Homelessness in the United States

Powerful Essays
Homelessness in the United States

During the 1980’s the number of "homeless" people, those without a house in which to reside, increased at an alarming rate. Many analysts have given much time and thought as to the reasons that this phenomenon occurred. They cite economic instability and government policies with facts and figures to support their work. Beyond the research and cold statistics that explain this event, are the victims, and those that worked to help relieve their hardship. An interview with Philip Guerrieri gives us insight into the personal lives of these individuals whom he calls "houseless," and the realities of staying alive, both physically and spiritually, on the streets.

Martha R. Burt, author of Over the Edge: The Growth of Homelessness in the 1980’s, makes the statement that "homelessness" has been with us in America since the Great Depression of the 1930’s (3). She quotes from Crouse 1986, that these people were the sons and daughters of "optimistic America," not transients, vagrants, criminals and bums that laws have been made to protect us against (3). Burt states that some advocates for the homeless in the 1980’s put the number of homeless at two to three million, which would represent 1% of the U.S. total population of 250 million. This would equal that of the rate of homelessness of the 1930’s Depression era. Burt says they have overestimated the number (4). She states that the studies conducted by her and her colleagues, which put the ratio at 0.2%, or roughly fifteen to twenty-five homeless individuals for every 10,000 people, are far more credible (4). She tells us that it was the emergency shelters and soup kitchens that began reporting the increase in necessity (1). She reports that her da...

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... and incite within us the desire to share our most precious of commodities, our time.

Why there are houseless people in our society of such affluence and ingenuity is baffling. The solutions as to what policy changes it will take to correct this situation are intricate. One thing is clear. There is much that we as individuals can do to significantly alter their realities of these unfortunate souls from nightmarish, to at least bearable. Realization that as Philip said, "it could be any one of us," should lead to an inherent sense of humanity that lives within us, motivation us to a sincere desire to see to it that the most basic human rights of each individual is met.

Works Cited

Burt, Martha R. Over the Edge: the Growth of Homelessness in the 1980’s. New York: Russell

Sage Foundation, 1992.

Philip Guerrieri II. Personal Interview. Nov. 27, 1999.
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