Homeless Come Home
An Advocate, the Riverbank, and Murder in Topeka, Kansas
198 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 1 halftone
Paperback | 9780268029814 | September 2011
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268080655 | September 2011
- Press Kit
- Author Bio
Benedict Giamo has published widely on the condition of historical and contemporary homelessness in America. In Homeless Come Home: An Advocate, the Riverbank, and Murder in Topeka, Kansas, Giamo offers a deeply sympathetic yet critical look at the life of homeless advocate David Owen, who was tortured and killed in 2006 by some of those he intended to help. Part chronicle, part social analysis, part investigative journalism, and part true-crime book, Homeless Come Home examines why and how David Owen contributed to his own gruesome death.
David Owen defined his single-minded mission of tough Christian love, which he called “Homeless Come Home,” in terms of his belief that all homeless persons could and should be reunited with their family. He demanded that the homeless reenter society via telephone cards, cell phones, and their families front doors. Owen, who himself was disabled and had a history of legal and mental problems, would not take no for an answer. Many with whom he came in contact—pastors, social workers, legislators, police—feared that his fanatical dedication and aggressive approach ultimately would be his downfall. After police discovered his corpse on the bank of the Kansas River, four homeless persons who had been living in a nearby tent camp were charged with his kidnapping and felony murder.
Giamo explores Owen’s actions and motives, the homeless community in Topeka, the social services available to them, and the separate trials of the co-defendants charged in his death. In doing so, he conveys the contention between social order and disorder and raises broader concerns regarding inequality, advocacy, and justice. The story is both fascinating and cautionary, a modern tragedy in which no one person can be identified as its cause.
Benedict Giamo is associate professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author and coauthor of a number of books, including On the Bowery: Confronting Homelessness in American Society and Beyond Homelessness: Frames of Reference.
"Homeless Come Home: An Advocate, the Riverbank, and Murder in Topeka, Kansas . . . is part Owen biography, crime drama and assessment of homelessness in Topeka and beyond. 'What really compelled me about this case,' Giamo said, 'was the victim contributed to his own gruesome demise.'" —The Topeka Capital-Journal
“Benedict Giamo has long had an interest in the plight of the homeless. . . . Giamo has written several books on the topic, including On the Bowery: Confronting Homelessness in American Society . . . . In the true crime book Homeless Come Home, Giamo recounts the tragic end that came to David Owen. Owen was a Kansas-based homeless advocate whose efforts to force homeless people to reconnect with their families led to his 2006 murder.” —South Bend Tribune
“Benedict Giamo, who has written extensively on homelessness in America, found himself fascinated with the story of the life and death of David Owen, 38, an advocate for the homeless and a registered lobbyist. ‘It was a tragic irony that he was tortured and killed by four of the same homeless souls he sought to get off the street,’ Giamo says. ‘It wasn’t a “whodunit,” it was a “why-dunit.”’ Giamo’s book on the crime . . . [is] a true-crime story, a documentary combining social analysis and investigative journalism.” —ND Works
“Whenever a serious crime is committed, members of the surrounding community are plagued by burning questions regarding who is responsible, why the incident occurred and how it could have been prevented. In his new book Homeless Come Home: An Advocate, the Riverbank, and Murder in Topeka, Kansas, professor Benedict Giamo examined these complex questions in the context of the story of David Owen, an advocate of the homeless who was brutally murdered in 2006 by members of the community he aimed to help.” —The Observer
"This book is a serious penetration into the lower depths of the lost society that exists next door to many of us—the hellish villages where the homeless live. Benedict Giamo takes us into their abysmal center through the story of one maniacally determined advocate who tried to rescue the homeless—all of them—and was murdered by them. This tale has the fascination of the abomination." —William Kennedy, author of Ironweed
"Using his own extensive research and court transcripts, Benedict Giamo generates a documentary of the murder of David Owen that is novelistic in sweep. With the insight of a superior writer he starts with the raw fact of a crime and then artfully adds layers of factual complexity. The result is both impressive and deeply satisfying. This is a very well-written and remarkably well-structured book. What Giamo gives us is as gripping and exciting to read as a crafted 'true-crime' story. The details it provides give us a deeper understanding of the sociology of homelessness." —Donald W. Faulkner, New York State Writers Institute
"Benedict Giamo has written a beautiful, tender, piercingly honest story of homelessness in America, of what it means to be hidden away in America's social underbrush. Empathic and riveting, Giamo's Homeless Come Home will make you sit up and listen." —Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here
"This thorough, rigorously sympathetic account of a terrible crime and its many resonances does narrative and analytical justice to the tortured complexity of David Owen, an unreasonable, inspired, polarizing man who wanted to bring the homeless home—whether they wanted to come or not. Giamo's evenhanded investigation into 'a clash between a type of homelessness lived in extremis and a brand of advocacy that went to the end of the line' follows the tangled stories of its difficult characters to their common root, the profound tension between individual and community at the heart of American life." —Carlo Rotella, Boston College