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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Informal Non-Kin Networks Among Homeless Latino and African American Men
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This study explores the role social networks play in the daily survival of homeless Latino and African American men. Using a qualitative research design, the author examines how these men initiate, participate in, and maintain social networks, and how their networks function. The analysis compares two groups of Latinos (English and Spanish speakers) and African Americans. The findings support a view of homeless men as active, rational, and competent actors engaged in negotiating their social world. Participants rely on social networks composed of a hierarchy of casual and intimate affiliations. The networks of English-speaking Latinos and of African Americans facilitate their integration into a subculture of street life, whereas those of Spanish-speaking Latinos revolve around their struggles to find work, avoid deportation, and enlist the support of their countrymen. Holistic research approaches are required to advance an accurate understanding of the diverse nature of American homelessness and to institute corrective policy measures. (Author)