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Tell Them Who I Am

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“Tell Them Who I Am”

            (A1) In “Tell Them Who I Am”, by Elliot Liebow, there was no clear cut research question. The aim of this book was to raise awareness about homelessness. However, after thoroughly reading “Tell Them Who I Am” I believe that Liebow’s research question is “How do homeless women remain human in the face of inhuman conditions?” (Liebow, 1). What we (the non homeless) believe are the simplicities of life the homeless women believe them to be the luxuries of life.

Let’s take sleeping in as an example. The non homeless can sleep late on Saturdays and Sundays, and they can sleep in on a comfortable bed. The non homeless take this simplicity for granted. However the homeless wish that they could sleep in. On the weekday and on the weekends the homeless have to leave the shelter at 7am and can’t return until later that night. The luxury of sleeping in is not granted to them. And when they do sleep at the shelters they are not guaranteed a good nights sleep because of the noise that other people are making. The homeless women, in Liebow’s book, are often dependent on other people/sources for the necessities (like a place to eat and sleep) of life.

(B1) Throughout “Tell Them Who I Am” I noticed several things that the women seemed to be dependent on. The women were dependent on jobs, government assistance, shelter, and family (independent variable) for support and aid that would help them to survive. The women were dependent on jobs for employment. However, a lot of the women were fired or weren’t hired because they were homeless. The loss of jobs left the women without income and often with no hope of coming out of homelessness.

If they couldn’t get jobs then they would rely on government assistance. Government assistance came in many forms; Liebow talked about two, government housing and government money. Often times the women wanted government housing because they were afraid to stay in the shelters. Most of them were denied the “privilege” of government housing. Government money was another source of help. Some of the women received social security checks, and/or welfare money. Liebow never said how much the women received, but it was made clear that it wasn’t enough to cure homelessness; it wasn’t even enough money to help the women make it from month to month. When the money started to run low, the women became depressed and once again they lost hope because the loss of money reminded them of their homeless state.

The women were also dependent on shelters. The shelters gave the women food, some protection, a place to sleep, and a place to commune with other women. Most women didn’t like going to the shelters because they didn’t feel protected, and they could easily be thrown out by the staff members and at times the staff members were mean. The homeless women didn’t like to call the shelter “home” because at home one could be peaceful, sleep comfortably and not be thrown out or forced out at a certain time.

Family was also an independent variable for some women, especially the mentally handicapped. Let’s take Grace as an example. Liebow described Grace as being a beautiful, homeless, woman who was mildly retarded. She depended on her father to bring her social security check every month, but he failed to do so. He would bring Grace some money, but Grace thought that her father gave her (Grace’s) SSI check to her step mom. Her father’s actions left her with very little money, and very little hope for coming out of homelessness.

(C1) Liebow wasn’t clear on what type of sampling he used to collect all of his information. However after examining “Tell Them Who I Am” and our text book “How’s It’s Done” I came to the conclusion that Liebow used convenience sampling to collect his data.

Liebow volunteered at the soup kitchen, The Refuge, Bridge House, New Beginnings, and The Day Shelter. He used his time at these shelters to sit with the women take notes, record their stories, and every once in awhile he put his two cents in. Liebow created a personal relationship with the women at the shelters (he created a relationship with those who would let him). He would take them places, introduced them to his family, lend them money, and he also let them use his address. Liebow never mentioned going out of his way to collect his data; he used what was right in front of him.

(F1) While collecting his data, Liebow didn’t ask questions. He just let the women talk. I believe that he felt that asking questions would take away from the natural flow of the conversation which would take away from the data collected. Even though Liebow did not ask questions, he did partake in the conversation.

One particular example of Liebow taking part in a conversation happens when one homeless woman gets another homeless woman sent to jail. He thought that her actions were wrong and he voiced his opinion. He basically said that telling on so and so was wrong, and that you aren’t supposed to send a sister to jail; He basically corrected them on their morals. And comments such as those would make some of the women angry and by doing so Liebow would get their true feeling about other homeless people.

(H1) Liebow did both basic and applied research to create “Tell Them Who I Am”. I believe he did basic research because he added/ corrected our knowledge on homeless people. The world has a stereotype of homeless people being lazy, mentally ill, not family oriented etc. Liebow corrected our thinking by explaining that homeless people are just like the non homeless. They (the homeless) aren’t mentally ill, they are family oriented, and they are not lazy. Liebow tells us that the homeless are homeless simply because they are poor. This correction of the homeless stereotype was one of Liebow’s reasons for writing this book.

Along with doing basic research I believe that Liebow did applied research. His book was written to inform others of the seriousness of homelessness and its stereotypes, and it was also I call to action. He tells us that we have to do something about homelessness. In chapter 7, Liebow tells us what we should and shouldn’t do to fix homelessness; he kind of sets out a plan. He believes that we shouldn’t press/push the ladies to do things that they won’t want to do (like get a job), we should let them be themselves. He also stressed that dormitories, shelters etc don’t work. You shouldn’t force so many personalities together all at once, but more importantly the shelters should be filled with workers who don’t treat the women harshly. Basically Liebow is saying that the homeless need a place that is the total opposite of a shelter; they need a place that they can call home.

(A2) One of my dreams has been to make a home for homeless women. After reading “Tell Them Who I Am” I realize that a lot of homeless people measure homelessness in different ways. Some women say they are homeless because they have no place to live; some say because they have no jobs, others say they have no family while others say that they just no place in the world. Based on all of this information my research question is “What are the exact needs of homeless women; what do they (homeless women) think will help them out of homelessness?” If I am creating a place that will help homeless women, I need to know what the homeless believe they need to help them overcome homelessness. I want first hand information, so I want to send a team of people to different shelters and soup kitchens to find the truth.

(B2) There were some independent variables that Liebow bought to my attention. The independent variables that I would further study would be jobs, government assistance, and shelters.

Employment plays a very important role in overcoming homelessness. First I would try to find good paying jobs that would be willing to hire homeless people. This would be like paid internships; they would teach the women how to do the jobs, and guarantee them a spot in the company. These women are dependent on jobs, so I believe it would be nice for them to know that they don’t have to hide the fact that they had a rough time in life. It is also good for them to know that they are ensured employment.

The next independent variable I would look at is the government. In the book, a woman said that the state and the government are supposed to help their people, but they don’t pay us any attention. I want to know why? Why don’t these women get more assistance from the government? I would do research on programs for people living in poverty to see if there was any more government help available. I would also look for grants and other government funding to open the home for women. This would be my way in making the government give to the women.

Lastly I would look at shelters. I would review all of their rules, screening processes, meal plans, etc. I would look at the shelters because I want to find out where they go wrong; basically why don’t the women want to call this home? Is it because of the set up or the rules? I also want to know why these women don’t feel safe.

(C2) To collect my data I would use convenience sampling and snowball sampling. It was brilliant of Liebow to use convenience sampling because it is quick and easy. If you don’t have a lot of time convenience sampling is the way to go. But more importantly Liebow set up relationships with these women. They knew he was going to be their, they felt comfortable with him and therefore they opened up to him.

Snowball sampling takes a bit longer because you are referred to people and sometimes the people you are referred to might not trust you and won’t want to talk. Snowball sampling can leave you to dead ends. However I would still do it because it will lead you to other homeless people who don’t leave in shelters, and I believe that it is important to hear their voice too.

(F2) Three questions that I would ask in order to collect my data are “Why do you think you are homeless?” “What do you think will help you overcome homelessness?” “What do you need to survive; what are the necessities of life for you?”

(G2) I am doing applied research because I am using the information that I would collect to open a women’s shelter. I want to help homeless women get the government assistance that they need, find a steady good paying job, and eventually overcome homelessness.

Part 3

The advantage of Liebow’s research is that it brings awareness to the homeless epidemic. It gives out great information into the world and thought of homeless people; it provides a foundation to the researchers after him. Liebow’s research didn’t cost a lot of money, and didn’t take a lot of time.

The advantage to my research is that it is proactive. I am using my research, along with other research that is not my own, to better the lives of women. I want to help them receive the life that they deserve. Another advantage of my research is that my sampling units are more specific. I’m not just targeting women who live in the shelter; I am targeting those who don’t live in shelters because their opinion matters too.

The disadvantage to Liebow’s research is that he used a small sample of women and generalized their opinion’ he made them speak for homeless women everywhere. What he did wasn’t bad, but a small portion of women who mostly commune together doesn’t accurately represents the homeless population. He also didn’t check the background of the women to see if they were telling the truth about their past. Not doing so might make his information unreliable.

The disadvantage to my research is that it would be costly, and extremely time consuming. I would have to pay people to help me do my research, follow up with the women in and out of the shelter, and put together a business plan for the home. The people who would help me would want to get paid (I can’t blame them for that).

My research would also be time consuming because I would want my information to be reliable, so I would do background checks. I would also take my time to do this research so that I could get as much information as possible. Having a lot of good accurate information will help me to better serve the women and will help me to get more government grants (with more reliable and accurate information they [the government] will take me seriously).

In the end no matter how good or bad the research is, the women matter the most. It is us trying to understand them, so that we can better help them. And giving them the help that they need is what matters.

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