5 Must-Reads to Better Understand the Experience of Homelessness

stack of books

March 28, 2022

This article was written by Cyan Perdue, an intern at Family Promise.

Families experiencing homelessness come from a variety of geographic, racial, and religious backgrounds. What they have in common is an understanding of the struggles that come with finding housing, dealing with finances, managing work and family life, and simply surviving. Check out these five must-read books that provide a glimpse into the experiences of so many Americans. 

  1. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)

In this non-fiction piece, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor discusses the practice of redlining in America and unpacks the racism embedded in the United States housing system. Her book offers an analysis of how discrimination within the housing market has contributed to generations of Black families unable to secure housing. Understanding America’s history of housing discrimination is vital to understanding why a disproportionate number of families of color experience homelessness. 

  1. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive (Stephanie Land) 

In this autobiography, Stephanie Land shares her experience of working as a maid after an unexpected pregnancy leaves her struggling along the poverty line. The story dives into the realities of service workers and reveals the complexities of simply surviving. The story explores the challenges of maintaining a family while simultaneously battling mental illness, substance abuse, and poverty. This book was eventually turned into a Netflix series. 

  1. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (Richard Rothstein) 

Richard Rothstein discusses the history of discrimination within the United States housing system. Rothstein exposes how the United States has promoted racial discrimination and dissects the impacts of passing the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This non-fiction book explores and begins to unpack the generational harm of housing discrimination that endures decades later.  

  1. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond) 

In this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Matthew Desmond collects stories from eight families who are in the midst of experiencing housing insecurity. The book expands on the lived impacts of poverty and illustrates what survival looks like for those experiencing eviction. This story highlights the importance of having a place to call home.  

  1. Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope (Nicholas Kristoff & Sheryl WuDunn)  

Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn highlight the devastation experienced by working class Americans. The authors share their firsthand experiences and those of their childhood friends to show how poverty and addiction can impact the people around us. They also use the knowledge they have gained to outline workable solutions to America’s poverty crisis in both a rural and urban context.  

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