Homelessness in America

Topics: Homelessness, Poverty, Homeless shelter Pages: 12 (4391 words) Published: April 29, 2013
Homelessness in America

Homelessness is a massive problem in the United States and historically homeless persons were primarily men who were kept out of society’s “view” by living in “Skid Row” zones. However, between 1980 and 1990, the American society saw an explosion of a new form of social problems, this new problem moved from single male homeless members to a family issue. Every year, hundreds of thousands of American families suffer from circumstances that result in the family unit becoming homeless; these homeless families include more than 1.6 million children (Webb). Now among the industrialized nations, the United States has the largest number of homeless women and children. This paper will focus on homelessness among families and the children and the impact of the family unit. The paper will also clarify general information about homelessness and provide background information to offer an understanding of the degree and significance of family homelessness.

Defining the homeless has always been a tricking process considering the fact that being homeless results in situations that various across each individual. Trying to define someone who is homeless raises more questions than it does at answering the initial question. Examples of these questions are how long does it require a person to be without housing to consider them homeless? Do people living in shelters or dangerous and unsanitary public housing considered homeless? Most researchers on the subject have narrowed down the definition of a homeless person to that of someone who has spent at least some time in homeless shelters or living on the streets or other irregular settings (Ambrosino).

The Stewart B. Mckinney Homeless Assistance Act provides an official definition of homelessness found in the text of Families and Change, “ an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;… who has a primary nighttime residence that is either a supervised public or private shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations; an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”

The overall homeless population gets divided into three subcategories. The first is the historically known adults who are mostly men without children. The second category, which saw the explosion of growth, was families becoming homeless which are mostly young women with children under the age of 10 (Culhane). The last category is adolescents who are on their own. These adolescents are without the supervision of a guardian or any other form of primary caretaker. Each group is distinct from each other despite the shared characteristics on some levels. On the family level the children are rarely older than 10 within the family unit and adolescents are rarely younger than 12 who are on their own.

Regardless of homeless people’s subgroup; single adults, adolescents on their own or families who are homeless, they are appear to come excessively from poor, inner-city and certain ethnic minority backgrounds. As stated before single adults who are homeless are predominately males. Most of these adults fall in the age ranges comprising of young adult and middle adulthood roughly 18-60 years of age. Elderly single adults experiencing homelessness are relatively infrequent, due to various factors such as premature death due to poor living conditions associated with poverty (Ravenhill). Homelessness does indeed represent a lack of economic and housing resources, which are societal issues; much of the research revolving homelessness on adults concerns their individual characteristics or risk factors rather than their social context or interactions between the two. Characteristics that have been associated to these risk factors include psychiatric disorders like psychotic disorders and substance...

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