Bread and Roses on 05/11/12
Desiree Hellegers is Co-Director of the Center for Social and Environmental Justice, Associate Chair and Associate Professor of English at Washington State University, Vancouver. She is an active member of various advocacy organizations and her writing has appeared in such publications as Counterpunch.
Her book "No Room of Her Own : Women's Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death, and Resistance" is an oral history collection and brings together interviews with fifteen women who share the common experience of homelessness. All the interviews were conducted in Seattle, Washington between 1991 and 2008, but the women's stories zigzag across the country. The narrators recount stories of growing up in the south at the tail end of Jim Crow, of growing up gay and Black in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s, and of surviving childhood molestation in Harlan, Kentucky in the 1970s. The stories illuminate the part that gender roles play in ensnaring women in cycles of domestic abuse and homelessness. They speak to the physical stresses of homelessness, and the toll it takes on bodies already weakened by high blood pressure, strokes, sickle cell anemia, and epilepsy and the routine threats of physical violence that homeless women in particular encounter on the street. At the same time, however, the stories challenge liberal myths about homeless people, and homeless women in particular, as vulnerable and dependent people worthy perhaps of sympathy but judged to be socially disorganized, disaffiliated and disempowered.