Armstrong History Professor Publishes New Book

Armstrong History Professor Publishes Book on Homelessness

(Feb. 8, 2013) Armstrong Assistant Professor of History Ella Howard has released a new scholarly book, Homeless: Poverty and Place in Urban America, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Focusing on New York's infamous Bowery, Homeless analyzes the efforts of politicians, charity administrators, social workers, urban planners, and social scientists as they grappled with the problem of homelessness. The development of the Bowery from a respectable entertainment district to the nation's most infamous skid row offers a lens through which to understand national trends of homelessness and the complex relationship between poverty and place. Maintained by cities across the country as a type of informal urban welfare, skid rows anchored the homeless to a specific neighborhood, offering inhabitants places to eat, drink, sleep, and find work, while keeping them comfortably removed from the urban middle classes. This separation of the homeless from the core of city life fostered simplistic and often inaccurate understandings of their plight. Most efforts to assist them centered on reforming their behavior rather than addressing structural economic concerns.

By midcentury, as city centers became more valuable, urban renewal projects and waves of gentrification destroyed skid rows and with them the public housing and social services they offered. With nowhere to go, the poor scattered across the urban landscape into public spaces, only to confront laws that effectively criminalized behavior associated with abject poverty. Richly detailed, Homeless lends insight into the meaning of homelessness and poverty in twentieth-century America and offers us a new perspective on the modern welfare system.

Homeless is a magnificent piece of scholarship that will undoubtedly establish Dr. Howard's national reputation as an important scholar,” said Michael Price, Armstrong history department head.

Howard, who teaches urban history and material culture, has been with Armstrong since 2008. She holds a doctoral degree in American and New England studies from Boston University, a Master of Arts in the History of Decorative Arts from the Bard Graduate Center for the Studies of Decorative Arts, and a bachelor's degree from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. In addition to Homeless, Howard has written on feminism and gendered marketing, body image and American culture, and the history of women in design. She has also lectured and given presentations at a number of scholarly conferences such as the Organization of American Historians, the American Culture Association, and the Urban History Association, among others.

Homeless can be purchased from the University of Pennsylvania Press as a clothbound edition or ebook available on Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and the iPad.