Performing Homelessness

by nwhit2 on April 25, 2014 - 9:30pm

Nicole White

Change Consultant Report

Social Theory



Performing Homelessness:



            The Old Brewery Mission was first created as a soup kitchen, but with the growing homeless population their services grew as well. The Old Brewery Mission of Montreal provides many services to the homeless. These services include emergency services, transition services, housing, and services offered specifically for women. The emergency services provided by The Old Brewery include overnight stays including a meal, shower and a change of clothes for the patient. Their transitioning services allow the homeless to get off of the street and make a plan of action for finding a better way of life. Counseling services are offered to the patients in helping make this plan. Housing services include apartments owned by the Mission and potential available apartments located throughout the city. The Old Brewery Mission also provides a specific service program for women, since women are typically found to be homeless for different reasons then men. (The Old Brewery Mission Website)

            The Old Brewery Mission is more interested in change versus continuity. Their goal is to decrease the number of homelessness people in Montreal, versus keeping the same people in the shelter and having the same ones cycle through again. I believe that The Old Brewery Mission should use Goffman’s performance theory in helping them help the homeless population. When it comes to homelessness, we as a society tend to blame the homeless specifically instead of seeing the underlying causes for homelessness. Homelessness poses as a front for these issues. Issues that coincide with homelessness are alcohol/drug abuse, poverty, and even ascribed status can play a role. I believe that if the Old mission Brewery developed more programs working to eliminate some of these causes for homelessness they would be able to work towards their goal of a lower homeless population cycling in and out of their shelters.

            I believe with Goffman’s performance theory, Old Brewery Mission will be able to get more homeless people off of the streets and shelters and into the every day working world. Goffman’s performance theory says that the goal of an actor is to be convincing that they are the role. They must meet the audience’s expectations for behavior in specific situations. Since Old Brewery Mission’s goal is to get these people off of the streets and into an environment where they can find tools to become successful, the homeless must learn to be the role. The Brewery Mission is giving them the props that they need in order to be successful. They can be given a costume, a way of dressing to impress potential future employers; they can also be given a place to live to start somewhere, to have something to work for. When looking through the organizations website I noticed that they do have a program where housing is available, however it does not give specifics as to how housing is acquired, paid for and maintained by the patient. I believe by using Goffman’s theory we are to be holding the actor responsible for his role, although given the props, scenery, costume, etc. it is up to the actor to make the viewers believe his act.

            Old Mission Brewery gives homeless people a second chance. I am aware that theory has been made previously in our time regarding the housing aspects of homelessness. The housing first theory is an idea stated that it is much more beneficial for the community to put these homeless people cycling through shelters, emergency rooms, detox centers, etc. right into an apartment where they receive counseling and help. It has been proven to be cheaper then the continuing cycle through these shelters, emergency rooms, etc.

            Communities need a dedicated pool of money to build new housing, renovate housing, and develop housing opportunities for homeless people. We would first address housing stability then offer other support, as seen in the Housing First theory. Housing first allows homeless to be taken directly off the street into private community-based apartments, without requiring treatment first. This allows the homeless to return to some sense of normalcy, which makes it easier to work through their addictions and are better-poised for success. I would definitely enforce the Housing First concept, which may not be cheap, but it would benefit society, and perhaps even the economy. (Marks 2007)

Although the idea of completely ending homelessness is unrealistic, the concept of working towards it is possible. A portion of society believes that charity does not solve problems, only creates more. According to them, charity creates dependency and even some believe that measures should be introduced to make some aspects of homelessness illegal, such as begging and loitering in public places. The economy of a town can suffer greatly if there are too many "undesirables" walking around. People will not want to work, vacation, visit, etc. a town that is full of homeless people.

The labeling theory has also made it hard for the homeless to ever get out of this stigma. The homeless should be provided with housing, substance abuse programs, mental health counseling, and job training. All of which Old Brewery Mission has to offer. The theory of change will hold the homeless patients seeking help accountable for their own actions. We can give them everything they need, all of the tools that they need to become successful, however it is up to the actor to put on the show. It is up to the patient to utilize the things he has been given in order to be successful.







































Work Cited



Marks, Alexandra. "Moving the Homeless Out of Shelters, into Homes." Christian Science Monitor Aug. 20 2007: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. Alexandra b. 15 April 2014.



Blog Post:




Non-Profit Organization:



Very interesting article! I appreciate that you decided to base your work off of my article. Moreover, I found it very interesting that you used Goffman's Performance Theory to explain a possible solution to this issue. I completely agree with you that we must make homeless people aware that they have a crucial role to play in order to get out of homelessness. Obviously, the main reason why I have decided to volunteer at the Old Mission Brewery is because they are one of the most well-known organizations to support the cause of homelessness in Montreal. However, I do agree that they should address the root causes of this issue in order to end homelessness. I have read a read a e-book recently titled "A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in 10 Years". One of the main idea's of this work is that the real solution to homelessness is not by offering immediate needs to the homeless, but rather offering them "supportive and affordable housing". Perhaps the Old Mission Brewery and all the other organizations that seek to find permanent solutions to homelessness should include this in their future plans if they really want to end homelessness once and for all.

Here is a link to the the book I am referring to:

In the article « Performing Homelssness » which appeared in Kaldor’s Introduction to Sociology Class, the article came from a blog post which was in the Newsactivism 2014 class. The article talks about the Old Brewery Mission which is an organization thats helps the homeless and allows them to get back on their feet. The blog is very good because it talks about helping people which everyone has a right too. Everyone has the right to get the help they need, people should have the right to go out in public and know that they won’t be harrassed by a person who wants money to eat food. The project of the Old Brewey Mission sounds really good because there are many homeless people out there, especially in Montréal and this project could help reduce Homelessness by a lot. Because this is what they need to get back on their feet. I find that the Goffaman Theory is very good because in the end, the homess people have to convince themselves, though with the help of others, to get themeselves out of the problem that they are in at the moment.
Maybe have a look at this article, the Organization wants to also help the homeless. It could probably give the author more ideas.
Very interesting project, hope it really worls out well.

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