Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

A Descriptive Study of Single Adults in Homeless Shelters: Increasing Counselors' Knowledge and Social Action

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

A Descriptive Study of Single Adults in Homeless Shelters: Increasing Counselors' Knowledge and Social Action

Article excerpt

This article is intended to help counselors increase their knowledge and social action for single adults who are homeless. Findings from a period-prevalence study of 71 single adults in a homeless shelter over 2 years reveal demographics, mental health needs, and sociopolitical issues of this population. Implications including social justice action strategies for counselors are discussed.

Este articulo se piensa ayudar consejeros aumentan su conocimiento y la accion social para adultos soltero que son sin hogar. Las conclusiones de un estudio del periodo-predominio de 71 adultos soltero en un refugio sin hogar sobre 2 anos revelan las necesidades demograficas, la necesidades mentales de la salud, y las aplicaciones sociopoliticas de esta poblacion. Implicaciones incluyendo las estrategias sociales de la accion de justicia para consejeros se discuten.


Counselors have received recent challenges to expand their multicultural competence through social justice leadership (Arredondo & Perez, 2003; Bemak & Chi-Ying Chung, 2005). Counselors have a social and ethical responsibility to develop multicultural counseling competencies and to engage in social action for people of differing cultures and socioeconomic classes (Sue & Sue, 2003). One diverse population that has continued to increase over the past quarter of a century is composed of people who are homeless.

The U.S. homeless population of the 1950s and 1960s was typically composed of older men living in cheap hotels and was declining significantly in the 1970s (Rossi, 1990). However, in the 1980s this "old" homeless population was replaced by a "new" homeless population that was younger, was more ethnically diverse, and included more women and children (Rossi, 1990). This "new" homeless population increased substantially in the 1980s when President Reagan's economic policies resulted in a reduction of employment opportunities for a large segment of the workforce, a decline in affordable housing units available for low income people, and a decrease in value and availability of public assistance (National Coalition for the Homeless [NCH], 2005b). In addition, Reagan's administration closed many state psychiatric facilities and cut public funding, resulting in people with mental illness living on the streets (NCH, 2005b).

The NCH (2005a) reported that homelessness rates tripled from 1987 to 1997. Single adults in New York homeless shelters increased by 35% from 1994 to 2003 (Coalition for the Homeless, 2003). Currently, 3.5 million people are likely to experience homelessness in a given year (Urban Institute, 2000). This represents 10% of people living in poverty and 1% of the general U.S. population (NCH, 2005a).

Despite the size of this population, people who are homeless are underserved and underresearched (Dixon, Amuso, & Stozier, 1999). There is limited research and literature on counseling single adults in homeless shelters. The purpose of this article is to increase counselors' knowledge regarding people who are homeless and to increase social action for this population. This is accomplished through the following three methods. First, a literature review of adults who are homeless is reported within the framework of Arredondo and Glauner's (1992) Dimensions of Personal Identity Model (DPIM). Second, findings from a period-prevalence study of single adults in a southeastern homeless shelter are presented and compared with current literature. Third, social action strategies and counseling guidelines based on the literature review and period-prevalence study findings are presented.

the DPIM

A social justice framework views single adults who are homeless within a sociocultural context of poverty, limited access to housing, and racial disenfranchisement (Freire, 2002). A sociocultural context includes "the sociopolitical (e. …

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