When people are proud of a particular social status that they occupy. they often choose to use visible means to let others know about their position. Status symbols are material signs that inform others of a person's specific status. For example. just as wearing a wedding ring proclaims that a person is married. owning a Rolls-Royce announces that one has "made achievement and success are core U.S. values. For this reason. people who have "made it- frequently want to display symbols to inform others of their accomplishments.
Status symbols for the domiciled and for the homeless may have different meanings. Among affluent per- Soils. a full shopping cart in the grocery store and bags of merchandise from expensive department stores indicate a lofty financial position. By contrast, among the homeless. bulging shopping bags and overloaded grocery carts suggest a completely different status. Carts and bags are essential to street life: there is no other place to keep things. as shown by this description of Darian, a homeless woman}n New York City The possessions in her postal cart consist of a whole house full of things. from pots and pans to books. shoes. magazines. toilet articles. personal papers and clothing. most of which she made herself.
Because of its weight and size, Darian cannot get the cart up over the curb. She keeps it In the street near the cars. This means that as she pushes it slowly up and down the street all day long. she is living almost her entire life directly in traffic. She stops off along her route to sit or sleep for awhile and to be both stared at as a spectacle and to stare back. Every aspect of her life including sleeping. eating. and going to the bathroom is constantly in public view he has no space to call her own and she never has a moment's privacy. Her privacy her home. is her cart with all its possessions. (Reusseau. 1981: 141)
For homeless women and men, possessions are not status symbols as much as they are a link with the past, a hope for the future. and a potential source of immediate cash. As Snow and Anderson (1993: 147) note. selling personal possessions is not uncommon among most social classes; members of the working and middle classes hold garage sales. and those in the upper classes have estate sales. However. when homeless persons sell their personal possessions. they do so to meet their immediate needs. not because they want to "clean house."