Learn More About the Issue

Homelessness is a complex issue. Causes of homelessness are routinely connected to income and housing affordability, racial disparities, health and health care, domestic violence, and traumatic loss. Solutions to homelessness tend to involve many public and private stake-holders working on the issue in a community. The websites and books listed below can provide more insights on the intersecting issues around homelessness.



In the realm of hungry ghosts book cover

In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost: Close Encounters with Addiction (Gabor Mate MD)

Based on the author’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts discusses this misunderstood field by positing that addiction is not a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few. Rather, it is a continuum that runs throughout our society, and results from a complex combination of personal history, emotional and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction. Simplifying a variety of worldwide brain and addiction research findings, the book presents that a thorough and compassionate self-understanding is the first key to healing and wellness. The mix of personal stories—including accounts of the author’s own “high-status” addictive tendencies—and science with positive solutions makes the book equally useful for the average reader, as well as professionals.

EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond)

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a 2016 non-fiction book by the American author Matthew Desmond. Set in the poorest areas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the book follows eight families struggling to pay rent to their landlords during the financial crisis of 2007–2008.

The Sober Truth (Lance Dodes, MD)

The Sober Truth is more than a book about addiction. It is also a book about science and how and why AA and rehab became so popular, despite the discouraging data. Dr. Dodes explores the entire story of AA’s rise, from its origins in early fundamentalist religious and mystical beliefs to its present-day place of privilege in politics and media. The Sober Truth addresses the monopoly of the 12-step program and explodes the myth that these programs offer an acceptable or universal solution to the deeply personal problem of addiction. This book offers new and actionable information for addicts, their families, and medical providers, and lays out better ways to understand addiction for those seeking a more effective and compassionate approach to this treatable problem.

High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (Dr. Carl Hart)

High Price is the harrowing and inspiring memoir of neuroscientist Carl Hart, who grew up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods and, determined to make a difference as an adult, tirelessly applies his scientific training to help save real lives. In this memoir, Dr. Carl Hart recalls his journey of self-discovery, how he escaped a life of crime and drugs and avoided becoming one of the crack addicts he now studies. Interweaving past and present, Hart goes beyond the hype as he examines the relationship between drugs and pleasure, choice, and motivation, both in the brain and in society. His findings shed new light on common ideas about race, poverty, and drugs, and explain why current policies are failing.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (Bessel van der Kolk M.D.)

Working with individuals experiencing homelessness, trauma informed care is a necessary and powerful tool. The causes of homelessness for many clients are rooted in trauma, and this must be factored into how and what we plan to end their homelessness. Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.

Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor (Dr. Jim J. O’Connell)

This book is a staff recommendation. The author is an authority in the field of homeless services. Boston’s Healthcare for the Homeless program is a model in the field for evidenced based practices and interventions.

“You hold in your hands a precious gem. For this volume instantly and irrevocably transports you into a fascinating universe of individuals usually invisible to us. They are often faceless and nameless, lost in plain sight, and forced to live on the fringes of society. But this volume makes unforgettable those who are usually forgotten. The riveting stories presented here capture each life in such moving and vivid detail that you will be forever changed.” —From the Foreword by Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H.

“I am so happy to donate to BHCHP. I worked as an advanced practice nurse at MGH for many years before moving to Colorado. Now retired. I heard Terry Gross’s interview with Jim O’Connell and bought his book. I read the book and sent 2 more to nurse friends with instructions to read and pass along.  My husband has just finished the book and said to send it on to our son and family in Boston.  We are in awe and admiration for all that the group does.  Thank you all. You make healthcare look good.”

Dr. O’Connell’s collection of stories and essays, written during thirty years of caring for homeless persons in Boston, gently illuminates the humanity and raw courage of those who struggle to survive and find meaning and hope while living on the streets.