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Hard Lives, Mean Streets

Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women

Jana L. Jasinski

Publication Year: 2010

Although homelessness is a serious social problem in the United States, there is little direct information about the actual experiences of violence, past and current, among homeless people. This volume, based on the Florida Four-City Study, brings together interview material from 737 women, including structured quantitative interviews as well as in-depth qualitative interviews. The authors investigate how many homeless women have experienced violence in their lives, either as children or as adults, and then examine factors associated with experiences of violence, the consequences of violence, and types of interactions of homeless people with the justice system. The volume concludes with pragmatic and compassionate policy recommendations.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Series: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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1: Violence, Homelessness, and Women

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pp. 1-16

What we know about women who live on the street—and about their experiences with violence, both as children and as adults—is limited. Many dozens of studies of physical and sexual violence committed against homeless women have been published; comprehensive reviews of this literature...

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2: Study Participants - Florida's Homeless Women

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pp. 17-42

Rena, thirty-nine years old, had been living in the Orlando homeless shelter for about a month when we interviewed her. This was the most recent in a long series of homelessness episodes that began when she was about sixteen. She said this about her current stint in the shelter...

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3: Homelessness and Its Consequences

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pp. 43-53

As we discussed in the previous chapter, homelessness is a heterogeneous set of experiences and material conditions, not a monolithic event in life that every victim goes through in the same way (Burt, Aron, and Lee 2001, chap. 6; Wright, Rubin, and Devine 1998). We look now at the different...

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4: Homeless Victims and Perpetrators of Violence

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pp. 54-71

The early research on violence against women was crucial to raising awareness that millions of women were victims of violence, often at the hands of a partner or spouse (see, e.g., Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz 1980; Straus and Gelles 1990). From that point forward, scholars sought to increase...

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5: Risk Factors and Routine Activities

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pp. 72-87

It is apparent that many homeless women are victims of violence. At the same time, there are a variety of circumstances leading to victimizations, and a range of frequencies along which the victimizations fall. It is useful to understand the environmental and individual factors that are significantly...

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6: The Childhood Nexus

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pp. 88-102

Eliza’s quote above alludes to a “cycle of violence,” like that supported by the work of Catherine S. Widom (see Widom 1989a, 1989b, 1989c, 1992). Indeed, one of the well-documented risk factors for violence in adulthood is childhood abuse and victimization. In this chapter, we discuss this seemingly...

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7: Violence as a Cause of Homelessness among Women

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pp. 103-111

The previous chapter illustrated the childhood nexus of conditions for the women in our study, clearly showing that violence was an enduring part of their early lives and shaped every subsequent decision and action. Even with childhoods interrupted with violence and abuse, the women in our...

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8: The Criminal Justice Response

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pp. 112-128

Among the general population, violence committed by an offender whom the victim knows is reported to law enforcement officials much less frequently than assaults in which the offender is a stranger (Gartner and Macmillan 1995; Maston and Klaus 2005). Barnett, Miller-Perrin, and Perrin...

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9: Injury, Addiction, and Emotional Problems

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pp. 129-150

Tamara’s story has been woven throughout the narrative of this book. This passage (also quoted in chapter 1) identities some of the stressors in the lives of homeless women—uncertain arrangements for eating, sleeping, bathing, and the other acts of daily life; the intrinsic hazards of street life...

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10: Conclusions

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pp. 151-162

Throughout this book, we have discussed how violence and homelessness are inextricably linked. In fact, although the public perception is that homeless individuals are perpetrating violence, the reality is that they are much more likely to be victims of violence (Donley 2008). The National Coalition...

Appendix A: Study Methodology

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pp. 163-170

Appendix B: Serious Physical Abuse Items

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pp. 171-172


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pp. 173-186


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pp. 187-194

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781555537326
E-ISBN-10: 1555537324
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555537258

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Homeless women -- Violence against -- United States.
  • Homeless women -- United States -- Social conditions.
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