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The Unequal Homeless explores the persistence, as opposed to the occurrence, of homelessness. With this focus, which is absent in most of the contemporary homelessness literature, the author shows how cultural expressions of beliefs about gender difference help to perpetuate the homelessness of particular groups of people in New York City.
The people who are persistently homeless in New York are, overwhelmingly, black men. The reason, Passaro contends, is that homelessness is not simply an economic predicament, but a cultural and moral location as well. Remaining homeless is a very different process from that of becoming homeless.
Based on field research in New York City, The Unequal Homeless examines the ways that gender, race and family status of homeless persons help determine their chances of survival. The author concludes that unless we abandon social and personal practices that give preferential treatment to homeless women--who are seen as "belonging" at home and hence are housed--homeless men will never escape the streets while homeless women will do so only if they embody traditional ideals of womanhood.