Homelessness in the United States--Data and Issues

By Jamshid A. Momeni | Go to book overview

6
A Social-Psychiatric Perspective on Homelessness: Results from a Pittsburgh Study

Jeffrey C. Wilson and Anthony C. Kouzi

Psychiatric perspectives on homelessness have been the subject of considerable controversy in the social sciences. Critics have questioned the nature and prevalence of mental illness among the homeless. A "medicalization phenomena" or psychiatric bias has been described in reference to early reports of mental illness among the homeless. In a recent review Snow et al. ( 1986) challenge the assumption that a high proportion of homeless persons suffer from mental disability. In this important article, they cite numerous examples of medicalization, both in the popular press as well as in psychiatric literature. The assertion that most homeless persons are "interactionally incompetent, conversationally incoherent, occasionally menacing, and institutionally dependent, crazy" ( Snow et al., 1986: 407-408), is in their opinion very misleading.

A well-known earlier trend in psychiatric homeless research was an over reporting of prevalence figures for mental illness in studies conducted primarily by psychiatric investigators. These studies can be viewed as initial efforts to characterize the problem when the state of knowledge in that discipline about homeless persons was relatively undeveloped. While sociological studies on homelessness date back many years ( Anderson, 1923; Bogue, 1963; Bahr, 1968), the U.S. psychiatric community has only recently turned its attention to homelessness as an important area of investigation. In the early psychiatric studies, sampling methodologies were limited, and diagnostic procedures were conducted by clinicians with semistructured or unstructured instruments. Given the inherent biases of clinicians in reporting illness when more-structured assessment techniques are impractical or unavailable, such efforts were likely to suffer from a "medicalization effect."

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Homelessness in the United States--Data and Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figure and Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • 1: Counting the Homeless 1
  • Conclusion 13
  • References 15
  • 2: A Sociodemographic Profile of the Service-Using Homeless: Findings from a National Survey 17
  • References 36
  • 3: Food Sources and Intake of Homeless Persons 39
  • References 60
  • 4: Drug Abuse among Homeless People 61
  • References 76
  • 5: Homelessness as a Long-Term Housing Problem in America 81
  • References 90
  • 6: A Social-Psychiatric Perspective on Homelessness: Results from a Pittsburgh Study 95
  • Conclusions 107
  • References 108
  • References 108
  • References 108
  • 7: Sweat and Blood: Sources of Income on a Southern Skid Row 111
  • References 121
  • 8: Homeless Children and Their Caretakers 123
  • References 132
  • 9: Programs Dealing with Homelessness in the United States, Canada, and Britain 133
  • Conclusions 150
  • Acknowledgments 151
  • References 151
  • 10: Public Policies for Reducing Homelessness in America 153
  • Conclusion 163
  • Note 163
  • References 163
  • 11: No Place to Go: A National Picture of Homelessness in America 165
  • References 182
  • Select Bibliography 185
  • Index 191
  • About the Contributors 195
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