Homelessness in the United States--Data and Issues

By Jamshid A. Momeni | Go to book overview

CONCLUSIONS

Many of the programs dealing with the homeless population of Britain are predicated upon the long-accepted concept of "housing as of right" as well as a network of related social services. Without this safety net and without a government policy of providing permanent housing for low-income households, it is difficult to come to grips with the long-term concerns of those who are homeless. It is important, too, to improve the delivery of existing services, to inform homeless individuals of their rights, and to provide them with information on how they can deal with the welfare bureaucracy. As demonstrated by British groups, advocacy is crucial to ensure that the homeless population becomes a powerful political constituency ( Saunders, 1986).

An analysis of British programs reveals another important distinction. Battles won at the national level do not have to be refought (at least in statutory terms) at the local level. This is one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with such issues in the United States. Each state and municipality can in effect determine its own destiny, particularly when the federal government abdicates responsibility.

The experience of Canada, while similar to that of the United States, is different in at least one significant respect: it underscores the importance of the safety net of social services as well as the necessity of a national health service that is free to low income people.

In each of the three countries examined, problems vary from region to region, from city to city, and from neighborhood to neighborhood. Accordingly, locally devised programs are most appropriate. Yet, because homelessness is also a nationwide problem, the federal government must be involved and must provide sufficient funding on a continuing basis to assure permanent solutions. This is not to say that money should be thrown at the problem in hopes that it will disappear; rather, it must be recognized that the issues associated with homelessness are of such magnitude that long-term programs are essential to achieve any meaningful degree of success. The experience of New York, now spending over a quarter of a billion dollars annually on shelters and welfare hotels, dramatically illustrates the futility of programs limited to emergency shelter. As soon as beds are added, more homeless individuals join the queue.

The problems underlying homelessness represent institutional failures on a massive scale. Much of the homelessness dilemma is a reflection of urban economic development trends. Although not a new problem, it has dramatically increased in severity in all three countries since 1980. The traditional response to homelessness, then, requires critical rethinking. Governments and certain charitable organizations have been inclined to do things for the homeless, whereas many of the homeless individuals stress that they are a resource unto themselves. They want to be involved in building their own housing. The concept of cooperative or self-help housing should, then, be fully exploited as it represents a

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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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