Social Evolution: Homelessness
Human is a social creature. Many thousands of years ago, when people began organizing communities, first small, and then bigger and bigger, their social evolution began. To be a member of a social group meant to be protected by other members of the community. Nowadays, we observe thousands of people falling out of the community, losing their connection with other people. Such phenomenon is described by the word “homelessness”. “Most often, its meaning is literal and prosaic: the absence of a domicile” (Baumohl 3). The most dreadful is the knowledge that many people consider that absence of home is the negative side of homeless people. Still, the nature and essence of homelessness are far deeper and more frightful. Nevertheless, the fact is that homelessness is a social phenomenon is obvious. Still, it seems next to impossible that social services to cope with it. It goes without saying that fight against the phenomenon of homelessness should be held on all levels: social, economic, political, cultural, etc.
Another aspect that makes the fight with homelessness more difficult is the existence of such phenomenon as hidden homelessness. “First among the reasons for the persistent undercount of the hidden homeless is that some hidden homeless are not on the street and are by historical and contemporary definitions not roofless” (Levinson 204). The thing is that it is even difficult to register all homeless people in order to help them in this or that way.
Nevertheless, the fight against homelessness should be commenced not by the government but by average citizens. The thing is that homeless people were always regarded as the lowest social class. Consequently, the attitude towards homeless people was always negative. It is not the result of recent social changes that nobody wants to keep in touch with homeless people. There is an established image of a homeless person: a dirty and fetid alcoholic who is lazy has no desire to work to earn some money. Of course, society always labels and stigmatizes those people who do not fit the description of a normal member of society. The stereotype is the main obstacle that does not allow to reduce the percentage of homeless people. It is the fact that many people are negatively disposed towards homeless people that it even causes quarrels and deaths (Burrows, Please, and Quilgars 135).
Such attitude towards homeless people and their rejection by citizens is another cause for an increasing percentage of homeless people. Of course, such an aspect may be explained by the self-preservative instinct: people are afraid of those who may cause them harm. However, we live in a civilized community, and instincts which are first and foremost for the animal world should not work in the community of people. Still, homeless, people are being excluded from society by other people who make the problem of homelessness more complicated (Marsh 37).
Each day hundreds of people, single or accompanied by their parents, leave their houses, flats, and other places of dwelling and join the ranks of homeless citizens. Though there are various programs which are intended to keep the problem of homelessness under control and help homeless people find a new dwelling, the problem cannot be solved completely without cessation of this stream of homeless people. Usually, there are two approaches to the question of homelessness prevention. First deals with the situation, when people are vulnerable to the threat of home loosing. It usually happens, when they are discharged from jail, mental hospitals, prisons and other institutional settings. The second approach deals with providing “housing assistance to avert housing loss for households facing eviction” (Burt, Pearson, Montgomery XV). Reaction of a supportive organization should be quick and in order to prevent possible negative consequences of the event. Also it is necessary to watch after people under an assisting care even after their problem is solved in order to gather information, concerning their success. Some of homeless people may come back to homelessness without proper guiding. Positive information is also important as long as it assists in the public opinion influence. Also, assisting organizations should watch over people who can suffer from the risk of homelessness. Care about people with disabilities, development a community-based housing, and providing supportive service for this category of citizens may be very efficient acts for the homelessness preventing company. The primary supporting strategy is, of course, cash assistance, still, psychological, juridical and other types of help are also needed.
Speaking about homelessness prevention, one should take into account the importance of public opinion concerning this question. People around should be positively disposed concerning this problem. Those, who face the problem of homelessness, are depressed, and public disapproval still more dispirits them. At the same time, very often homeless people are afraid of facing administrative and judicial difficulties and do not have money for competent advice of an advocate: “there need to be more support services to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place, such as advocacy, and ongoing support” (Bennett 90). Usually housing assistance programs include emergency, transitional and, of course, permanent housing, as well as voucher programs. At the same time, the percent of assisting services efficiency within areas are important. Figure 1 demonstrates proportion of such services, as housing, food, health and other program contacts. Analyzing this information, one may compare the level of service availability across the country (Burt 72). The Figure 1 offers comparison of effectiveness of assisting programs in central cities, suburbs and rural areas. The worst situation is in rural areas, while there is no such a big difference between the level of housing support in suburbs and central cities areas. Data, concerning other supportive and preventive programs are also very important, as long as homeless people often need not only housing assistance. Those, who get into such situations, usually are in a desperate situation, so, they need a comprehensive support.
Besides the effectiveness of preventing and supporting actions of organizations, engaged into the programs, there should be also coordination between them. Actions, fulfilled alone, provide fewer effects, than measures, implemented jointly. Usually, governmental and private efforts of preventing homelessness and assisting those who have already lost their homes are not effectively coordinated. Thereby, assisting communities will face the necessity to conduct their own studies so that they were able to guide local homeless people, prevent the threat of homelessness for those who is not on the streets yet and mainstream policy decisions. (Burt 76) Still, there are several ways of coordination inside the governmental assistance organizations; for example, such coordination “occurs through the Interagency Council on the Homeless created to coordinate the administration of programs and recourses for assisting homeless people” (Campbell 6).
Baumohl, Jim. Homelessness in America. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. Print.
Bennet, Andrew. Homelessness: Written Evidence. London: The Stationery Office, 2004. Print.
Burrows, Roger, Pleace, Nicholas, and Quilgars, Deborah. Homelessness and social policy. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print.
Burt, Martha. Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve. Philadelphia: DIANE Publishing, 1999. Print.
Burt, Martha, Pearson, Carol, and Montgomery, Ann Elizabeth. Homelessness: Prevention Strategies and Effectiveness. Hauppauge: Nova Publishers, 2007. Print.
Campbell, Susan. Homelessness: Coordination and Evaluation of Programs Are Essential. Philadelphia: DIANE Publishing, 1999. Print.
Levinson, David. Encyclopedia of Homelessness. Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2004. Print.
Marsh, Alex. Homelessness: exploring the new terrain. Bristol: The Policy Press, 1999. Print.