A downtown homeless shelter, the Settlement, is targeted for demolition during the Great Recession. In its place, the city wants to build a sports complex. Reverend Stephen Bentham, the Settlement’s founder and director, draws on the loyalty of his assistant, the house physician, and a visiting archeology professor to save the hundred beds. A school-age boy also joins the effort. Fending off the bulldozers tests each character. Their own troubled histories compel them to help. One of the toughest challenges is burying the house physician when he succumbs during the fight. Loyalty to one’s faith or to progress or to honor itself are grand phrases. The actual work at a shelter is hard and tedious, like growing a garden out of concrete.
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About the Author
Joe Rodríguez has taught at the university and slept on a steam grate at a college during winter. Not at the same time, of course. Writing a novel about the homeless requires a wide reach and diverse experience. In Southern California, your profession doesn’t matter as much as your car because you could wind up living in it. For example, many ex¬-soldiers are homeless, including veterans of color. The author served in Vietnam and has firsthand data on flophouses. The joke about the minister, the rabbi, and the priest has a new twist. After their houses of worship were demolished during gentrification and redevelopment, they wound up as bunkmates in the only downtown shelter.