Off the Bookshelf: 'Going Homeless'

Short excerpts from long reads


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"That June 1993, when Coco was five months pregnant, she decided to 'go homeless.' Going homeless meant entering the city shelter system to begin the long process of acquiring an apartment you could call your own. By entering a shelter, Coco could qualify for New York City public housing and get her name on a lengthy waiting list. Twice Foxy had personally escorted Coco back to the shelter, and twice Coco had followed her mother right back home. The shelters scared Coco, especially the coed one. After her last attempt, Coco had said, 'Ima live here with my mother until I grow gray hair.' But Foxy encouraged her youngest daughter's faltering steps toward independence. Coco's older brother and sister and their families had gone homeless successfully. This time, as a pregnant mother of two, Coco qualified for emergency placement. She finally made up her mind to try again with a friend, whose uncle offered the girls a ride. Foxy was out, so Coco avoided the good-bye. She had no money, which turned out to be luck, because Coco later said that if she had, she would have returned home by cab. Her girlfriend helped her through the processing-waiting and soothing the children, who became hungry, then cranky. They complained and cried until they fell asleep on the floor as the night cracked open into day." ~ from a masterpiece of reporting, Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Image via Flickr user Mr. T in DC 

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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