Persistent Homelessness in Boston, Massachusetts

Katie R. Petrik, Julian D. Murphy, University of Notre Dame

Full manuscript: http://www.kon.org/urc/v10/petrik.html

Abstract Although hundreds of institutions exist in Boston with the mission of alleviating homelessness, over seven thousand homeless individuals remain, many of whom live in the streets year round. Our primary concern is with these individuals, labeled as the most vulnerable and at-risk homeless. We investigated through observation, survey, and interview, and with the support of Pine Street Inn’s Street Outreach Crew, the main reasons those still living on the streets are either unable or unwilling to seek help from a shelter. The primary reasons appear to be aversion to shelter rules and conditions, substance abuse, psychological disorders, and the ability to survive alone. A possible resolution to persistent homelessness may address individuals’ social needs by offering respect and dignity along with shelter.

Introduction Although hundreds of institutions exist in Boston with the mission of alleviating homelessness, there are still over seven thousand homeless individuals according to a 2008-2009 Census Report, many of whom live in the streets year round. Our primary concern was these individuals, labeled as the “most vulnerable and at-risk homeless” (Official, 2009). We investigated the main reasons those still living on the streets were either unable or unwilling to seek help from a shelter. The Census noted that these year-round homeless persons “often report difficulty in dealing with the process of accessing and staying at shelters.” By speaking directly with homeless persons, we obtained the opinion of those most informed about the situation. We also surveyed shelter staff and completed a series of oral histories to get more comprehensive insights into the issue.

Read the full manuscript: http://www.kon.org/urc/v10/petrik.html