On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City
The sometimes fragmentary tales of these people, their lives and deaths, are not included in official histories of a place. How, Ensign asks, has a large, socially progressive city like Seattle responded to the health needs of people marginalized by poverty, mental illness, addiction, racial/ethnic/sexual identities, and homelessness? Drawing on interviews and extensive research, Ensign shares a diversity of voices within contemporary health care and public policy debates.
Informed by her own lived experience of homelessness, as well as over three decades of work as a family nurse practitioner providing primary health care to homeless people, Ensign is uniquely situated to explore the tensions between caregiving and oppression, as well as charity and solidarity, that polarize perspectives on homelessness throughout the country. A timely story in light of the ongoing health care reform debate, the affordable housing crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the stories from Skid Road illuminate issues surrounding poverty and homelessness throughout America.
About the Author
"Josephine Ensign has written an important and provocative book. Her Skid Road explores the intersection of history, health, poverty, private charity, and public policy in Seattle with compassion and common sense. Ensign's work is essential reading for every citizen, medical practitioner, policy-maker, and social equity advocate, untangling the'"wicked problem' of homelessness with anger and hope."—Lorraine McConaghy, author of New Land, North of the Columbia: Historic Documents That Tell the Story of Washington State from Territory to Today
"An informative and intriguing examination of the history of homelessness in Seattle. Skid Road provides critical context on the myriad issues—racism, sexism, substance abuse, mental illness, and more—that perpetuate cycles of poverty and homelessness in the region. A must-read for policy-makers, advocates, service providers, and anyone seeking to understand the roots of homelessness."—Julie Ziegler, Executive Director, Humanities Washington
"Josephine Ensign's Skid Road is a welcome addition to Seattle histories. I guarantee no matter how much you think you know about the city, you'll discover something new in this fascinating story of those who lack shelter and mental health care—a problem Seattleites have wrestled with from the city's very beginnings."—Knute Berger, Editor-at-Large, Crosscut / KCTS9-TV
"Skid Road's powerful narrative vividly underlines the deep historical co-dependence of shelter, destitution, and ill-health in Seattle. With an empathy and insight borne of personal experience, Ensign expertly reveals the hidden traumas of people experiencing homelessness and connects them to urban America's long-standing structural inequalities. Ensign's urgent history of the now is an important call to action."—Graham Mooney, Johns Hopkins University, author of Intrusive Interventions: Public Health, Domestic Space, and Infectious Disease Surveillance in England, 1840–1914
"Josephine Ensign's thoughtful, deeply researched history of the unhoused, poor, and mentally ill in the Northwest's largest city is a compassionate, incisive, and timely intervention in a conversation that has been going on for well over a century, but which feels especially important now. A must-read."—Coll Thrush, University of British Columbia, author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place
"There are so many reasons to read this book. If you believe in the power of the health humanities, this is for you; if you want outstanding, sensitive contemporary ethnography, this is for you; if you want an immaculately researched account of the intersection of health and homelessness which is at the same time an engaging place story, this is for you."—Tim Cresswell, University of Edinburgh, author of Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Place
"Through meticulous research and vivid storytelling, Ensign takes us back to the sights, sounds, and smells of an 1850s Seattle waterfront and the man 'destined' to become the city's first homeless person. From there, she exposes the entangled roots of poverty and homelessness, the convenience and callousness with which we blame individuals to divert attention from a rigged system. Fascinating, sobering, powerful."—Margaret Baker, University of San Francisco
"Skid Road promises to appeal to a number of audiences with tales of homelessness through history from a Western frontier state."—Amy Hagopian, University of Washington School of Public Health
"Ensign excavates the social, political, and individual structures and issues that have denied the fundamental need of shelter to too many for too long. Her clinical and personal experiences shine through the narratives and point to an undiminished belief in the power to address inequities like homelessness in 'radical and innovative ways,' improving life for all."—Ann Kurth, PhD, CNM, MPH, Yale School of Nursing
Other Titles in SOCIAL SCIENCE / Poverty & Homelessness
Other Titles in Public health & preventive medicine