Poor and Homeless in the Sunshine State: Down and Out in Theme Park Nation

A place like Orlando, Florida is not transformed from swampland to sprawling metropolis through Peter Pan-like flights of fancy, but through theme park expansions requiring developmental schemes that are tough minded and often worsen relationships between the wealthy and the poor. The homeless arrive with their own hopes and illusions, which are soon shattered. The rest of the local population makes its peace with the system. Meanwhile the homeless are reduced to advocacy models that neither middle- nor working-class folks much worry about. They are modern members of Ellison’s “invisible men” but they comprise a racial and social mixture unlike any other in the American landscape.

This book is primarily about the dark side of this portrait―the poor, near-poor, homeless, and dispossessed who live in the midst of this verdant landscape. The phrase “down and out,” has been used to describe people who are destitute or penniless since the late nineteenth century. Here the term is used in a more expansive sense, as synonymous with anyone who lives near, at, or over the edge of financial catastrophe.

“Wright and Donley provide a detailed account of the ‘other’ Orlando — not the phantasmagorical city associated with Disney and tourism, but the down-and-out world of homeless families, day laborers, the mentally ill with no place to go, and the newly needy of Central Florida. Kudos for social science well-done.” — Richard E. Foglesong, Department of Political Science, Rollins College

“…in-depth and eye-opening…” California Bookwatch

“Wright and Donley do an extraordinary job of weaving a set of important stories about homeless in Central Florida. This resource-rich volume provides important insights into one of America’s greatest woes in one of America’s most popular regions of the country.” – Kevin Fitzpatrick, University of Arkansas

James D. Wright and Amy M. Donley, Poor and Homeless was published in 2011 by Transaction Publishers.

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