Homelessness is a severe problem.
Who is homeless and who isn’t depends on the definitions given to the words. Individuals who are homeless lack shelter, including those whose primary nighttime residence is a supervised private or public facility that provides temporary housing for an individual in transitional housing. In other words, a homeless person is someone who does not have a regular or permanent nighttime fixed residency, such as a shelter for mentally ill persons. Second, a transitional housing facility for individuals who are facing institutionalization. Finally, a position used for sleeping is not generally used for the same purpose (Feen-Calligan et al., 2009).
Homelessness is a type of poverty and a pathetic state of housing instability. It is compounded by the lack of social assistance, the inadequacy of modest homes, racial disparities, and lack of enough health care, and behavioral problems. However, individual perspectives of homelessness do no provide a comprehensive explanation of its causes and effects. Like any other groups, homeless persons are assorted existing and encountering homelessness for numerous reasons. Services for old adults reveal various needs and experiences. However, the issue of homelessness is a national concern, especially in urban centers in the 21st century (Feen-Calligan et al., 2009).
History of homelessness
The problem of poverty and homeless people go hand in hand in the United States. Poverty has been a challenge for humanitarian grounds, and it runs counter to the philosophy of prosperity for everyone. A social welfare working on the principle of individualistic concepts of undeserving has made the society better but have not managed to eradicate the insistent homelessness and poverty. The efforts to eliminate poverty in the United States was fought in unison, but the 1980s efforts on homelessness were confounded by honest assessments of individual reputation. While many people in the U.S come from poor backgrounds, it is a small fraction that has ever been homeless (Feen-Calligan et al., 2009). Thus, the universal comprehension of homelessness in the U.S is limited in a manner against the understanding of poverty.
Causes of homelessness
Homeless people are not separate from the rest of the population. There is a thin line between those who are homeless and ones who are not. Individuals and families without homes do not have much in common, apart from the fact that they lack proper housing and very vulnerable and lack enough finances to facilitate their housing. Many interrelated factors explain the reasons for homelessness. They can be classified into the following three main categories: personal factors/ circumstances, system breakdowns/failures, and structural factors (Anderson & Christian, 2003).
Structural causes entail social and economic issues which determine opportunities and social environment available to people. The primary factors include lack of sufficient income, discrimination, inadequate health care, and unavailability of affordable housing. Economic fluctuations locally, nationally and even internationally can cause hindrances for people to earn enough finances to meet their food requirements and housing.
Poverty and homelessness are closely linked. Poor people are frequently unable to raise money for food and pay for comfortable shelter, healthcare, education, food, etc (Anderson & Christian, 2003). The state of poverty means that a person is only one paycheck, one illness or one accident away from sleeping along the streets.
Besides, an acute shortage of cheap, stable and safe housing directly lead to homelessness. Millions of in people in America, Asia, Africa, and many other places are at a risk of becoming homeless. Also, people spending more than one-third of their income on housing are at the risk of becoming homeless. Also, the most pressing issue is small, affordable houses across the country. Another significant factor is discrimination which can block a person’s ability to access jobs, justice, housing and other necessary social amenities. People of color and sexual minorities are the most vulnerable of such prejudice (Anderson & Christian, 2003).
This happens when government agencies and other non-governmental organizations which provide social assistance fail to live up to the expectations. This makes people in need of housing to turn to the streets as homeless groups. Issues which can easily lead to homelessness include an unplanned and poorly coordinated transition from child welfare, lack of preparedness for responsible departments to respond to people being discharged from hospitals, mental health, corrections, and addictions center. Also, lack of social aid from the government for immigrants and refugees can lead to homelessness (Crane et al., 2005).
Relational and individual factors
These are personal challenges touching on the life of a poor victim. Personal factors may include traumatic happenings (such as loss of employment, fire in an apartment, etc.), personal predicament (like domestic violence, separation or divorce), substance abuse and mental instability (for example, brain injury and alcoholism). All these factors can either cause or lead to homelessness, disabilities, or general health problems. Relation complications may include extreme poverty, addictions, physical abuse and family violence, mental inadequacies and much more (Crane et al., 2005).
Consequences of homelessness
First, homeless people are at higher risk of contracting diseases especially those related to cold weather. There are double chances for children without shelter to be infected with a disease unlike their counterparts with houses. Stomach problems, ear infections, asthma, speech problems, and pneumonia are some of the prevalent diseases for homeless persons (Smolen, 2003). Besides, mental problems like depression, anxiety, and withdrawal affect people without housing especially young children. They are four times susceptible to delayed development and twice as likely to experience hunger. Such disorders are extremely dangerous if not managed early (Smolen, 2003).
Secondly, school age kids without shelter face enrollment hurdles and school attendance like lack of access to previous academic records, few schools stationary, clothing, transportation problems, residency needs, etc. (Smolen, 2003). Thirdly, homelessness often breaks families as shelter policies may demand. In many instances, fathers and older boys cannot share the same tent with wives or mothers. Also, placement of children to foster care when parents can no longer afford rent separates children and guardians. Further, parents may leave their children with relatives to continue with school if they fall homeless (Smolen, 2003).
Approaches which explain homelessness
The conflict theory
According to Marx’s social conflict theory, the society is divided into two groups with opposing interests because of scarce resources. The society is in constant conflict because of resources like employment, housing, and education. The capitalist or the upper class competes with ones with less influence of power in the society (laborers/workers) to maintain prosperity, status quo, and control. Primarily the capitalist control important social institutions such as education, law and order, and religion. The rich enact laws and manipulate such institutions in their favor. On the contrary, the workers are held in fixed support positions with limited chances of climbing the social ladder (Lehning & Pintak, 2007).
According to the conflict theory, social stratification shapes social inequality. Socially defined characteristics bring about social imbalances. Assessing the effects of social inequalities help us understand the conditions homeless people go through. The state individuals live in help in measuring social inequities, and opportunities available to a person determine their social grouping (Lehning & Pintak, 2007). For example, housing conditions or inequalities can assist in classifying people. Homeless persons are ranked at the bottom of the hierarchy while the wealthy and owners of the means of production are placed on top of the hierarchy.
Besides, opportunities at the disposal of an individual can cause social inequalities. For instance, a person with a college degree has more chances of getting a job than one with none. Lower education qualifications bring social disparities. Furthermore, the health conditions can divide people into different groups. Individuals with a serious medical condition or poorly groomed have limited chances to secure employment opportunities (Lehning & Pintak, 2007). Once again, homeless are poorly groomed, and their health is not okay. They lack financial capacity to keep excellent physical heath, hence hindering them from employment
The functionalist approach holds that homeless people have a part to play in our society. The theory holds that the homeless people form one of the interrelated sections of our society that must harmoniously work together for a well-functioning society. The functionalists also point out that the homeless play a very significant role in society, that is, they do jobs which people in the middle and upper classes cannot do (Feen-Calligan et al., 2009).
The functional theory postulate that inequalities in societies are inevitable and serve a significant purpose in the community. For instance, most homeless people never went or completed college. Thus their contribution is limited but important to the community. On the other hand, college graduates participate more to the societal well-being hence highly regarded in the society thus command more income hence live under better conditions. The functionalist approach concludes that every part of humanity is important and have a hand in the proper functioning of the community Feen-Calligan et al., 2009).
Conclusion: functionalist vs. conflict theory
The two perspectives provide opposing views to the homelessness state. The functionalist approach holds that the homeless and destitute serve a role in the community. It further postulates that always there are needs in society and someone must be there to meet those needs. Therefore, the desire to help people in need and give folks a chance for community service. From the conflict approach, that is unfair even though the needy provides an opportunity to do them good. It goes against the interest of these need category. Homeless people do not choose that lifestyle, many of them are compelled by circumstances, they want comfort, they want some shelter, but they cannot get. Between the two theories, the conflict approach is more comprehensive and detailed in its account while the functionalist approach is shallow and simplistic.
Anderson, I., & Christian, J. (2003). Causes of homelessness in the UK: A dynamic analysis. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 13(2), 105-118.
Crane, M., Byrne, K., Fu, R., Lipmann, B., Mirabelli, F., Rota-Bartelink, A., … & Warnes, A. M. (2005). The causes of homelessness in later life: findings from a 3-nation study. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60(3), S152-S159..
Feen-Calligan, H., Washington, O., & Moxley, D. (2009). The use of visual images, performance, and creative strategies to address negative gendered consequences of homelessness among older African American women. Visual Culture and Gender, 4, 1-20.
Lehning, A. J., Vu, C. M., & Pintak, I. (2007). Theories of poverty: Findings from textbooks on human behavior and the social environment. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 16(1-2), 5-19.
Smolen, A. G. (2003). Children born into loss: Some developmental consequences of homelessness. Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society, 8(2), 250-257.