Summary and Analysis of the Book: “Rachel and her children”

Rachel and her children


The misconception that the homeless are drug addicts, alcoholics and runaway criminals has been peddled for years without end in the American society. However, the truth of the matter is that the homeless are simply people without homes (Kozol, 2006). The homeless are humans without any means of living decently, and consequently they are forced to depend on the welfare system. However, the welfare system has turned their lives into an even messier livelihood, considering the fact that they are kept in a hotel where the welfare system pays $2100-$3000 per month for every single person living in the hotel shelters for the homeless, yet such amounts of money would be sufficient to give those people a decent housing.

Martinique Hotel is a home for hundreds of homeless Americans, where Rachael and her family live in two small rooms that are in pathetic conditions (Kozol, 2006). This family did not just wake up and find itself living in the welfare hotel like any other homeless people in America. They had a home of their own, but disaster struck when their house got burnt down, and they did not have any other option. This is the sort of people living under the welfare system catering for the homeless. However, the attitude held by the American society is that such families or individuals are some sort of delinquents, treated as humans that do not have dignity, or at least who do not deserve any of it (Kozol, 2006).

The American welfare system for the homeless is absolutely ineffective. The only way that an individual or a family can get out of the homeless shelter in Manhattan is when they are able to find a housing facility that would cost them $275 per month (Kozol, 2006). The logic behind paying $70 per day for a homeless individual living in the homeless shelter, yet require the same persons to seek alternative accommodation at $275 per month still remains incomprehensible. One of the families whose house was burnt comprised of a carpenter with reasonable skills to earn the family a living. Such a family did not require any substantial assistance, other than for a place to live and the restoration of the man’s carpentry tools which were also burnt during the fire incidence in their house. This way, the man would start life all over again and take the path of earning a decent living, while living a life of dignity. However, instead of offering such support, the welfare system is merely paying a lot of money to the hotels serving as the homeless shelters, which in turn would have afforded the same people a decent living elsewhere (Kozol, 2006). For the rest of the homeless individuals living in the homeless shelter, it is either the loss of their loved ones, skyrocketing rents or tragedies that had seen them end up homeless and without jobs. However, instead of helping the homeless earn a decent living, the American welfare system is paying exorbitantly to make the individuals live in accordance with how the society perceives them.

The application of the concepts and ideas for educators

The ideas presented in the book are very relevant to the educators, since the questions raised by the book can serves as the start point of the educators presenting solutions to the problem of homelessness. The mere fact that the welfare system is using $2100 per month to pay for the homeless to live in the homeless shelter in the Martinique Hotel, while the homeless can live decently in different shelters at a relatively lower costs, calls for intellectual intervention. Therefore, the educators can take this idea and teach it to the students, who would in turn be the ambassadors of change in the American welfare system. On the alternative, the educators can take such an idea and institute researches in the area of homeless welfare system and how it can be improved, so that the homeless can also live a decent life within the available means, since the resources dedicated to the homeless welfare system are sufficient, if only they could be applied in the most effective way (Kozol, 2006). Additionally, the educators can institute studies to unearth the main reasons why the homeless welfare system is opting to keep the homeless individuals in an indecent lifestyle, yet they have sufficient resources to give them an alternative decent life. The educators can assess whether there is an intention to keep the class system in check within the society, so much so that the existing resources are being wasted, while denying the people an opportunity to join the rest of the society in living a decent life. The ideas presented by the book are also relevant to the educators, considering that it is an opportunity for them to chart the most appropriate way through which the homeless can improve their opportunities for living a decent life, outside of their dependence on the welfare system. Finally, the educators have an opportunity to investigate the relationship between American society attitudes towards the homeless and the psychological health impact to these individuals.

Application of the concepts and ideas in the book for our American and global education system

The concepts of the book are applicable to diverse stakeholders in both the American and the global education system, considering the fact that the homeless are not only living under pathetic conditions characterized by poverty, poor sanitation and numerous shortages, but by the lack of educational opportunities (Kozol, 2006). Thus, the problem is not only that of the homeless families, but also of the whole future generation which will comprise of a sizeable population of unemployable adults. Therefore, different stakeholders such as the lawyers and he administrators can apply the concepts raised by the book o influence the policy formulation process. The concepts raised such as misuse of resources through paying hotels a higher rent at the expense of offering the homeless a decent housing system can be applied by the lawyers, to formulate laws that can be passed onto the administrators to change the homeless welfare system into a more beneficial homeless-system.

The ideas presented in this book open an avenue for constructive dialogue relating to the treatment of the homeless, and the societal attitude towards the homeless both in America and globally. The book acts as a clarion call for the American and the global education system to assess the societal priorities in an objective and constructive manner, to establish whether the society is prioritizing the notion and the negative perceptions about the homeless over their human needs for dignity and decent lives. The American and the global education system have a lot to learn from the ideas presented in this book. These education systems can learn how to make their welfare systems effective, through utilizing the available resources in a homeless welfare system that is decent and preserves human dignity. Further, the American and the global education system have an opportunity to change the attitude towards the homeless, through instituting studies and publications that would present the true nature of the homeless; people with need for a shelter, as opposed to delinquents who are not supposed to be integrated back into the decent life of the rest of the society.

In addition, the concepts raised by the book can help to transform the society at large, through prompting a change in the mindset of the whole American and global society, which perceives the homeless as delinquents (Kozol, 2006). This change can in turn influence the whole society to embrace the homeless as people with need for dignity and decency, thus support them at the expense of isolating them. The integration of the homeless into the mainstream society can only be possible if the whole society changes the attitude and perception, and thus establish charitable organizations that can assist the homeless to re-establish their lives, since their main problem is simply lack of a place to call home.


Kozol, J. (2006). Rachel and her children—Homeless families in America. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

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