Elliot Liebow’s groundbreaking novel entitled Tell Them Who I Am is one that helps to paint a clear picture of the lives of homeless women, and even homeless people in general. Liebow presents the trials that face homeless women in their daily life and in all other aspects of their life from their daily life and their ability to work to personal things like how their friends, family, and religion fit into the equation.
Elliot Liebow, at the age of 58, after being diagnosed with cancer and being told he didn’t have long to live, retired from his job as an anthropologist and started volunteering at a local soup kitchen. With plenty of time on his hands and a want to do more, he also volunteered at a shelter for homeless women. It was here that he started socializing with the women and taking a real interest in their stories and what they go through on a day to day basis. He started taking casual notes about they told him, with their permission of course, and later collected their life stories and really got a feel for their plight. This is how he got all of his information.
Tell Them is a prime example of participant observation. Someone with no real knowledge of the struggles of homeless women prior to his volunteer work b
And as unfortunate as it may be, once they"tmve landed in the shelter-life, it"tms often nearly impossible to get out. But even the smallest of ailments could be a large snag for these women. We live in a competitive world, and when age, race, sex, and other factors are put in, "those who run very fast are highly rewarded"For a variety of reasons, seldom if ever any fault of their own, some poor people and some homeless people"can"tmt run very fast at all. Things you might take for granted like being able to "stay off your feet" or "get a lot of rest" aren"tmt possibilities for those living shelter life. Something that Liebow put at the end of his conclusion is something that hit it home for me and made his point just that much better: ""tmI"tmm 53 years old,"tm said Shirley, an ordinary woman of unremarkable appearance. When you have to be up at 5:00 or 5:30 and be gone not long after, you"tmre not allowed the same luxuries, and this can only serve to exacerbate the problem. And once a homeless person gets a home, they"tmll still be unemployed or disabled or what have you if they were when they were homeless. So, Liebow makes the now obvious conclusion that there"tms not necessarily any connection there. Tell Them Who I Am is like a command to see that the homeless are all unique individuals just like the rest of us and that they"tmre people too. The homeless really are seen almost as being less than human. Actually, Liebow has many thoughts and beliefs on homelessness after spending his time with the women, one of them being that homelessness only is because of "a lack of housing". That"tms what this book has done for me, and that"tms why I would recommend it to other Sociology students, and even anyone and everyone else just because it teaches something most people don"tmt know the truth about. His goal with this book was to write an honest description of shelter life, while also explaining how the women could remain so human while being faced with such inhuman conditions. Anytime you can put a human face with a tragedy, it becomes a lot more real and makes you think a whole lot harder.