Homelessness in popular culture
Homelessness is frequently described as an invisible problem, despite its prevalence. Writers and other artists play a role in bringing the issue to public attention. Homelessness is the central theme of many works; in other works homelessness is secondary, added to advance the story or contribute to dramatic effect.
Homelessness is the central subject in most of the works of art listed here.
Depictions of homelessness
|This section requires expansion with: a general description of the way(s) in which homelessness and/or the homeless are depicted. (February 2011)|
- 1800s. "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" - traditional folk song
- 1908. "If It's Good Enough for Washington It's Good Enough For Me", music by Percy Wenrich, words by Ren Shields - sleeping on bench in public square with statue of George Washington.
- 1962. "Man on the Street", by Bob Dylan, officially released on 1991's Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series.
- 1963. "Only a Hobo", by Bob Dylan, officially released on 1991's Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series.
- 1968. "I Am a Lonesome Hobo", by Bob Dylan, from his 8th studio recording John Wesley Harding. A humble warning from a homeless man to those who are better off.
- 1969. "Highway Chile", by Jimi Hendrix Experience. The song is about a homeless man that Jimi met when he was on tour.
- 1972. "Aqualung", by Jethro Tull
- 1977. "We'd Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover" in the musical Annie
- 1978. "Bag Lady", by Todd Rundgren, from the album Hermit of Mink Hollow
- 1983. "Brothers Under the Bridges" by Bruce Springsteen, later released on Tracks compilation album
- 1989. "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins, a controversial but nevertheless Brit and Grammy award-winning song which was included on his album ...But Seriously. It became the last Billboard Hot 100 number-one single of the 1980s.
- 1991. Something in the Way, music by Nirvana, written by Kurt Cobain when he was young, homeless and sleeping under a bridge at the age of fifteen
- 1991. "Even Flow", music by Pearl Jam, lyrics written by Eddie Vedder telling a story about a homeless man.
- 1991. "Homeless (Like the Christ Child Was)" on the album "The Forgotten Carols" by Michael McLean.
- 1993 "Shelter" by Duran Duran.
- 1993. "Somebody's Baby" by Pat Benatar.
- 1996. "Low Man's Lyric" by Metallica.
- 1998. "What it's like" by Everlast.
- 2000. "If That Were Me" by Melanie C, a top 20 UK hit single from her debut solo album Northern Star.
- 2004. "Nobody's Home" by Avril Lavigne.
- 2007. "There Is No Good Reason" by Natalie Merchant on the compilation album, Give US Your Poor. The song was written by a 15-year-old homeless girl, Nichole, telling about her ordeals and struggles.
Popular music albums
- 2007. Give US Your Poor. It has 17 recordings to help end homelessness with artists such as Jon Bon Jovi, Natalie Merchant, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Sonya Kitchell, Bonnie Raitt, and actors Danny Glover and Tim Robbins.
- 1914. The Little Tramp with Charlie Chaplin
- 1966. Cathy Come Home -- an influential film by Ken Loach which raised the profile of homelessness in the UK and led indirectly to the formation of several charities and changes in legislation.
- 1977. Simple Gifts at the Internet Movie Database -- opening original segment by Maurice Sendak in collection of six animated Christmas shorts, PBS TV special issued on VHS in 1993.
- 1985. Tampopo -- featured a scene where a community of culinary bums live quite well and one of them becomes instrumental to the narrative. The scene as has been reference in other works.
- 1986. Down and Out in Beverly Hills
- 1987. Morning Patrol -- Nikos Nikolaidis.
- 1987. Ironweed -- based on the 1983 novel Ironweed by William Kennedy which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
- 1989. No Place Like Home at the Internet Movie Database -- made-for-TV film depicts a family's descent into homelessness. Christine Lahti won a Golden Globe for her performance as the mother.
- 1991. Curly Sue -- John Hughes film starring James Belushi
- 1991. The Fisher King -- Terry Gilliam
- 1991. Life Stinks -- Mel Brooks
- 1994. With Honors -- Joe Pesci
- 1997. La Vendedora de Rosas at the Internet Movie Database - Adaptation of The Little Match Girl
- 2003. Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story -- Harvard student
- 2006. Lights in the Dusk -- Aki Kaurismäki.
- 2006. The Pursuit of Happyness -- the story of Chris Gardner
- 2008. Hancock -- a homeless, down and out superhero spoof.
- 2009. The Soloist -- based on a true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who becomes schizophrenic and homeless.
- 2010. Parked -- the story of a man living in his car and the friendships that influence his life
- 1978. The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan is a National Film Board documentary about homeless alcoholics in Montreal (video online in full).
- 1984. Streetwise -- follows homeless Seattle youth.
- 1993. It Was a Wonderful Life at the Internet Movie Database -- chronicles the lives of six articulate, educated, "hidden homeless" women as they struggle from day to day. Narrated by Jodie Foster.
- 1997. The Street: A Film with the Homeless about the Canadian homeless in Montreal. New York Times Review,
- 2000. Dark Days -- A film following the lives of homeless adults living in the Amtrak tunnels in New York.
- 2001. Children Underground -- Following the lives of homeless children in Bucharest, Romania.
- 2003. À Margem da Imagem at the Internet Movie Database -- about the homeless in São Paulo, Brazil. Its English title is "On the Fringes of São Paulo: Homeless".
- 2004. Homeless in America at the Internet Movie Database
- 2005. The Children of Leningradsky -- About homeless children in Moscow.
- 2005. Reversal of Fortune -- A homeless person is given $100,000 and is free to do whatever he wishes with the money.
- 2006. Homeless -- About Homeless people and homelessness in England.
- 2007. Easy Street -- about the homeless in St. Petersburg, Florida.
- 2008. The Oasis -- an observational documentary about homeless youths in Sydney, Australia, filmed over two years.
- 2008. Carts of Darkness is a documentary by Murray Siple about extreme shopping cart racing by homeless men. (Video online in full.)
- 2008. The Ballad of Robert and Harvey: We Are Not Faraway at the Internet Movie Database - "Centered on the troubled friendship between Robert and Harvey, the film exposes the unique hardships and common humanity of people who live among us but are virtually unknown."
TV and radio
- 1977. Underneath the Arches, a ground-breaking documentary produced by Owen Spencer-Thomas on BBC Radio London in which London's homeless people were enabled to tell their own stories.
- 1988. Home Sweet Homeless at the Internet Movie Database—a CBS Schoolbreak Special about a mother and her son who find themselves having to live in their car.
Entertainment and comedy
- 2007. "Night of the Living Homeless" was an episode that appeared on Comedy Central's South Park. It was first broadcast on April 18, 2007.
- 1902. The Lower Depths, a play by Maxim Gorky, inspired by the residents of a Nizhny Novgorod homeless shelter.
- 1985. Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera - a musical which includes the homeless Mrs. Bag Bag.
- 1905. "The Cop and the Anthem" (short story) by O. Henry.
- 1983. Ironweed by William Kennedy
- 1993. Stone Cold by Robert Swindells.
- 1996. Junk by Melvin Burgess.
- 2010. Street Logic by Steve Sundberg, Bookstand Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1-58909-680-6
- 1933. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.
- 1998. The homeless in Paris: a representative sample survey of users of services for the homeless, in Dragana Avramov, ed, Coping with homelessness : issues to be tackled and best practices in Europe, Ashgate Publishing, by Maryse Marpsat and Jean-Marie Firdion.
- 2005. Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America by Michelle Kennedy.[dead link]
- 2005. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. ISBN 0-7432-4753-1
- 2005. Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America by Mike Yankoski.
- "The invisible problem".
- "HUMAN RIGHTS: More Than 100 Million Homeless Worldwide".
- "A Walking Tour of... Kurt Cobain's Aberdeen". The Aberdeen Museum of History. Retrieved 2008-12-08.
Whether Cobain ever slept under this bridge as he claimed is not certain, however, he did spend time beneath the south approach, as did many of the neighborhood kids.
- Bienias, Michelle (January 2005). "Kurt Cobain’s ‘Bridge’ in Aberdeen, Washington" (18). VR MAG.
Kurt lived under this bridge for a time when he was 15 and frequented it as a ‘hang out’ of sorts as well. His experiences living under this bridge were the basis for the Nirvana song ‘Something's In the Way’.
- Give US Your Poor organisation: The Campaign to End Homelessness - University of Massachusetts, Boston.
- Give US Your Poor - multi-artist album at Appleseed Records.
- Mills, Fred, "Give Them Your Money: Give US Your Poor Benefit Disc Features Springsteen, Seeger, Raitt, Bon Jovi, Others", HARP magazine, July 22, 2007
- Miller, Adam, Music Review: 'Give US Your Poor' : All-star cast of artists contribute to fight against homelessness, The Epoch Times, Kansas Staff, September 24, 2007
- Vennila Films Post-Production page on "We are not Faraway