated and frequently reinforce each other, a point I will illustrate throughout my thesis.

OUR HISTORY: The Origins of Homelessness As We Know It
In order to properly understand homelessness both in terms of individuals and in terms of socioeconomic groups, it is necessary to discover when the term “homelessness” was first created and how reformers first used it. The word “homelessness” was first used around the turn of the century. In 1890 the realist author and literary critic William Dean Howells published A Hazard of New Fortunes and the social reformer and journalist Jacob Riis published How the Other Half Lives. Both writers established the discourse on homelessness, with Howells connecting homeless individuals to the Christian family and Riis popularizing the term “homelessness”.[1]

Howells’ novel reveals the anxieties many people had in turn of the century New York City. Howells contrasts the lives of homeless individuals to the ideal space, “a Christian home… where the family can all come together and feel the sweetness of being a family”.[2] The Christian home is a domestic ideal, an answer to concerns about housing, family, and religion. Inner city apartments “abolish the family consciousness”: confining, but not cozy, and isolating. The necessity of a Christian home is not merely space to live but a sanctuary where family life can flourish, protected from the ravages of the city. The novel makes the point: “the primary concern of home is with family”. This is a point we completely take for granted but important in the discourse about homelessness, since homelessness was framed as the antithesis to the Christian home and the embodiment of inner city poverty and vice.[3]

For scholars and writers at the turn of the century, homelessness was not merely a condition of houselessness but “the city’s embodiment of the collapse of social structures”, a symbol of the city’s increasing poverty and declining infrastructure. However, by the 1980s, the definition of “homelessness” shifted away from describing a condition of the city and into a condition of the individual without a home, regardless of where they lived.[4] Homelessness then changed to an individual’s lifestyle. It became a term for social displacement, replacing the terms “vagrant”, “vagabond”, “hobo”, and “tramp”. Riis especially put a face on the word “homeless”. Carrying his photographic equipment, he traveled to tenements in New York City, police wards, and other poverty-stricken areas, capturing the people who lived there and their daily struggles.[5]

To Riis, the city’s various ailments of vice, poverty, greed, and unassimilated immigrants created the conditions of homelessness. Riis contrasted the homeless and poor people of the inner city with the countryside. The American domestic ideal developed from the mid-nineteenth century and would eventually find its fulfillment in the suburbs after World War II. “Homelessness” had yet to mean any precise category. It was a crude image of the anxieties of the age: the chaotic growth of the city and a growing radical and criminal underclass, to which the “fresh air and green space of the country” appeared as a haven.[6]

As the twentieth century progressed the rural Christian family ideal expanded. Its antithesis was the dangerous and wretched inner city, with homelessness as the Other, the specter embodying the worst of city life. Riis explicitly emphasizes the watchwords “property, family, religion, order”. While the Christian family home took root in the country, Riis and other reformers created a model of the Christian family in the city, ostensibly to preserve the home and save the city from further decay. “A Christian home had to be clean, healthy, well-ventilated, and properly decorated.” Moreover, it had to be a “family-fostering place”.[7]

In light of this new moral project, homelessness acquired a new moral failing. Homeless individuals were people who either could not or would not “cultivate a Christian home”. The homeless represented all sorts of social outcasts from criminals to “fallen women” to orphans. Reformers such as Riis strove not to change the status quo but to protect it. The Christian family, the representation of a happy, productive, and moral American life, was explicitly bourgeois, an option many dreamed of but few could afford. Reformers’ attempts to alleviate homelessness in the city had an ulterior motive, to prevent the city from decaying, to stem an urban underclass from growing, and to protect the bourgeois Christian family. Social reform was “to tweak a status quo in the name of self-defense”.[8]

During the 1930s and 1940s, many American politicians embraced welfare reforms and federal programs such as the New Deal, policies that alleviated American poverty and, by extension, homelessness.[9] In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty”, legislation aimed to drastically reduce America’s poverty rate by expanding the federal government’s power over education and health.[10] Since then, conservative politicians, as well as some liberal ones, strived to weaken the programs created by the Johnson administration. In the 1960s, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater campaigned against the War on Poverty. Goldwater derided it as being wasteful and full of policies that would not work. Reagan used the American people’s anxieties about the contemporary gender roles of women by insinuating that single mothers were morally depraved and, therefore, did not deserve any government assistance.[11]

In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon claimed the War on Poverty caused race riots and city unrest. He also claimed the government intruded in the lives of the American people by creating the public housing projects. Like Reagan after him, he used the American people’s anxieties about pressing, contemporary issues. In this case, it was about racial tensions between white and black Americans. In 1973, the oil crises profoundly changed Americans’ attitudes towards the economy. No longer was economic growth infinite or inevitable. It was now a pie of limited portions, and only the rich and other “successful” and “worthy” people were entitled to their slice.[12]

In the 1980s, President Reagan opposed welfare reforms, using rhetoric to paint poor black people, especially poor black women, as “welfare queens” a hundred thousand dollars a year from Social Security and Welfare checks. At the same time, Reagan appealed to white blue-collar workers by protecting middle-class entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security. Reagan effectively paired conservative sentiments against welfare with the backlash against black civil rights. The poor lost many benefits. “Three million children were cut from the school lunch program, one million from food stamps, five hundred thousand from school breakfast programs, and an equal number from cash assistance. Three-quarters of a million children lost Medicaid benefits. More than three hundred thousand families were pushed out of public housing. Rates of homelessness soared.”[13]

Future politicians continued to undermine the War on Poverty, albeit less overtly in some ways. For example, in the 1990s President Bill Clinton buried the racism inherent in many attempts to cut welfare and other government programs with rhetoric about “economic empowerment”. Clinton’s welfare reform, such as his “chastity training” of welfare mothers, helped to delegitimize welfare further. In the 2000s, President George W. Bush unexpectedly expanded food stamps and unemployment benefits. Conservative politicians were not happy with Bush’s moves, but they blamed Barrack Obama once he became President instead. Policies against the War on Poverty continue today in the 2010s when Senator Paul Ryan authored budgets that made extreme cuts to government programs.[14]

How we see homelessness today and our attempts to relieve it are inherited from both Riis and his contemporaries and from a succession of conservative politicians after Johnson’s presidential term. Many of our policies from welfare reform to federal aid are, at their heart, attempts to mold the homeless into a bourgeois family, or at least an imitation of it. Though the Christian family is in decline, it still powerfully grips our collective consciousness as the American standard of being a normal, happy person. Most reforms on poverty and homelessness essentially put a Band-Aid over a deep laceration. They try to ameliorate the symptoms of poverty and inequality the poor and homeless face but rarely face the underlying socioeconomic structures that produce poverty and homelessness in the first place.

Furthermore, we have progressively lost our faith in the success of reforms to alleviate poverty and homelessness. For more than half a century, we swallowed rhetoric from one president after another who used middle class fears and racist attitudes to their advantage. Almost each aforementioned president painted a picture of the poor as morally depraved and rapacious bums who stole money from the “honest, hardworking” middle-class families and wealthy businessmen who “deserved” it. Today, we not only distrust most reforms of poverty and homelessness but for wrong reasons based on fear and ignorance.

The gentrification of city spaces is another way of reforming the city by turning it into a middle class enclave. Gentrification doesn’t alleviate the homeless. It drives them out into poorer areas. It is a continuation of the “suburbanization trend” where the city is deindustrialized and turned into a place of consumption.[15] This process actually increases homelessness since black and Hispanic men in the inner city lose their jobs. Blue-collar industrial jobs, the means of income for lower class minorities, are replaced by white-collar service jobs, the means of income for middle class whites.

Gentrification brought back middle class whites into the city while in turn expelling lower class minorities, including many homeless individuals. “Making the city safe for families became intertwined with an antihomeless sentiment”.[16] It disperses the homeless, making them even more invisible to middle and upper class people. At bottom it is another form of preserving the status quo. It alleviates the poverty and crime of the city but at the expense of the struggling people living there. If we are to successfully tackle homelessness and other ills of poverty we need to make a serious and courageous effort to change the very nature of America’s socioeconomic structure, not hypocritically protect privileged people and middle class values in the name of alleviating poverty.

Currently, America has a very high rate of homelessness, especially New York City. Homelessness in New York City has reached its highest rate since the Great Depression.[17] [18] The number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping in municipal shelters is 91% higher than it was ten years ago.[19] In June of 1983, New York City had a total of 12,830 homeless people, with 4.876 single adults and 7,954 people in families. In January of 2016, New York City had a total of 60,296 homeless people, with 14,147 single adults and 46,149 people in families.[20] Current literature lists many causes of homelessness in the present day. The primary cause is lack of affordable housing, but homelessness is also triggered by many calamities, such as eviction, severely overcrowded homes, domestic violence, and job loss.[21] [22] [23] Risk factors associated with recurring homelessness include alcohol and drug use, a criminal history, dependence on families for housing, and mental illness.[24]

1 Philip Webb, Homeless Lives in American Cities: Interrogating Myth and Locating Community, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 21.

2 Ibid., 23

3 Ibid.

4 Webb, Homeless Lives in American Cities, 8

5 Ibid., 25

6 Ibid., 27-8

7 Ibid., 35

8 Webb, Homeless Lives in American Cities, 43

9 Igor Volsky, “Racism, Sexism, And The 50-Year Campaign To Undermine The War On Poverty,” ThinkProgress RSS, January 8, 2014, 1-2, http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/01/08/3122111/war-poverty-race-sexism/.

10 Burton Allen Weisbrod, The Economics of Poverty: An American Paradox (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1965).

11 Volsky, “The War On Poverty,” 2-3.

12 Ibid., 3-4.

13 Ibid., 4-5.

14 Volsky, “The War On Poverty,” 6-9.

15 Webb, Homeless Lives in American Cities, 193-94

16 Ibid., 199

17 Joan Crouse, The Homeless Transient in the Great Depression: New York State, 1929-1941 (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1986).

18 Peter H. Rossi, “The Old Homeless and the New Homelessness in Historical Perspective.” American Psychologist 45 (1990): 954-959.

19 “Basic Facts About Homelessness: New York City – Coalition For The Homeless,” Coalition For The Homeless, February 2016, http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/.

20 Giselle Routier, New York City Homeless Municipal Shelter Population, 1983-Present, February 2016.

21 “The Rising Number of Homless Families in NYC, 2002–2012: A Look at Why Families Were Granted Shelter, the Housing They Had Lived in & Where They Came From,” NYC Independent Budget Office, 2014.

22 M. Shinn, et al., “Predictors of Homelessness among Families in New York City: From Shelter Request to Housing Stability.” Am J Public Health American Journal of Public Health 88 (1998): 1651-657

23 John M. Quigley and Steven Raphael, “The Economics Of Homelessness: The Evidence From North America.” International Journal of Housing Policy 1 (2001): 323-336

[24] Hunter L. Mcquistion et al., “Risk Factors Associated with Recurrent Homelessness After a First Homeless Episode.” Health Community Mental Health Journal 50 (2013): 509.

Dream Diary: In and out of Egypt


My dream had two episodes last night. In the first episode, I traveled with my dad inside an impossibly large hotel. It was so large it had miniature climate zones inside it. I remember even traveling across an entire sandy bed with my dad just to meet one of my dad’s partners. My dad’s partner was a large and intimidating black man. I don’t know what stipulations he made with my dad but the end result was that we would stay with him and work with him forever.

This distressed me. I tried escaping from the hotel many times and had to frequently waste time talking to my dad. My dad’s partner did not ever try to physically stop me but he cast a menacing shadow everywhere. His shadow was so long that it followed me even after I escaped the hotel. From then on I behaved like a traumatized person. I would grow frightened and angry if I was anywhere near the hotel or if anyone even ate food that came from the hotel. Once I became anxious when I was with my mother and a friend. My mother got mad at me and chastised me for my anxiety, so I ran away from her and went to a place underground.

The second episode took place in Egypt. I was a young prince with another young prince. We went inside a temple to approach a high priestess. We wanted her to transform us or somehow make us superhuman, to either bestow us great power or great knowledge. The other young prince wanted to be something, I didn’t know what, but the priestess found him to be very arrogant. I think he wanted to become a creature of raw power. To punish him, the high priestess turned him into stone and shattered him, obliterating him.

It was now my turn. I wanted to become a Phoenix so I could live forever and, as I recall, so I may experience all of the different perspectives of life and obtain knowledge. I tried to humble but the high priestess still found me arrogant. I desperately apologized to her. She chose to grant my wish, perhaps out of generosity, but she granted me power with a caveat, perhaps out of slyness or cruelty, far more cruelty than she showed the first prince.

I became a phoenix and I received all the world’s knowledge and every insight imaginable. I saw the entire universe in only a few seconds, every dimension in the cosmos opened in front of me. I traveled through space and visited every single star in infinite space. But I also learned horrible truths. I saw the depths of human evil and how absurd and insignificant human life truly was in the grand scheme of things. I saw the innumerable stars of the universe, yes, but I saw the infinite empty space between the stars. The empty space, being infinite, would always be infinitely larger than all the stars of the universe.

After my transformation I spoke to a priest in the temple. We spoke of our conventional knowledge of the universe. The earth lay submerged at the center of a vast cosmic ocean, the Nun, which itself had a distinct, rough spherical shape. The Nun did not have any barrier at its ends, but rather the physical nature of the Nun itself gave it its shape and stopped it from spilling everywhere into chaos.

I traveled with the priest to ancient ruins on a steep, rocky hill. They looked like Greek ruins but we spoke of Assyrian kings. We spoke of slavery and I told the priest how truly evil slavery was. The priest was offended by my idea. Egypt always had slaves and slavery was just because the gods decreed it. It was cosmic order of the universe.

I explained to the priest my enlightenment: Every kingdom saw itself as the center of the universe. Every people believed their gods unique and their empires reflecting eternal truths of the universe. Every king justifies his wars, conquests, and enslavements by the same presumptions. I lost my innocence when humanity lost its innocence to me.