Bookmark and Share

For Educators
Click for larger image

Hope Springs Maternal
Homeless Mothers Talk about Making Sense of Adversity
Jill Gerson

Gordian Knot Books
2007 • 328 pp. 6 x 9"
Sociology / Ethnic Studies / Parenting

$20.00 Paperback, 978-1-884092-71-8

“The life histories of these young single mothers of color are poignant and profound, heartrending and instructive. . . . A timely, important contribution to the study of homeless mothers. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

Moving true stories of 24 homeless mothers of color living in the NYC Shelters that reveal their struggles as they try to free themselves and their families from the limitations of poverty and scarce resources

This revised and updated edition of Hope Springs Maternal incorporates the latest data on homeless mothers, changes to laws and policies regarding the homeless nationally and in New York, and an expanded discussion of their implications for social workers, planners, politicians, and shelter administrators concerned with helping homeless mothers establish independent lives for themselves and their children.

Through extensive interviews with twenty-four young women of color living in temporary shelters in New York City who were either pregnant or had very young children, Dr. Jill Gerson analyzes the shelter users’ backgrounds, current living experiences, and views of home, family, and parenting. Employing a life-history approach, she focuses on the ways the mothers’ lives were shaped by both socioeconomic context and interpersonal experiences.

Gerson finds that most of the mothers had experienced various disruptive experiences in childhood and adolescence and that their shelter use was closely related to the adverse economic realities faced by many poor women of color. These shelter experiences were actually part of the mothers’ search for a safe haven that could help them become self-sufficient adults and competent parents. The narratives reflect each individual’s capacity to use limited social resources for personal development. Such transitional shelter use often coincided with efforts to achieve economic stability, obtain appropriate housing, and develop caring personal relationships.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS


“Gerson’s interviews give the reader a personal feel for the struggles that women face as they try to free themselves and their families from the limitations of poverty and scarce resources. . . . these findings make an outstanding introduction to the complexities of homelessness in general and the struggles for women in particular. . . . a unique and original contribution to our understanding of homelessness. . . . Gerson offers a skillful reframing of how we understand the shelter experience itself.” —Maxine Harris, Ph.D, Psychiatric Services, American Psychiatric Association


“Jill Gerson tells the very moving true stories of 24 mothers among the increasing number of single parents in New York City’s homeless shelters. She shares their lives of intense stress as they combat overwhelming depression and try to find affordable housing.” —Sister Barbara Lenniger, O. P., Executive Director, Thorpe Family Residence, Inc.

From the Book:

Through in-depth interviews I conducted over the past decade with 24 mothers living with their children in New York City homeless shelters, this book allows readers to “enter into the world” of homeless mothers. It probes their hearts and minds, and enables you to understand how they experience the world; think about themselves and others; their pathways to homelessness; their lives in shelters and on the streets; and their dreams about life beyond the shelter system – as parents, workers, students, friends, members of extended families, and men and women who want to contribute to society.

This book allows you to experience the “living reality” of the homeless mothers and their children, in their own words, or “voices.” Through extended excerpts from interviews, you will experience the cadence of their speech and their unique and colorful vocabularies. In addition, you will learn about both their personal pain, related to social location and interpersonal relationships, and times of triumph and comfort. The narrators are forceful and articulate about their hopes, and worry about both themselves and their children. The effect of hearing the homeless mothers speak in their own voices is moving and profound, instructive and emotional. I believe you will find that their cumulative testimonies help you to compare your own assumptions with theirs, in a most realistic way, and to refine your understanding about women and families without homes. In addition, the personal stories in this book provide a powerful literary experience, as well as a valuable document for politicians, public policy leaders, social workers, and academicians interested in understanding and solving problems related to homelessness in America.

Although this book focuses on 24 homeless mothers in New York City, it is important to keep in mind that they—like homeless individuals everywhere – are part of a social system. That system includes many elements. Among the more salient are housing options, including emergency shelters, transitional living quarters, and permanent subsidized housing; laws and public policies; attitudes and philosophies about the “homeless,” held by both policy makers and the general public; and the economic environment. This system also encompasses how authorities generally treat, provide for, and view homeless individuals as potentially productive citizens.

“From the Introduction”

JILL GERSON received a DSW from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work. A longtime resident of New York City, Dr. Gerson has focused her social work practice on program development for under-served youth and families with young children. She is currently on the faculty of Lehman College in the Bronx, NY, Department of Sociology and Social Work. While teaching at Lehman, she developed an introductory course for human service workers aimed at enhancing their skills in working with families facing the complex challenges of poverty and social injustice.

Wed, 5 Nov 2014 15:30:25 -0500