Both the Pickwells and the Beales are large, intact family units. The Pickwells include the parents, ten children, a baby, paternal grandparents and one great-grandparent, while the Beale household is made up of the parents and three children. In both families, the mothers are very involved with homemaking duties; when Maniac meets Mrs. Pickwell, she has just prepared a meal for her "small nation", and when he meets Mrs. Beale, she is "busy with her usual tools...a yellow plastic bucket and a sponge", and the fathers of both families are strong presences as well.
Because of their large sizes, both families exist in a sort of organized, loving chaos. Mrs. Pickwell stands outside and blows a whistle at suppertime, at which the Pickwell children come scurrying in from all corners of the neighborhood. Mrs. Beale, who has two preschoolers, is busy "scrubbing purple crayon off the TV screen" when Maniac first enters the house.
Both the Pickwells and the Beales are spontaneous and generous in opening their homes to those in need. The Pickwells, who are "always helping out somebody", have "a down-and-out taxi driver whom Mr. Pickwell is helping" staying with them, and they barely notice when Maniac appears at the dinner table with them, indicating that the presence of extra mouths to feed is not unusual. When Mr. and Mrs. Beale discover that Maniac has no home, they immediately say, "you're staying here" (Chapters 6 and 12).