How Homelessness Has Changed Since The Great Depression

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The image of homelessness has changed since the Great Depression, when many homeless people were elderly and white. Today a growing number of women and families, including young children, are homeless because of insufficient housing and resources (Bassuk & Rosenberg, 1988). As the number of homeless people has continued to rise over the past decade, homelessness has become a central feature of life in America.

Homelessness tends to be associated with images of people who sleep in the streets, parks, subways, and sidewalks; who lack shelter of any kind, and are transient throughout the year, moving from place to place. The homeless are sometimes considered as undeserving of support; they are frequently stigmatized as being mentally ill, out of control, and are viewed by some as personally responsible for their situation (Phelan, Link, Moore & Stueve, 1997).

Homelessness began to emerge as a US national public policy and global issue in the 1980s, as a consequence of widening income disparities in the developed world, and in the developing world, growing urbanization and natural disasters (Daiski, 2007). In the US, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines homelessness as:

Lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and
Having a primary nighttime residence that is a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including, for instance, welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and
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