In the topic's first synthetic historical treatment, Kenneth Kusmer looks at the treatment of the homeless in America, tracing the phenomenon from the poorhouse in the nation's early years, to its growth during the Civil War, to the building of a welfare system during the Progressive Era, to the rise of the skid row in cities and hobo camps during the Great Progressive Era, to the rise of the skid row during the Great Depression, to the relatively low level of homelessness during the period after the end of World War II, to the late 1970s, and finally to the visible phenomenon of homelessness at the end of the twentieth century. Kusmer argues that throughout history the homeless have been stereotyped as a deviant group but have always had much in common with the rest of the American population.

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