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Otherwise Homeless: Vehicle Living and the Culture of Homelessness

Michele Wakin
Otherwise Homeless: Vehicle Living and the Culture of Homelessness
ISBN: 978-1-935049-87-6
ISBN: 978-1-62637-400-3
2013/189 pages/LC: 2013029326
A FirstForumPress Book
"[Offers] a valuable perspective on a unique subgroup of the homeless population."—Contemporary Sociology

"A welcome addition to an important literature.... It would be an excellent addition to the reading schedule of courses specifically on homelessness in the United States."—Jason Adam Wasserman, Social Forces

"An important contribution to understanding a little-studied homeless population.... Highly recommended." —Choice

"Sharp and to the point.... An important intervention in debates about homelessness."—Corey Dolgon, Stonehill College        


Privacy, mobility, dignity—living in a vehicle offers many advantages over life in a shelter or on the street. Michele Wakin broadens our understanding of homelessness by exploring the growing phenomenon of vehicle living and how it differs from other forms of makeshift housing.
Incorporating both quantitative data and ethnographic work in California, Wakin takes us into the lives of those who call a car, truck, or RV home. She probes the forces that pushed them out of traditional housing, their unique strengths and vulnerabilities in navigating everyday life, and their complex relationships with local communities, law enforcement, and social service providers. Her analysis of this overlooked population illuminates the dynamics that make it so hard to break the cycle of regulation and resistance that impedes the escape from poverty.


Michele Wakin is executive director of the Institute for Social Justice and associate professor of sociology at Bridgewater State University.


  • Homes on Wheels.
  • A Brief History of Homelessness and Vehicle Living.
  • Navigating Vehicle Living.
  • Negotiating Public Spaces.
  • Service Provision and Programming.
  • Vehicle Living vs. Unsheltered Homelessness.
  • When Beggars Become Choosers.