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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.
homelessnessthe situation of having no home or permanent abode. Those in this situation include people living on the streets, in hostels, squats, or in temporary accommodation with no permanent right of tenure. Homelessness has become a major problem in Europe, North America, Australia and many other areas of the world in the past ten years, particularly among youth (S. Hutson and M. Liddiard, Youth Homelessness. The Construction of a Social Issue, 1994).
In Britain it is necessary to distinguish between different groups of homeless people according to their rights to social housing. The statutory homeless are those who have a right to social housing under the Homeless Persons Act, 1977 and Housing Act 1985, including homeless households with dependent children (both couple parent and single parent) and the homeless elderly over 60. Households do not just have to be in priority need, they should also be local and unintentionally homeless, but if they fulfil these conditions then the local authority must rehouse. The number of households accepted as homeless by local authorities per year has risen from just over 53,000 in 1978 to nearly 149,000 in 1991; four out of every five acceptances are households with children or where a woman is pregnant, and thus every year 400,000 persons are accepted as homeless including nearly 200,000 children.
However, local authorities reject at least 40 per cent of homeless applicants, and ‘hidden homelessness’ has grown. In the 1991 Census 198,000 households shared housekeeping at the same address and 95,000 households lived in non-permanent accommodation such as caravans and mobile homes. Both these figures have increased by 17 per cent compared with the census of 1981.
Households that are not accepted and young single people, who have never been included as a priority need group, have contributed to the extraordinary rise in the numbers of non-statutory homeless, people with no special rights to social housing. For London there are estimates of up to 120,000 homeless young single people, and nationally the estimate is 180,000 (J. Greve and E. Currie, Homelessness, 1990).
Some writers have seen the growth of homelessness as a result of the under-supply of social housing, others as a result of changing conditions of life for young people including high youth unemployment rates and changing patterns of family life. Both of these types of explanations have evidence to support them. Local authority housing completions in Britain have declined from 85,000 in 1979 to 2,000 in 1992. Housing Associations, which were to be the new providers of social housing, have not filled the gap. At the same time the employment rate for 16-year-old school leavers declined from 50 per cent in 1976 to 15 per cent in 1986. In 1994 the Government released a white paper, Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies, which proposed the repeal of all homeless persons legislation and a return to the provision of temporary accommodation only for the homeless. Nine thousand organizations wrote in to oppose the proposals, two to support.