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System Failure Causes Homelessness Essay

2922 words - 12 pages

Everyone has gone without something at some point in their lives. Maybe new clothes, cell phone, cable TV, but how many have gone without a place that they can call home? It was estimated that during 2009 on any given night there was 664,414 people staying in a shelter somewhere in the United States (Khadduri & Culhane, 2010a). Through 2009, 1.56million different people were recorded to have used an emergency housing shelter (Khadduri& Culhane, 2010a). These numbers do not account for those who did not use emergency housing shelters, but were defined as homeless. The legal definition of homelessness one would have to review the McKinney-Veto act of 1987, it states “An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” and places that are not meant to be permanent places of residency such as public space (1987). The history is a long and expansive one that extends well before the 20th century, but this essay will focus on post 1900. In modern society, it can be inferred that economic crisis’s, institutional reintegration (mentally ill, prison system) failure, and reintegration of Veterans are primary culprits of American homelessness. This essay seeks to explore the homelessness through causes, veteran specific issues, and sociological paradigms such as functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory, while purposing strategies to solve this social problem.
Basis for Homelessness
For most Americans, homelessness is an abstract and foreign idea, but in reality it isn’t. People walk by this inequality on their way to work and ignore those who are pleading for loose change. There are multiple reason why this social travesty exists, not just one. The general public’s opinion and researchers may differ with statistical fact, and the causes can be broke up into micro and macro views. The general public view homelessness as an outcome because of an individual’s choices and not of societal forces. Lee, Jones, and Lewis, issued a survey to determine common public belief about the causes of homelessness. Their report illustrated the findings of their survey based on personal reasons of respondents that ranged from personal choice, work aversion, alcoholism, mental illness, bad luck, and structural forces. Of those the top three perceived by the public, they surveyed, were (in descending order) structural forces, mental illness, and bad luck (Lee et al., 1990). Alcoholism and work aversion were not in the top three bucking the stereotypical belief that people become homeless because of alcoholism and being lazy. According to a Veterans Affairs social worker, Ms. Perry, who has multiple years working with those suffering from alcoholism and substance abuse, said that “Alcoholism becomes a part of their daily routine after being homeless for a period of time” (personal communication March 18th, 2011). What can be inferred from this statement is that alcoholism is a coping mechanism that people develop just...

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