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History Of Homelessness In America

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 2074 words Published: 15th May 2017

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Homelessness is a social problem that relates to the condition of people without a regular private house and shelter. People passing through social issue of homelessness are most often not capable to obtain and preserve standard, harmless, protected, and satisfactory accommodation, or lack “fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.” There is no standard definition of homelessness and it differs from region to region, or among different entities or institutions in the same country or region. The scope of homeless is vary vast and it also comprise people whose prime night-time dwelling is in a homeless shelter, a warming center, a domestic violence shelter, cardboard boxes or other informal housing situation. In USA people also are covered under homeless record and are included in research studies who sleep in a public or private place not intended for use as an expected sleeping place for human beings. From different researches it’s predicted that almost 100 million people across globe were homeless in 2005. In western regions and areas of world the large majority of homeless are men (75-80%) (Culhane and Associates, 2012).

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History of Homelessness in America:

Homelessness is not a contemporary issue it is predicted that it is found in American society in the early ages of 1640. In early history the homelessness was related to moral issue and obligation and people who were homeless visit town to town to prove their worth but in recent era it is more related to a social problem. People who are homeless are facing severe issue is contemporary world related to health and social initiatives. Homelessness can be caused from several perspectives. From different researches it is depicted that the most common caused behind homelessness are industrialization, wars, natural disasters, racial inequalities, medical problems, character flaws, etc. industrial revolution started in 1820s. This gives rise to migrations of people from rural areas to urban areas that give rise to the main causes of homelessness because of job searches and earn living standard. Violent crimes also started because of this migration and sudden rise in population. The policies at that time also lead to devastating issues relating death and mental illness because of homelessness. The major rise was faced in 1850s when most parents send their young children to remain independent because of rise in cost of living, this give rise to adults’ homelessness. The civil wars also give rise to homelessness in 1890s most people were homeless because of several causes from the civil war destructions. Another most important cause relates back to natural disasters i.e. Earthquake, fires, and Droughts caused in 1920s and 30s. The causes give rise to poverty and thus people lack support to build their houses. The income level drops because of increased population and unemployment which also moved society towards increase rate of homeless people. The financial crisis recently gives rise to more destructive situation that leads towards enhanced homelessness problem. The contemporary homelessness can be seen in surrounding that many children, youth, and old age people are homeless (Culhane, 2008).

Causes of Homelessness:

Different researches are done to find the main causes that lead to homelessness. The causes can be categorized into three areas that are personal, structural, and homeless peoples own causes.

Personal Issues:

There are several personal and social factors that lead to homelessness. The common factors are outlined below:

Individual factors: like drug abuse, character flaws, lacking qualifications, debts, no social support, poor health regarding mental and physical conditions, peer relations of bad company.

Family factors: disputes and family conflicts, physical and sexual abuse while adulthood and family background of homelessness.

Institutional factors: living in foster care, as prisoner, and employed in armed forces.

Structural Issues:

There are several social and economic problems that cause this homelessness. Some common causes are outlined below:



Lack of affordability

Policies relating housing

Structure of housing benefits

Wide policy development relating hospitality and criminal issues

Homeless People Views:

The three main reasons identified through reviewing opinions of homeless people about their reasons of leaving home are family and peers pressures to leave them, relationship disputes and violence at home, loss of temporary dwelling (Dr. Lynn et al., 2006).

Problems faced by Homeless People:

There are several risks that are associated with people who are passing through state of homelessness. The problems can be categorized as basic and devastating. The problems are outlined below:

Lacking personal security, silence, and privacy, especially for sleeping

Lacking safekeeping of bedding, clothing and possessions, which may have to be carried at all times

Lacking facilities for hygiene

No place for cleaning and drying clothes

Lacking affordability to acquire, prepare, and store food

No social contacts because of no permanent location or mailing address

Antagonism and lawful authorities against metropolitan poverty.

Compact admittance to health care and dental services.

Little or no access to education.

Increased jeopardy of affliction from violence and abuse.

Common denial or intolerance from other people.

Loss of accustomed relationships and association with the mainstream

Lacking qualification for employment.

Reduced access to banking services because of lacking collateral

Reduced access to communications technology (Echenberg & Jensen, 2009).

Assistance and Resources for Homeless People:

Many researches relating homelessness and homeless people have diverted the attention of government and other institutions to support and fund the needs of the homeless people. Many countries run the assistance programs for the homeless people and provide them with food, shelter, and clothing and sometimes most augmented services. Many non-government organizations also run support programs with help of funding from volunteers. Social support is provided by homeless people to other homeless people. They run their own community and support one another in different needs. Formal assistant is also provided through government, religious organizations, charities, other ministries. Many organizations are working to provide income support through employment opportunities like street newspapers selling. Other income sources are through employing little works like playing music, performing magic and other arts. Many homeless people commit little crimes to be jailed to have food and shelter for some days (Foweler et al., 2009).

Refuges for Homeless:

There are many refuges that are used by homeless people to be used as temporary place for shelter and sleep. Some common refuges are outlined below:

Sleeping bags


Cardboard box

Abandoned buildings

Cars and trucks

Wagons and other public vehicles

Parks, pavement, and bus stations

Train tunnels etc.

Proposed Solutions for Homeless:

Housing First / Rapid Re-housing:

Many governments are taking steps to eliminate the homelessness. The USA government asked almost every state and city to enhance the standard of living of homeless people. the 10 years plans are planned and are in process to be implemented to eliminate the homelessness and one of the results of this was a “Housing first” solution, also known as “rapid re-housing”. These policies facilitate quickly to get a homeless person permanent housing of some sort and the necessary support services to maintain and hold a new home. There are many impediments of this kind of program and there must be solutions to augment these programs to make such an initiative work successfully in the middle to long term.

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Supportive housing:

Supportive housing is a related to provide the basic necessities to the homeless people. It is the combination of housing and services proposed in a cost-effective way to facilitate and support needy people live more stable and productive lives. Supportive housing provides special programs for those who are in most challenging situations. The audiences for this program are individuals and families confronted with homelessness and who also have very low incomes. It also has increases coverage and scope and therefore incorporates substance abuse, addiction or alcoholism, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, or other serious challenges to a standard and productive life.

Pedestrian Villages:

Many researchers are proposed several solutions to enhance the lives of homeless people. The most common solution proposed is relating notorious national solution for homelessness that would engross building nearly carefree Pedestrian Villages. This policy and solution is termed as “the current Band-Aid approach to the problem.” Example of this policy is Tiger Bay Village that was proposed to create caring society for homeless people. This policy states that this program and support would be better-quality for indulgence the psychological as well as psychiatric needs of both temporarily and permanently homeless adults. This policy was based on the cost-effective solution thus aimed to provide opportunities and support and cost less than the current approach. This policy also enhanced the homeless people living by moving them away from criminal acts to take shelter in prisons. Work opportunities are also provided and constitute construction and maintenance of the villages. It also focuses on the creation of work force agencies that help to make the villages financially and socially feasible and practical.

Transitional housing:

Transitional Housing endows with impermanent housing for the certain audience of the homeless population. The target group constitutes of working class of homeless people who are on verge of setting up to changeover their residents into enduring and inexpensive housing. It is not a temporary shelter house for homeless but typically a room or apartment in a habitation with support services. The intermediary time can be short ranging from 1 to 2 years and in that time the person must file for and get permanent housing and usually some gainful employment or income, even if Social Security or assistance. From time to time the transitional housing habitation program incriminates a room and board fee that can be a standard percentage of an individual’s income. This fee is sometimes partially or fully refunded after the person acquires a permanent place to live in. In the USA centralized financial support for transitional housing programs was originally allocated in the McKinney act (Cohelen, 1997).


The above study is based on the research work of other authors. The report started with the introduction to the homelessness relative to its broad meanings and is then proceed to the history, causes and underlying factors. The solutions are also provided to help states and countries to make remediation for the enhanced livings of homeless people and move them to productive life.

The problem of homelessness is traced back to late history and is not a contemporary issue. There are several factors and underlying causes of homelessness out of which family conflicts and disruptions are rated as high. The issues that are faced by homeless people vary in range from more basic lacking facilities to higher levels of physical and mental destructions and illness. Many organizations along with governments are working to provide facilities and support the homeless people. Many volunteers are also working to augment the lives of homeless people by proving them with food, shelter, and clothing along with health facilities. Many support programs are also planned to support and facilitate the homeless people. Some common programs processed are housing fund and re-housing, transition housing support, and pedestrian villages.


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