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Hobos, Hustlers, and BackslidersHomeless in San Francisco$
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Teresa Gowan

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780816648696

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816648696.001.0001

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Word on the Street

Word on the Street

Chapter:
(p.104) Four Word on the Street
Source:
Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders
Author(s):

Teresa Gowan

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816648696.003.0005

This chapter takes a look at the homeless men in San Francisco, California, to identify a spectrum of street discourses on the causes and character of homelessness. Taking up popular discourses of sin, sickness, and the failure of the social system, men on the street reworked, blended, and subverted popular narratives and schemas to make sense of homelessness, both as everyday life and as extraordinary stigma. Sometimes they acted strategically, but just as often with passionate sincerity, fighting for some coherent understanding of their past and present experience that might reduce their confusion or despair. In the case of homeless African Americans, the diversity of the San Francisco street milieu made it possible for them to maintain some distance from the binaries of sin-talk and orient themselves by different principles. Many of the most significant moments in street life, however, never reached the point of a sustained verbal articulation.

Keywords:   homeless men, San Francisco, California, homelessness, sin, sickness, social system, African Americans, street life

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