Fifth Dimension

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Homelessness in the United States: Potential Causes

Posted by fifthdimension on May 27, 2007

 During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment reached the astonishing level of one-quarter of the workforce, an official government survey in the United States estimated that at least 1.2 million people (or 1 percent of the total population) were homeless at a single point in time (mid-January 1933). (Crouse 1986)

Most of the modern observers of homelessness often cite the following as the major causes of homelessness:·        The movement in the 1960s in state mental health systems to shift towards community-based treatment as opposed to long-term commitment in institutions. Unfortunately, absent state coercion, many patients failed to take their medications regularly and ended up in the streets.·        The failure of urban housing projects to provide safe, secure, and affordable housing to the poor.·        The economic crises and “stagflation” of the 1970s, which caused high unemployment.

·        The failure of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide effective mental health care for many veterans, particularly those of the Vietnam War.

·        Domestic violence.

·        Substance abuse.

·        Declining purchasing power of low-wage jobs

·        Decrease in availability of affordable family housingWhile the conservatives view homelessness as an offshoot of  drug abuse, and alcoholism, the liberals perceive it as an outcome of the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill. The radicals maintain that homelessness results from structural inequalities and inequities, taxation policies, poverty, unemployment, violence and discrimination.  

their lives.

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