Fifth Dimension

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Homelessness in the United States: Historical Backdrop

Posted by fifthdimension on May 27, 2007

Homelessness can be dated back to the 1970s. The de-institutionalization of the mentally ill — unaccompanied by promised outpatient psychiatric and social services — led to a large increase in the homeless. As housing and social service cuts were raised,the number of homeless increased in the 1980s. This was, in part, an offshoot of the transfer of federal dollars to a huge military buildup and consequent budget deficits. However, public compassion soared, and in 1986, 5 million Americans joined hands across the country to raise money for homeless programs (May 25, 1986 Hands Across America). In 1987, the McKinney Act authorized millions of dollars for housing and hunger relief.

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