Homeless Mothers: Face to Face with Women and Poverty by Deborah R. Connolly (University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2000) is an ethnography based on participant observation and extensive interviews and written for the general public. Its main subjects are homeless mothers and their children, and its purpose is to gain insight into the realities they must cope with on a daily basis. The majority of the research was conducted by the author who is a social worker.
[...] Both the text authors and Connolly would agree that homeless families suffer from “spoiled identities” in which they are low in status and rejected by mainstream society. The most common methods of coping with spoiled identities for the homeless mothers were “role distancing” or “story-telling.” Rarely did a mother ever take pride in her homeless and poor situation; mothers would often claim they were in a temporary position or tell stories of how their lives could be (textbook 93). It is also evident that the homeless mothers are experiencing role conflict in the institution of the family (textbook 79). [...]
[...] While in the end Kristy is able to enroll in nursing classes, she leaves her children in the care of the abusive Joe. This leaves room for attacks that there is no way to help homeless mothers who consistently make the wrong decisions for themselves and their children. In addition, Connolly discusses her own departure from the field of social work, which further turns the book into a personalized account rather than an analysis of substantial value to the field of welfare and poverty research. In the course text, other “identity work among the homeless” research is discussed. [...]
[...] Middle-class society therefore often views homeless mothers as mothers who are incapable of properly caring for or loving their children. Average, middle- class Americans often view welfare recipients as lazy, unintelligent, or undeserving without first considering the difficulties they must overcome to get off the welfare rolls. Connolly is also extremely harsh on the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Act that reformed welfare in order to “reduce dependency and promote work.” Connolly believes that these reforms were caused by the limited understanding that middle-class Americans have of the complex situations of welfare recipients, and the reforms have only succeeded in abandoning millions in poverty without providing adequate assistance. [...]
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