Getting it Together: Social and Institutional Obstacles to Getting off the Streets

Conley, D.
Sociological Forum. 11: 25-40.

Avoiding macrostructural or individualistic explanations as to why homeless individuals cannot get off the streets, this paper examines the social structure of street life as it impinges on a sample of homeless persons' chances of obtaining nonshelter housing. Specifically, by interviewing 42 homeless individuals about a housing grant offered by New York State and the possibility of obtaining shared housing arrangements with such a grant, this study documents possible ways in which the social relations homeless people have with institutions and each other may dash potential efforts to obtain nonshelter housing. The research finds that distrust of the homeless among landlords and a high level of contingency with respect to welfare cases interact with distrustful personal relations among the sample of homeless themselves to reduce the likelihood of successful utilization of the housing grant. Due to sample limitations, findings from this study cannot be generalized to all homeless; nonetheless they offer insight into a dynamic which may be similar to those at work among other homeless sub-populations as well.

Wagner Faculty