SOC203 Social Problems


There are many questions in today’s world as to what makes a great nation. For some it seems that a nation who can care for its citizens properly is what makes a nation great. What qualifies as proper care? Experts say it is assuring citizens have adequate medical care, food supply, education and housing. These are the basic needs. For many Americans today it is very difficult to obtain these and for others they may lack one or two while the rest of the country struggles to keep above the minimal standards. What experts have discovered is that each of these go hand in hand. If we lose one we slowly lose the others until we no longer have the basics for survival. In many instances the last to go on the list are homes. Many struggle to the point of sacrificing their basic needs just to assure they do not go homeless.

The National Coalition for the Homeless defines the homeless as individuals who lack a steady, regular, and sufficient night time home, and the only place they have to sleep at night are supervised public and private shelters that provide a temporary place for homeless individuals and families. We know homelessness is a serious social problem that has affected many for years. It has affected communities all across the United States and has become one of the number one social problems of today’s society.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness there are 564,708 people in the United States who were listed as being homeless. This includes the eight percent of Veterans, fifteen percent who are consistently returning to shelters as chronic homeless, 380,000 who are under the age of eighteen, and the 110,000 who are LGBTQ. The statistics seem to fluctuate up and down over the years but to completely eradicate homelessness seems to be something of a fairytale. Social Scientist have studied over and over communities in the United States that seem to suffer the most with sco-economic problems making attempts to implement solutions.

Homelessness causes great distress in communities. In areas where there is a large population of homelessness there usually are high levels of prostitution, street crime, illness (both mental and physical), panhandling. There are other issues as well, drug abuse and distribution goes up the value of the area itself plummets, which economically has a negative affect on the community businesses. Social scientist has taken time to come up with quick solutions to help reduce these problems for these communities. Once again one common factor of homelessness is the lack of stable housing. But what causes the lack of stable housing is unique from person to person. Researchers from New York believe that the solution for homelessness is suitable, affordable housing. But they have forgotten that funds are needed to pay for housing. We must look deeper into the individualized reason and work from there.

If we take into account the social theories there maybe a form of explanation. What we do see is that poverty leads to homelessness in most cases and poverty occurs because of social stratification. According to Emile Durkheim’s Functionalist Theory, “society is a structure of interconnected parts that work together to maintain a sense of balance and social equilibrium for society as a whole”. Functionalist theories also state Social Stratification is necessary to motivate those of higher intelligence and skills to Function in occupations that are needed to maintain society. But because of unequal opportunities we see that many either do not get to go to good schools or get to go to school at all. Thus leaving those who are in fact smart but with no means to get a proper education doomed to have low wage jobs that are not sufficient to support the needs of an adult let alone a full American family. In the article How to Think About Homelessness: Balancing Structural and Individual Causes, Main states, “A new explanatory mix seems called for, one which puts more emphasis on individual factors. But my point is that no one set of factors can explain 100% of anything about the homeless. Individual factors deserve more attention than they have gotten in scholarly circles.” It is agreed that homelessness does not have one set cause across the board. Main makes a validated point, researchers need to consider what the underlying problem is and not move on to state the solution is more housing and shelters as a means to fix the issue.

There are some economic impacts homelessness has on society. It takes funding to maintain and construct shelters to house the homeless community. The Government must find ways to budget the funding properly in order to add or subtract services needed for each individual area. The fiscal health of each state must be taken into consideration before the Government funding is used to provide rehabilitation services, career/job counseling, medical services and so on. Even with the special considerations, these services are not properly funded; only the bare minimum can be provided. Thus leaving those who are homeless to resort to other means to survive. Many resort to panhandling, recycling, even theft in some cases. In some cities such as Portland Oregon, the city itself has come together as a community to battle homelessness. The method they have been using is proven to have decreased their homeless population.

Problems from Migration, lack of employment, adequate pay, mental disorders, drug abuse, immigration, Domestic violence, even gentrification are on the top of the list. Here in NYC many social workers, theorist and residence feel that Gentrification is on the top of the list. Many neighborhoods are changing, and with gentrification, apartment complexes are being brought out and rent is going up. There are force evictions due to lack of rental payments. Many of the most wealthier individuals and families purchase homes or apartment complexes, flip them, and sell or rent them for a dollar amount that is pricy for the original dwellers but cheaper than what upper class families are accustomed to.

In an Article from the New York Times entitled “Gentrifying into Shelters” it references to a study done in NYC in regards to homelessness. In 2010-2012 New York City underwent a series of studies in its areas where eviction and homelessness is at its highest. They found that a major part of it began as gentrification exploded in these areas. The study showed that out of every two hundred and ninety six families only one hundred and fifty were receiving services due to homelessness and the control group consisted of one hundred forty five individuals who were not receiving anything. The studies showed that the group receiving services spent twenty-two point six fewer nights in shelters. The program that was used to assist the homeless and those newly evicted is called Homebase.

Homebase is just one of the ways the city has attempted to combat homelessness. The government has developed affordable housing where apartments are given to those who meet the criteria based on their income. Job placement programs were implemented to assist those who lost their jobs due to downsizing or any other reasons that would cause unemployment. It is also believe that education is paramount. It is believed that more education should be provided to help understand the issues of homelessness. This will allow communities to dispel the homelessness myth and create a unified community that will hopefully gather to fight the issues surrounding homelessness within their community. Developing more shelters is only a quick fix and has costly effects on the economy. It seems the be the best fit as a long-term solution is affordable housing, but just adding affordable housing does not work as a single solution. Adding in additional education or preventative education on how to better manage ones lifestyle and work life may possibly assist these families in maintaining their homes and families.

There are many different ways individuals have stepped up to aid in the fight against homelessness. It has been through education of the how and why homelessness occurs that many have donated to shelters and given time to assist them in what they need to survive. But the greatest alternative to homelessness we have seen thus far is the one developed by Dr. Sam Tsemberis. In 1992 Dr. Tsemberis develop centers that care for the homeless on the belief that housing is a basic need for all. Dr. Tsemberis’ idea of “Housing First” lead him to receive the Macy award for individual achievement in the battle against Homelessness. In 1992 Pathways was developed with a system that is person-centered harm reduction method that does not require substance treatment or sobriety as a precondition. Housing First gives access to permanent assisted housing, independent apartments, and intensive treatment and support services to those who are homeless, who have psychiatric disabilities, and substance abuse disorders. Those who go through the pathway system have a lesser chance of regression. Pathways is now extended to families, those seeking refuge from domestic violence, immigration and anyone else within the homeless system. Dr. Tsemberis unique method has been proven effective time and time again and has been tested through the U.S Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Within Pathways the individual is receiving services and education on how to maintain the basics for housing, work, family and mental stability from the moment they arrive, through housing/job searches and even after they have left the system. Pathways literally walks an individual step by step out of the depths of being homeless into the security of having a place to call your own.

There should be many shelters, and services for the homeless community such as Pathways. If more citizens sympathized and were willing to develop better charities and foundations within their communities it may give us a jumpstart on the fight against homelessness. The problem of Homelessness may be substantial but as time goes on we see many creative approaches providing permanent solutions to each individual. That is what makes it a very slow up hill battle. We must consider each one as an individual problem that has its own unique solution. Not every individual or family is Homeless for the same reason and we must believe that as a whole society we can do something about Homelessness if enough people are willing to confront it.


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