1st Edition

Homelessness in the 21st Century Living the Impossible American Dream

By Stephanie Southworth, Sara Brallier Copyright 2023
    200 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    An accessible and engaging introductory text on homelessness and housing policy, this timely book uses a sociopolitical framework for understanding issues of homelessness in the United States.

    The authors, leading sociologists in their field, use data from over 250 interviews and field notes to demonstrate that homelessness is rooted in the structure of our society. They identify and describe the structural barriers faced by people who become homeless including the lack of affordable housing, the stigmatization and criminalization of homelessness, inadequate access to healthcare, employment that does not pay a living wage, and difficulty accessing social services. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, most of the people included in this book believe strongly in the American Dream. This book examines how the belief in the American Dream affects people experiencing homelessness. It also highlights individuals’ experiences within the social institutions of the economy, the criminal justice system, and the health care system. Furthermore, this book explores how stereotypes of people experiencing homelessness affects individuals and guides social policy. The authors examine policy changes at the local, state, and national levels that can be made to eradicate homelessness, but argue that there must be a political will to shift the narrative from blaming the victim to supporting the common good.

    Expertly combining history, theory and ethnography, this book is an invaluable resource for those with an interest in housing policy.


    Chapter outlines

    Section 1: Homelessness in America

    1. How Did We Get Here? A Brief History of Homelessness

    2. Neoliberal Ideology and Homelessness

    3. The Evolution of Risk Factors for the New Homeless

    4. Theoretical Explanations of Homelessness

    Section 2: Research on Homelessness in Myrtle Beach, SC

    5. Counting and Providing Services for People Experiencing Homelessness

    6. Work, Effort, and the American Dream

    7. Health and Perceptions of Health

    8. Stigma for All

    9. The Police Made Me Homeless: Regulating Behavior

    10. Making an Impact: The Poverty Process

    Conclusion: The New American Dream

    Appendix 1 – Methodology

    Appendix 2 – Definitions


    Stephanie Southworth, PhD is an assistant professor of sociology at Coastal Carolina University. Her current research focuses on using applied, community-based research to find structural solutions to social problems. She believes strongly in the value of educating the public about the reasons for social inequalities to reduce stereotypes. Southworth has published over a dozen peer reviewed articles and book chapters and regularly presents the findings of her studies to community groups and conferences. She is on the Board of Directors of several organizations serving low income community members. She, along with co-author Sara Brallier have started several community programs based on the results of their research.

    Sara A. Brallier is a Professor of Sociology at Coastal Carolina University. She teaches social inequality, sociology of religion, the sociology of aging, the sociology of death and dying, and research methods for the social sciences. Her current research focuses on housing and food insecurity. She has published numerous articles and book chapters and frequently shares her research with community groups and at academic conferences. She uses her research to inform her activism; she serves on the boards of several agencies serving marginalized populations and frequently consults with community groups interested in instigating social change. Her areas of expertise include social inequality, family demography, the sociology of aging, gerontology, and distance education.

    "This book shifts the focus about the causes of homelessness, moving from individualistic explanations to social and political causes. I am unaware of other books that take this perspective exclusively and thus this book will be of value to a variety of audiences, particularly undergraduates, many of whom are considering broader issues for the first time upon starting their college careers."

    Catherine Mobley, Professor of Sociology, Clemson University.

    "Southworth and Brallier approach homelessness with the keen eyes of sociologists who understand that the homeless make choices within constraints of a social structure over which they have little control. The authors’ comprehensive treatment of the interplay between structure and agency that generates homelessness sets this book apart from other efforts to illuminate and address this social problem. The Rolling Forward Project epitomizes their thoughtful, feasible, creative, and empowering efforts to reduce homelessness by addressing one structural cause in Myrtle Beach, SC."

    Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

    "Southworth and Braillier offer a major advance in scholarship on homelessness through a compelling and insightful investigation of historical trends and policies that exacerbate poverty and constrain housing accessibility. Their extensive dataset and rich analysis expose how changes in US social and political structure over the last half century, including neoliberal economic reforms and the expansion of the non-profit industrial complex, function to increase homelessness over time. Most importantly, their analysis offers tangible pathways for solutions via affordable housing, living wages, access to mental and physical health care, and public transportation. This book shows that homelessness is a choice: a choice made by policy makers who refuse to fund basic public services that would provide a lifeline for the most vulnerable among us." 

    Jaime J. McCauley, Associate Professor of Sociology, Coastal Carolina University.