HomosexualityHomelessness, condition of people who lack regular legal access to housing. Homelessness has been recognized as a significant social problem in the UnitedStates since the early 1980s, when an increase in the number of homeless peoplewas caused by a weak economy and cuts in federal aid for housing and incomeassistance. Other periods of increased homelessness also have occurred many timesin history, including during the colonial era.
Most other industrialized societies alsohave experienced increases in homeless populations in recent decades. The number of homeless people in the United States has been an arguableissue for a while. Advocates for the homeless claim that there are several millionhomeless people; however, recent studies suggest that the homeless number from600,000 to 700,000. Exact numbers are impossible to collect because researchersdefine homelessness in different ways and because the homeless are transitory. Thenumber of people predicted to become homeless in any given year is estimated to bethree to five times the number of people who are homeless at any given moment.
The US Census Bureau attempted to count homeless people in the 1990 census. However, most people consider this attempt as a failure. The homeless population is largely made up of adult men, but the number ofwomen, children, and youth has steadily increased. This group now comprises morethan 40 percent of the total homeless population.
Most homeless people are alsoextremely poor and separated from their families and other social networks. Aboutone-third of the adult homeless are chronically mentally ill, and about half arealcoholic or abuse drugs. During the 1950s, most homeless people were older, white,alcoholic men associated with the rundown sections of cities known as skid rows. Today’s homeless, however, are mostly non-white; relatively young, with an averageage in the middle 30s; and include a large number of women and children. Aboutone-third of homeless men are veterans.
In addition to the homeless population, even larger numbers are considered?marginally housed?; they are in danger of becoming homeless because of poverty orunavailable housing. About half the nation’s poor households spend 70 percent ormore of their monthly income on housing, which puts them at risk of becominghomeless if faced with an economic problem. Because the number of people living inpoverty numbers some 37 million, the marginally housed would amount to nearly 20million people, creating the potential for a vast increase in the size of the homelesspopulation. Those who are housed only because they have been able to stay withfamily or friends are known as the hidden homeless. Many reasons have tried to explain the dramatic increase in the number ofhomeless people in the 1980s and 1990s.
The total poverty rate tended to increasethroughout this period, and this was especially true in the inner city areas wheremost homeless people live. At the same time, the supply of low-income housingdeclined in some cities. Waiting lists for public housing are often many years longand increases in welfare payments have not kept pace with inflation. Among otherfactors implicated in the trend are changes in the treatment of the chronicallymentally ill, drug use, the inability of some families to support dependent adultmembers, and an increasing rate of violence against women.Legal Issues Essays