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The Man in the Dog ParkComing Up Close to Homelessness$
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Cathy A. Small

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748783

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748783.001.0001

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Navigating the Bureaucracy

Navigating the Bureaucracy

(p.104) 7 Navigating the Bureaucracy
The Man in the Dog Park

Cathy A. Small

Jason Kordosky

Ross Moore

Cornell University Press

This chapter addresses how homeless people navigate bureaucracy. It shows how social institutions, in addition to providing needed functions and services, help to construct what it feels like to be homeless. There are six characteristics of a bureaucracy. First, it is courteous but impersonal. The impersonality of the modern bureaucracy was designed in service of fairness and impartiality; it was intended to counter favoritism. Bureaucracy is also run according to written records and it is hierarchical. Another feature of bureaucratic institutions is rules and regulations. Even for those skilled in navigating the bureaucracy, there is something crazy-making about the structures that most homeless must inhabit. So much of one's life circumstances as a homeless person seeking help is a Catch-22, the term coined to describe what bureaucracies do to people. Its formal definition is this: a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

Keywords:   homeless people, bureaucracy, social institutions, impersonality, favoritism, written records, hierarchy, bureaucratic institutions, regulations

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