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The Homelessness Industry: A Critique of US Social Policy

Elizabeth Beck and Pamela C. Twiss
The Homelessness Industry: A Critique of US Social Policy
ISBN: 978-1-62637-741-7
ISBN: 978-1-62637-797-4
2019/287 pages/LC: 2018020916
"Provides important documentation and analysis of the evolution of U.S. homelessness policies."—Dennis Culhane, Contemporary Sociology

"A must-read book for understanding why we have failed to end homelessness."—Donald W. Burnes, Center on Poverty and Homelessness, Colorado Center on Law and Poverty

"How did homelessness go from being understood as a social problem to becoming just a normal feature of life [in the United States]? If you’ve ever asked this question, The Homelessness Industry is essential reading."—Vincent Lyon-Callo, Western Michigan University


Homelessness once was considered an aberration. Today it is a normalized feature of US society.  It is also, argue Elizabeth Beck and Pamela Twiss, an industry: the embrace of neoliberal policies and piecemeal efforts to address the problem have ensured a steady production of homeless people, as well as a plethora of disjointed social services that often pathologize individuals instead of housing them.

Tracing the transformation of homelessness from being a social-justice issue to one with solutions based on medical models and zero-sum-games analyses, Beck and Twiss explore how government policies and practices have served to shape our limited response to the problem. Equally important, they consider how a more just, human-rights-based approach might be effected.


Elizabeth Beck is professor in the School of Social Work at Georgia State University. Pamela C. Twiss is professor of social work at the California University of Pennsylvania.


  • The Making of the Homelessness Industry.
  • Homelessness Today and Its Historical Roots.
  • Competing Values: Neoliberalism and Social Justice.
  • From Social Problem to Psychiatry.
  • Early Federal Policy and the Fight for the McKinney Act.
  • Implementation in a Hostile Context: The First Two Years of the McKinney Act.
  • Services, Not Justice.
  • From Managing to Ending Homelessness.
  • The Present Continuing Quest for Justice.