Moore is that man, homeless and living in the woods around Flagstaff at the time of his fortuitous meeting with Small, an anthropology professor at Northern Arizona University and author of two previous books of embedded, richly researched reportage, spending three years in a Tongan village for one book and a year in a freshman dorm for the other.
But on that chilly winter morning in 2008, when Moore came to Small’s aid to break up a canine spat in the dog park, Small had no inkling that the encounter would lead her to a decade-long deep dive into the issue of homelessness, using Flagstaff as a microcosm. Nor could she have envisioned that she would forge such close ties with Moore, observing as he and his wife went from living in the woods, to shelters, to temporary motel rooms to where they are now, in HUD-subsidized housing.
A book seemed a natural offshoot. Small is, after all, a veteran cultural observer and writer. But it took six years of friendship before she even broached the idea, and then another few years for Small and Kordosky to accumulate scores of interviews with people experiencing homelessness, and for Moore to assist Small in adding context and nuance to narrative seeking to explain and illuminate a systemic problem deeply rooted in society.
“It was our relationship that drew me into things,” said Small, 70, and now an emerita professor at NAU. “We’d be talking and he’d say, ‘I like it in the woods,’ and I’d say, ‘Well, where do you get food? Where does this come from and that come from?’ The more I got into it, the more I thought it should be something that should be told.