When We Walk By: Forgotten Humanity, Broken Systems, and the Role We Can Each Play in Ending Homelessness in America (Paperback)

When We Walk By: Forgotten Humanity, Broken Systems, and the Role We Can Each Play in Ending Homelessness in America By Kevin F. Adler, Donald W. Burnes, Amanda Banh (With), Andrijana Bilbija (With) Cover Image

When We Walk By: Forgotten Humanity, Broken Systems, and the Role We Can Each Play in Ending Homelessness in America (Paperback)


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How to end homelessness in America: a must-read guide to understanding housing instability, supporting our unhoused neighbors, and reclaiming our humanity.

A deeply humanizing analysis that will change the way you think about poverty and homelessness—for the socially engaged reader of Isabel Wilkerson's Caste and Matthew Desmond's Evicted.

Think about the last time that you saw or interacted with an unhoused person. What did you do? What did you say? Did you offer money or a smile, or did you avert your gaze?

When We Walk By takes an urgent look at homelessness in America, showing us what we lose—in ourselves and as a society—when we choose to walk past and ignore our neighbors in shelters, insecure housing, or on the streets. And it brilliantly shows what we stand to gain when we embrace our humanity and move toward evidence-based people-first, community-driven solutions, offering social analysis, economic and political histories, and the real stories of unhoused people.

Authors Kevin F. Adler and Donald W. Burnes, with Amanda Banh and Andrijana Bilbija, recast chronic homelessness in the U.S. as a byproduct of twin crises: our social services systems are failing, and so is our humanity. Readers will learn:

  • Why our brains have been trained to overlook our unhoused neighbors
  • The social, economic, and political forces that shape myths like “all homeless people are addicts” and “they’d have a house if they got a job”
  • What conservative economics gets wrong about housing insecurity
  • What relational poverty is, and how to shift away from “us versus them” thinking
  • That for many Americans, housing insecurity is just one missed paycheck away
  • Who “the homeless” really are—and why that might surprise you
  • What you can do to help, starting today

A necessary, deeply humanizing read that goes beyond theory and policy analysis to offer engaged solutions with compassion and heart, When We Walk By is a must-read for anyone who cares about homelessness, housing solutions, and their own humanity.
KEVIN F. ADLER is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Miracle Messages. He holds a Masters in Sociology from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelors in Politics from Occidental College. In his work on homelessness, he has pioneered the concept of “relational poverty” as an overlooked form of poverty severely affecting unhoused individuals. He previously authored Natural Disasters as a Catalyst for Social Capital

DONALD W. BURNES funds The Burnes Institute for Poverty Research at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and teaches at Denver’s Academy for Lifelong Learning. He was an adjunct professor and scholar-in-residence at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. He co-authored Journeys Out of Homelessness: The Voices of Lived Experience and A Nation in Denial: The Truth About Homelessness and co-edited Ending Homelessness: Why We Haven’t, How We Can.

AMANDA BANH and ANDRIJANA BILBIJA contributed research throughout.
Product Details ISBN: 9781623178840
ISBN-10: 1623178843
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication Date: November 7th, 2023
Pages: 328
Language: English
"Adler and Burnes, with their co-authors, offer fresh and hopeful solutions that could affect long-lasting change." 
Booklist, starred review

"A must-read for anyone interested in solving the problem of homelessness."
—Publishers Weekly

"A persuasive book about a crucial subject"
—San Francisco Chronicle

"Books, when properly executed, pry back the veil and show readers a shared humanity. When We Walk By is one such book."
—Shelf Awareness, starred review

"A compelling story of rediscovering our own humanity—and a roadmap on how we can make large-scale changes that improve everyone's way of life. Read this book to understand how being connected can save us all."
—Andrew Yang, entrepreneur and former 2020 presidential candidate

"A very accessible, yet powerful read. I highly recommend it. I was moved and touched while reading this book. My copy is filled with notes and dog-eared pages for future reference. This book is a lovely and much-needed contribution."
—Gregg Colburn, associate professor at the University of Washington and coauthor of Homelessness Is a Housing Problem

"Captivating...People experiencing homelessness are humans like you and me, deserving of the same respect and dignity.... A must read!"
—Ellen Bassuk, MD, Founder of C4 Innovations and the National Center on Family Homelessness and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

"When We Walk By reminds us of our shared humanity, our shared needs, and how we should promote a political economy of sharing, especially with our neighbors who have little or nothing. Read this, heed the call. No more just walking by!"
—Dennis Culhane, Dana and Andrew Stone Professor of Social Policy, School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania

"A masterclass in meeting folks where they are, listening first, and designing and delivering services informed by the experiences of our unhoused neighbors."
—Dr. Michael K. Hole, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Population Health, and Public Policy at Dell Medical School and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin

"In a book that explores our national failures and points to common-sense fixes, the authors challenge us to see the humanity of our neighbors, and care more deeply...[it] should guide policy makers, and quickly, as they seek a cure to what ails our nation."
—Tony Messenger, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author of Profit and Punishment

"Highly moving and profoundly enlightening."
—Dr. Gloria Duffy, President, The Commonwealth Club of California

—Justin Baldoni, Actor and Filmmaker

"[Adler and Burnes] illuminate a system broken beyond repair and provide the hope that is required for all of us to shift gears, from the ground up, to solve one of the most distressing problems of our times...if only we cared. A remarkable read."
—Heather Hay, Senior Consultant, Foundations for Social Change, creator of the New Leaf Project

"Social connection is a key element of human survival that often gets overlooked day to day. This book offers a fresh, integrated perspective about the importance of a human response to a complex social problem."
—Benjamin Henwood, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

"A must-read guide for navigating and fixing the broken status quo of homelessness in America...readers of this book will no longer 'walk by' feeling helpless."
—Michael D. Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, CA, and special advisor to CA Governor Gavin Newsom for Economic Mobility

"I've read many, many books about homelessness, and I think this is the best one I've ever read.... Well organized, well written, and easy to follow. When We Walk By gives concrete and specific suggestions for every person, regardless of how much or how little they know about the subject." 
—David Miller, former president and CEO of the Denver Foundation