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Homelessness in the United States


Imagine living a life without a shelter over your head, without a bed to sleep in, and roaming around without any destination; without a home. Individuals and families experience homelessness and seek temporary residence wherever they find a place to sleep including public shelters, camps for homeless people, their vehicles, a bench in a park, someone’s garage or a friend’s couch.

Numerous factors can result in homelessness and loss of shelters such as economic, social, political instability and natural disasters that destroy the houses of many families. Homelessness is often caused by poverty, unemployment and system failures in the United States, where the government fails to provide for the majority of the lower-income groups.

Even though the number of homeless people is increasing and is affecting thousands of lives, very little is done to address the issue instead ineffective methods are used to provide short-term shelters that have made the matter worse.


Homelessness is a critical issue in the United States that have been existing since pre-revolutionary period. People lost shelters and were forced out of their houses during the colonial period due to economic and social factors (Gale 2017). Even though the increase in homelessness was due to the external factors, it was blamed on individual character flaws and moral deficiency.

Matters became worse, and the number of homeless people increases significantly during the urbanization period in the mid-1800s. Additionally, the aftermath of American Civil War in 1865 left many citizens without shelter with the combination of Industrialization and many rural residents moving towards the cities to seek employment. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of homeless people reached 10 percent during the late 1890s while it increased to 11.7% by 1920s. Moreover, the consequences of the Great Depression of 1929 involved high rates of unemployment and homelessness (Smith, Doug 2016).

In the modern times the overall standard of living increased; however, this does not mean that the issue of homelessness has been catered. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development, the Annual Homeless Assessment Report of 2016 records an estimate of 550,000 people who were experiencing homelessness. Among this homeless population, 68% were accommodated in transitional housing programs, and 32% were unsheltered; moreover, 22% of them were under the age of 18. This is an evidence of the failure of the system to provide adequate programs that target the core of the problem instead of giving temporary solutions (US Homeless Population, 2016).

While some experts believe that homelessness is both a mental health problem and an economic problem, others blame it on social problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism, family issues, teenage pregnancies, poverty, low living standards and lack of education and jobs (Holden, C. 1986). The problem lies in people blaming the victims of homelessness for their situation while it is the structural nature of unemployment and the instability of economy that has resulted in a high number of unsheltered people.

One of the primary causes of homelessness is insufficient income levels of the majority of the population. People who are employed but earn enough to provide for food and every day are not able to afford the rents of a house or eligible for a loan to buy a house of their own. This issue can also be blamed on the increasing inflation and the high rates of rents and house in the urban areas, where you find most of the people on streets or in public shelters.

Secondly, high rates of unemployment that can be caused by both structural reasons such as the shutting down of an industry or the low levels of demands for a specific sector that results in the redundancy of labor. Additionally, frictional and cyclic unemployment also lead to a large number of people on the roads struggling to earn a living. The unemployed generation might receive unemployment benefits from the government; however, it is not enough to live a decent life and own a house or afford the high levels of rents. Financial help providers also reject loan requests of unemployed people and the homeless generation that already has a wrong impression of being involved in criminal activities or drug abuse ( National Law Center 2018).

Thirdly, the failure of the system affects the number of people on the streets. This occurs when the system fails to provide and care for the vulnerable population that ends up without shelter as a result. System failure includes failure of transitions from child welfare, the discharge of patients from hospitals that are not yet ready for everyday challenges, lack of support for immigrants and refugees, domestic violence of children and women in the society and the lack of shelters for the disabled generation (Embleton, L., Lee, H., Gunn, J., Ayuku, D., & Braitstein, P. 2016).

The issue can be addressed with a better healthcare system, educational services and more job opportunities as this will target the primary cause of the problem of homelessness. If the government fails to recognize the significance of the matter and cater it ineffectively, the number of homeless people will not decrease anytime soon.


The reasons behind homelessness go back to the times of colonization, and it can be concluded that the problem has been existing since the very beginning. However, the modern-day homelessness can be blamed on other reasons that are not impossible to address and solve the matter entirely or at least minimize the effects. Research shows that homelessness can be connected to domestic violence, poverty, racial discrimination, and unemployment. Thus, the matter requires being solved with catering the core reasons.


“Homelessness.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Retrieved from Accessed 2 Mar. 2018.

Smith, Doug. “Homelessness Requires Different Solutions for Different Situations.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 2 Mar. 2018. Originally published as “Is the shift to permanent housing making L.A.’s homelessness problem even worse?” Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2016.

“US Homeless Population, 2016.” Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 2 Mar. 2018.

Holden, C. (1986). Homelessness: experts differ on root causes. Science, 232, 569+. Retrieved from

Embleton, L., Lee, H., Gunn, J., Ayuku, D., & Braitstein, P. (2016). Causes of child and youth homelessness in developed and developing countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics, 170(5), 435-444.

(2018). Retrieved 3 March 2018, from



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