On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States of America, as a member nation, voted in favor of this declaration. Article 25(1) of this declaration states: “Everyone has the right to … food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” In 1949 the United States government further defined the nature of this commitment with the American Housing Act which stipulates the “realization as soon as feasible of the goal of a decent home … for every American family.” Despite these noble efforts, homelessness in America exists and continues to increase in most communities across the country.
I have chosen to focus on this social problem since it is, for the most part, ignored by the media and the general public even though it continues to grow. It is estimated that more than 7 percent of US residents have been homeless at some point in their lives (Link, Susser, Stueve, Phelan, Moore, & Struening, 1994). In the last twenty years the rate of homelessness has increased dramatically. Estimates put the annual number of people experiencing homelessness somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 million with half of that number being families (Lewis, 2007). Since the great economic collapse of 2008, this problem has been given even more impetus as the resources of the unemployed are depleted.
From a functionalist point of view perhaps homelessness might be considered as nothing more than a mere blight on society, a chosen manner of existence, and as such a burden that society as a whole must bear. Viewing homelessness as a functionalist then, resolving this problem would mean simply raising the minimum standard of living for all members of society so that such individuals may have the opportunity to have a more productive and contributing role within the structure of society (Sullivan, 2010).
In contrast to this, a conflict-theorist might...