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More than a decade ago, author Cathy Small met Ross Moore, a disabled Vietnam veteran, at a dog park in their city. As she slowly got to know Ross, she discovered he was homeless, camping in a nearby forest, and making ends meet as best he could. The two forged a friendship, and Small, a professor of anthropology, began to consider writing a book about homelessness, a topic she had no expertise in: “This book was spurred by a chance encounter, a recognition of my own limitations and walls, a curiosity that melded with compassion over the years; it brought me to a profound awareness of a ‘life,’ individual and collective, that I had not sensed before.”

Written in the context of homelessness in the United States, the strength and integrity of this anecdotal and statistical narrative lies in the fact that it is co-authored with Moore, who experienced recurrent homelessness for more than three decades. It also includes the insights of Jason Kordosky, an anthropologist who developed personal relationships with homeless day laborers he interviewed for his research.

The co-authors take an unflinching, critical look at how the American public, in their estimation, perceive homeless people: “As a society, we create the conditions for a slippery slope causing countless individuals to slide into homelessness, yet we disavow the results. This is the great delusion, really, that some win, some lose, but the laws, institutions, and policies we support (or fail to support) have little to do with it.”

The Man in the Dog Park, though not written from a Christian perspective, has much to offer followers of Jesus who want to learn more about homelessness and grow in compassion for homeless people. (Cornell University Press)

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