Homelessness three decades has contributed largely to the problem


are some of the major causes of homelessness?

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Although it is
true that crisis of our economy at this time attributes to some of the reasons
that the rise in the amount of people that are considered homeless has sky
rocketed. The downfall in economy has caused many pay reductions, people being
laid off jobs with no grantee of coming back. For these reasons many people are
being forced into bankruptcies and foreclosures, yet some were able to hang on
with the allowance pay reductions, which caused families even greater economic
hardships. For those that were already low income or at poverty level matters
only got worse. Key words: homeless,
economy, poverty, low income housing, mental illness.


The economy had
been in a downward motion for almost two decades with the homelessness issue
becoming more problematic in the early1970s. Information reported by (USDHHS,
2010; Wright & Lam, 1987) states “Clearly the loss of low-income housing
over the past three decades has contributed largely to the problem of
homelessness. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, low income units in twelve of
the twenty largest American cities declined by thirty percent from 1.6 million
units to 1.1 million units. The trend continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
During this period, the number of poor increased from about 2.5 million to 3.4
million, an increase of thirty-six percent” (USDHHS, 2010; Wright & Lam,

poverty increased rapidly in the early 1980s, with its highest point in 1983
(15.4%), and leveling off at that point until 1993 (15.2%). This has persisted
into the 1990s and into the 2000s where nearly 40 million Americans live at, or
below, the poverty line (USDHHS, 2010; Devine & Wright, 1993; Karoly, 1996;
Heckman & Schulz, 2005; Haveman & Smeeding, 2007; Danziger, 2007)


and Mental Health

For homeless
families, mental illness was mentioned by twelve percent of cities as one of
the top three causes of homelessness. Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s
ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self-care and
household management. Mental illness can prevent people from forming and
maintaining stable relationships while causing people to misinterpret others’
guidance and react irrationally. This often results in pushing away caregivers,
family, and friends who may be the single most important force keeping that
person from becoming homeless. Because of these factors and the stresses of
living with a mental disorder, people with such disabilities are much more
likely to become homeless than the general population (USDHUD, 2010; The Health
of the Homeless, 2009). A study of people with serious mental illness seen by
California’s public mental health system found that fifteen percent were
homeless at least once in a one-year period (USDHHS, 2012; Folsom, et al.,
2005). Patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorders are particularly
vulnerable. Poor mental health may also affect physical health, especially for
people who are homeless. Mental illness may cause people to neglect taking the
necessary precautions against disease. When combined with inadequate hygiene
due to homelessness, this may lead to physical problems such as respiratory
infections, skin diseases, or exposure to tuberculosis or HIV. In addition,
half of the mentally ill homeless population in the United States also suffers
from substance abuse and dependence (USDHUD, 2010;


Joel Blau (1992)
states “Why has every level of government persisted in carrying out wasteful
short-term policies for example to ameliorate homelessness, when the
cumulative social costs of these policies undoubtedly exceed the expense of
providing permanent, affordable housing? The answer is that a more adequate
solution to homelessness would conflict with the underlying principles of the
U.S. economy: private profit, self-sufficiency through work, and the
commodification of basic human needs such as food, housing, and medical care”
(Blau, 1992, p. 177).

Based on Blau’s
assessment, it seems apparent that government could build, operate, and
subsidize low-income housing so that no one would be forced to be homeless,
particularly those suffering from mental health issues.

Joel Blau (1992) has
claimed that the homelessness problem has thus resulted largely from the policy
decisions and ideological agenda of the Reagan and Bush administrations, and
the attempt to eliminate human social services underwritten by federal
government and devolved to the states who were left competing for bock grant
funding that became increasingly precarious over the subsequent decades
(USDHHS, 2012; Blau, 1992). The success of this effort is attested to by the
increasing share of national income now going to the most affluent fifth of the
population which culminated in a huge savings in tax funding for elites.

 Due to increased globalization, American
competitiveness in the world economy has suffered, specifically as the economy
has shifted from an industrial base to a service base (Desai & Potter,
2013; Gibson Graham, 2001; Kennedy, 1987). In the mid-1970s, the economic
investment schemes available to make the rich richer and elites more profitable
became increasingly limited. However, this trend was countered by the
business-led efforts of the 1980s to contain or reduce wages, limit, reduce, or
eliminate employee pensions, and cut taxes for elites and corporations. This
was the obvious solution and one to which the Reagan administration happily
agreed. Based on the “principle of less eligibility” – the axiom that welfare
must pay less than work – the containment or reduction of wages further
required steep cutbacks in social welfare programs. “From the outset, the JHHSA
SUMMER 2015 73 Reagan administration . . . sought to reduce the entire social
wage” (Blau 1992, p. 49). 


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