homelessness, the condition of not having a permanent place to live, widely perceived as a societal problem only beginning in the 1980s. Figures for the number of homeless people in the United States are imprecise, but it was estimated that 700,000 people were homeless per night in the late 1990s and 610,000 per night in the early 2010s. A survey made in 1994 found that 12 million Americans had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. The vast majority of those who are homeless consists of single men and families with children. The problem exists in all major cities and many smaller communities. The causes range from large-scale deinstitutionalization of mentally ill people to disintegration of the social fabric in minority communities, drug and alcohol abuse, relatively stagnant wages at lower income levels, cutbacks in federal social-welfare programs, job loss, reductions in public housing, and rent increases and real-estate speculation. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (1987) established federal support for the building and maintenance of emergency homeless shelters. The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act (2009) focused greater emphasis on homelessness prevention and continuing efforts to eliminate chronic homelessness. Among the efforts to reduce chronic homelessness, which involves people with disabling behavioral or health conditions who experience repeated or prolonged periods of homelessness, is the Housing First program, which emphasizes placing in homeless into housing with some support before requiring. for example, treatment for addiction; the program represents a reversal of the typical earlier approach.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Sociology: General Terms and Concepts