An international account of homelessness, comparing Berlin and Los Angeles and the possibility of exiting homelessness in each city
Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin
The Sociospatial Exclusion of Homeless People
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Jürgen von Mahs
Los Angeles, California, and Berlin, Germany, have been dubbed "homeless capitals" for having the largest homeless populations of their respective countries. In Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin, Jürgen von Mahs provides an illuminating comparative analysis of the impact of social welfare policy on homelessness in these cities. He addresses the opportunity of people to overcome—or "exit"—homelessness and shows why Berlin, despite its considerable social and economic investment for assisting its homeless, has been almost as unsuccessful as Los Angeles.
Drawing on fascinating ethnographic insights, von Mahs shows how homeless people in both cities face sociospatial exclusion-legal displacement for criminal activities, poor shelters in impoverished neighborhoods, as well as market barriers that restrict reintegration. Providing a necessary wake-up call, Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin addresses the critical public policy issues that can produce effective services to improve homeless people's chances to end their homelessness once and for all.
"The comparative analysis undertaken here is unique in the literature and will make a significant contribution to the field. There are relatively few studies looking at these pervasive issues of homelessness, space, and exclusion from a cross-cultural perspective. This framing in and of itself is potentially very important to enhancing our understanding of these complex issues. Von Mahs’s accessible writing, the richness of the data presented in the cases, and his cogent analysis make Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin a timely, important, and compelling ethnographic inquiry and policy-oriented analysis."
"The book is notable for its comparative analysis as well as for its in-depth ethnographic approach, which yields many insightful observations from homeless persons themselves. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
Jürgen von Mahs is Assistant Professor, Department of Urban Studies, The New School in New York City.