This paper will examine the relationship between structural factors in American society and individual short-comings and inadequacies in explaining the rise of homelessness over the past several decades. In particular, it will posit that structural and individual factors are often inextricably linked in the cycle of poverty and homelessness, and that they tend to re-enforce each other as they are manifest socially, politically, and economically in American society. And yet, the degree to which structural or individual factors play the most decisive role in contributing to homelessness in a particular case varies significantly depending upon the specific circumstances of that case. As a result, the first section of this essay will outline some of the broad-based structural and individual factors which largely account for poverty and homelessness in the American context. The second section will then analyze the relative strengths and weaknesses of these differing factors as they play out in the lives of the majority of the American homeless.
Since homelessness is largely about poverty, therefore, we can attribute some of its structural causes to this late twentieth century, capitalist economic predicament. But what are the specific economic reasons for the rise in homelessness within the framework of these general contemporary conditions of poverty? And what additional structural problems account for homelessness in America today?
core197b - Major Causes of Poverty in America
Moreover, there are a wide array of different sub-groups within the homeless population in general. These include the mentally ill, alcohol or drug addicted, female heads of single households, children, runaway youth, veterans, elderly, families, and some of the working poor. As a result, the degree to which structural or individual factors play the decisive role in determining a person's homelessness varies greatly depending upon the particular case in question. Therefore, no wide-ranging, universal conclusions can be drawn about the relative contribution of structural or individual factors to the rise of homelessness over the last twenty years. However, it can definitely be stated that the two factors have been inexorably linked together in causing homelessness, and have re-enforced each other over the past twenty years in sustaining poverty and homelessness in the American context.