Homelessness had become a social problem that was primarily not about solving the nation's housing crisis. The pressing question becomes: How (and why) did homelessness become the social problem in its own right, one that was only tangentially related to the problem of inappropriate or insufficient housing? Why, when people demanded that something be done about homelessness, did they get specific policies and unintended outcomes? Cynthia Bogard is not content with the shorthand answers that rested on bias and ideology, such as "conservative politics bred conservative policies" or "American individualism precludes government investment in housing." This did not explain homelessness sufficiently, especially given all the advocacy and research that had occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.Examining these "claimsmaking activities," as constructionists call them, however, is a daunting task because the activities engaged in by people in the attempt to persuade others are fluid, subtle, and complicated as are the responses to these social actions. This raised a second set of issues that the author is concerned with: How can we adequately represent and sociologically examine this very complicated human activity of social problems construction? Who does the construction, and to what effect?Bogard's answer to these questions is a book that can be read in two ways and on multiple levels. For those who are interested in the story of the career of homelessness as a social problem in America's two "national" cities, the book should be read from the beginning through the conclusion as a straight narrative. The technical matter in the appendix can be ignored. But for those readers with an interest in social problems constructionism, however, this book is meant as a "cook-book" of sorts. Each chapter emphasizes a feature of constructionism, such as an important group of claims makers or an important aspect of the claims making process.The work highlights a major feature in advanced societies: the intersection of interests and claims. Social constructions may be real, but they are comprised of no less real social interests. The work marks a real departure and advance over the original formulations of construction theory in social research.Cynthia J. Bogard is associate professor of sociology at Hofstra University.
Table of Contents
Activists and the emergence of homelessness as a social problem in Washington, D.C.; the community for creative non-violence takes on the issue; the Holy Trinity campaign; the national visitor center campaign; claimsmakers in context; the interpretive context; the environmental context; government officials as claimsmakers; the emergence of claimsmakers.