Poor and Homeless in the Sunshine State: Down and Out in Theme Park Nation

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A place like Orlando, Florida is not transformed from swampland to sprawling metropolis through Peter Pan-like flights of fancy, but through theme park expansions requiring developmental schemes that are tough minded and often worsen relationships between the wealthy and the poor. The homeless arrive with their own hopes and illusions, which are soon shattered. The rest of the local population makes its peace with the system. Meanwhile the homeless are reduced to advocacy models that neither middle- nor working-class folks much worry about. They are modern members of Ellison’s "invisible men" but they comprise a racial and social mixture unlike any other in the American landscape.

This book is primarily about the dark side of this portrait—the poor, near-poor, homeless, and dispossessed who live in the midst of this verdant landscape. The phrase "down and out," has been used to describe people who are destitute or penniless since the late nineteenth century. Here the term is used in a more expansive sense, as synonymous with anyone who lives near, at, or over the edge of financial catastrophe.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Sociologists Wright and Donley (both, Univ. of Central Florida) begin with the high hopes that Disney World brought to central Florida in 1971, then explore the often hidden world of people living in poverty and homelessness in Disney World’s shadow. Drawing on many years of quantitative and qualitative research, the authors present important topics, including the deleterious effects of shelter life, the realities of homelessness on women and children, life in the woods for the homeless living alone or in encampments, the elderly homeless, and efforts to house homeless individuals, primarily through the Housing First model. They successfully link research findings in Orlando and Miami to homelessness throughout the US… A basic reference on the state of homlessness today in the US… Recommended."

—I. Glasser, CHOICE

Poor and Homeless in the Sunshine State: Down and Out in Theme Park Nation provides a hard-hitting analysis of conditions in Orlando, Florida, home of DisneyWorld and special interest development groups whose efforts to foster the park have worsened conditions between rich and poor. Those who live in the shadow of one of the richest parks on Earth are documented here in a survey that gathers stories about homelessness in Central Florida. Any interested in either Florida politics and social issues or poverty in America will find this an in-depth, eye-opening probe of lives and politics.”

California Bookwatch

"Wright and Donley provide a detailed account of the 'other' Orlandonot the phantasmagorical city associated with Disney and tourism, but the down-and-out world of homeless families, day laborers, the mentally ill with no place to go, and the newly needy of Central Florida. Kudos for social science well-done."

– Richard E. Foglesong, Ph.D., George and Harriet Cornell Professor of Politics, Department of Political Science, Rollins College

"Wright and Donley do an extraordinary job of weaving a set of important stories about homeless in Central Florida. This resource-rich volume provides important insights into one of America's greatest woes in one of America's most popular regions of the country."

– Kevin Fitzpatrick, professor & Jones Chair in Community, Community and Family Institute, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Arkansas

"Poor and Homeless is unique in providing a comprehensive view of homelessness in one community over many years, including aspects not usually encountered. Public perceptions of homeless people and supportive sentiments of community obligations, experiences and opinions of hundreds of volunteers who make Orlando's homeless assistance programs work, the 'Disney' realities of the community's work and poverty environment, and analysis of politics and policy operating within a single community context enhance and contextualize the expected descriptions of homeless men, women, and families. Poor and Homeless is an interesting read, for those well acquainted with writing on homelessness as well as for those who want a lively and informative introduction to the topic."

– Martha R. Burt, Ph.D., Urban Institute

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412842211
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/26/2011
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

James D. Wright is provost distinguished research professor in the department of sociology at the University of Central Florida. He also serves as director of the University of Central Florida Institute for Social and Behavioral Sciences, and as editor-in-chief of the journal Social Science Research. He has published more than a dozen books, including Armed and Considered Dangerous and Under the Gun as well as many journal articles. His current research interests include violence, urban poverty and inequality, health and the homeless population, and the “divorce reform” movement.

Amy M. Donleyis also with the department of sociology at the University of Central Florida. Her writings on homelessness have appeared in other works, such as Homelessness in America.

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