Homelessness is a term in which many can have their own option on. Vijay K Mago definition in the article “Analyzing the impact of social factors on homelessness: a Fuzzy Cognitive Map” was the most on point definition. She states “homelessness is a complex social problem with a variety of underlying economic and social factors such as; poverty, lack of affordable housing, uncertain physical and mental health, addictions, and community and family breakdown” (Mago 1). The varying combinations of these factors contribute to duration, frequency, and type of homelessness. For one to be fully homeless they have to live without shelter however, many experience partial homelessness which can include temporary, uncertain or substandard shelter. “Homelessness is a term that is difficult to define, thus the governments struggles with uncertainty when creating and implementing policies they hope will effectively manage or eradicate this problem.” (Mago 2) The term homelessness widely affects sociology in many different factors.
There has been a drastic rise in levels of Homelessness from 1980 to 1990 and the level continued to incline over the last 20 years or so. When one thinks of the term homelessness they tend to think of the broader definition of “people living on the streets”. Certainly, that is a rather narrow definition which has shaped much of the work by geographers on this topic.
An alternative way of trying to understand homelessness is to try and understand something of these experiences themselves, “defining; homelessness in relation to the absence of those feelings of emotional attachment, security, and control (usually) associated with a sense of ‘home’.” (May 1) Homelessness is only one form of a much broader picture. This topic doesn’t only affect that person or a family it affects the community as a whole, the state, and even up to the government.
When the increase of homelessness happens so does the rise of drug overdoses, crime, sexual assaults, etc…”The fact that there is no comprehensive national housing strategy to coordinate these levels of government often leads to inadequate policies and funding that fall far short of meeting the country’s housing needs” (Strand 1) The problem will only continue to get worse if nothing is done to stop the increase of poverty rates which affect the rate of homeless people. Dating back to about the 1840s the term homelessness was often affiliated with a habit of drunkenness. “In the popular view, drunkards, usually men, drank up their wages and impoverished their families; they lost their jobs and their houses, and drove off their wives and children by cruel treatment.”(De-witt 1). By the 1890s, the public held the same ideas about people who were drugs abusers of cocaine , opium , and morphine and the unhappy circumstances of their families who were affected by it.
It was a term that continued to have a bad reputation and make everyone who was homeless look like a alcoholic or drug addict until “studies of homelessness prior to the Great Depression noted that the numbers of homeless people went up and down depending on economic conditions”(homelessness 1). The United States economy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century caused a significant amount of people to lose their jobs and thus their financial security. The term homelessness started to get questioned from being known as something caused by a “problem” to something that just becomes unforate to a person and/or families.
Workers without families to support and workers seen as being the least productive were the first to be laid off. “Employers assumed that single young women would be supported by their families and that married women did not really need a second income. Older men, single men known to drink heavily, and members of ethnic or racial minorities were more often marked for layoff(De-witt 2).” Fincal income started to be the question behind the incline of homelessness and why the numbers kept increasing.
1941 to 1973 was a time of prosperity in the United States. The government started to increased welfare programs, such as Medicare, affordable housing, and benefits for the disabled. New programs were created in order to help heavy drinkers and drug users and local governments began investing in projects to clean up urban areas and give new life to cities that were filled with homeless people. The government saw an improvement in economic circumstances for the elderly but the results were not completely what people were hoping. Some cities that had “skid- row” areas, got bulldozed..
The government thought it would help those find newer and better shelters but in fact it did the opposite. Homelessness became a literal condition, the poor actually had no houses to live in. By 1980 the media began to report that a new generation of younger aged homeless people became the problem. These younger aged people appeared to have high rates of excessive drinking, mental illness, and drug use. “As a result, many observers explained the new homelessness as a result of policies that concerned mental hospitals and imprisonment for public drunkenness and minor drug offenses” (homelessness 2). “Homeless people are more likely to suffer from chronic medical conditions and complications due to housing instability.
“Emergency rooms, crisis response and public safety systems are utilized at a much higher rate by homeless individuals” (Thoeni 1) and recent studies of homelessness continue to support that perhaps 85 percent of homeless people are substance abusers and/or mentally ill, which means homelessness is a very costly thing for our government and us tax payers. 1960s and 1970s many states deinstitutionalized both alcoholics and addicts, and mentally ill people making it making it much more difficult to commit a person involuntarily to a mental institution. Many states also “decriminalized” public intoxication. People who were intoxicated in public were sent to places where they could sober up rather than sent to jail. Similarly, minor drug offenders were kept out of jails.
“Homelessness was described by many as a condition in which troubled and troublesome people found themselves. They were not only houseless, they were barred from institutions that had once sheltered them” (Dewitt 3). “Approximately 550,000 Americans were homeless at the start of this year with one out of every five of them living in New York City or Los Angeles”. Homelessness is more often seen in urban areas and not a problem that developed overnight, it’s something that has happened over years and continues to expand. Each year the number inclines and more and more citizens move to the streets as a result of extreme poverty.
. “Those affected by homelessness are usually not aware of the environmental and economic destruction that reflects their survival. However, those living in surrounding areas have seen the change. As unfortunate as this subject is, a need to examine the ways harm is being done to everyone sharing this landscape is warranted” (JOHNSON 1 ). The issues around stigmatization was examined and it got linked to capitalism. Social stigma occurs in situations where there is unequal social, economic, and political power and there is an opportunity to label, stereotype, separate (us versus them), lose status, and discriminate.
Society categorizes people who are homeless as no longer “useful” and/or “functional” members of capitalism, since they do not actively work and support the system. A person’s social class is a big part of homelessness. Karl Marx analysis of class states “in order for a person to survive they must meet their basic material needs for food, clothing and shelter and a society’s economy is the system by which it meets these and other needs”. Homelessness not only affects a person or their family it happens to it affects a community as a whole. “How an economy is organized affects all other aspects of social life”(Marx 1 ). If you were raised in poverty and were homeless as a child the odds of you being homeless and living in poverty as an adult are very high. Growing up around your parents or your parents being an alcoholic or drug addict is another huge factor and if your parent/ parents were substances abuse users and homeless forgot about the chance of you not living like that.
We as people tend to act the same as those we surround ourselves around . The way one talks, dresses , acts, loves, etc.. is learned throughout behavior and experiences of peers around us and those that have been in our lives for a long period of time. Homelessness is something that will always be around due to the fact that losing jobs, growing up in poverty, substance abuse, and hundred of different reasons will never fully be solved.
All the programs and shelters the government provides do help in the short terms of “it is proven to be more cost-effective to provide permanent supportive housing than to leave someone on the streets or in shelters (Thoeni 1)” but homelessness is something that will always be around. The fact that there is no comprehensive national housing strategy to coordinate these levels of government often leads to inadequate policies and funding that fall far short of meeting the country’s housing needs