Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, Harvard University; Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, Harvard University; Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs; CES Seminar Co-chair & Faculty Associate, Harvard University
October 4, 2018
2:30pm - 4:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
In this presentation, Jutta Allmendinger will present current research on the working homeless in Berlin and Los Angeles.
In Germany as in the US, homeless people are usually perceived either as lazy, sick or victims of the social welfare system. By focusing on the working homeless – a severe form of the working poor – Allmendinger's work circumvents conventional stereotypes of homelessness and instead brings structural determinants of homelessness to the fore: income determination, housing markets and social security transfers. In the first part of her talk, she will discuss how these factors compare cross-nationally. The second part will then turn to cross-national differences that have not received much attention so far. Focusing on Los Angeles and its sister city Berlin, Allmendinger will look at the visibility of the homeless in inner cities, their sources of financial support, and people’s perceived own likelihood of downward mobility. In all three areas the research reveals differences between the two cities that raise important questions. First, while in Los Angeles the homeless, including the working homeless, are part of the inner city, they are much less visible than in Berlin. Does visibility matter for the self-perception of the homeless and the perception of homelessness by society-at-large? Second, homeless people in Los Angeles receive financial resources through civil society organizations while in Berlin transfer payments are provided by the state. This poses many questions: a) does the source of financial support matter? b) if so, what is its effect? Third, homelessness in Los Angeles is considered just ‘a paycheck away’ by the majority of society, in Berlin this is not the case. Does the perceived risk of downward mobility increase or decrease the compassion for homeless people?