Homelessness: From Crisis to Routine

Posted: December 5, 2013 by satherej in Uncategorized

There is a book entitled, Confronting homelessness : poverty, politics, and the failure of social policy, traces the rise and fall of a social problem. A big social problem: homelessness. By recognizing and naming the crisis as the first step, the authors describe how the plague of homelessness has gone from a catastrophe to a routine occurrence. Through tracing a brief  history of homelessness they isolate the root of transition from social problem to bureaucratic problem.

Provided is the abstract to the work, written by the authors:

“Whose fault is homelessness? Thirty years ago the problem exploded as a national crisis, drawing the attention of activists, the media, and policymakers at all levels, yet the homeless population endures to this day, and arguably has grown. In this book the author offers a major reconsideration of homelessness in the U.S., casting a critical eye on how we as a society respond to crises of inequality and stratification. Incorporating local studies into a national narrative, he probes how homelessness shifted from being the subject of a politically charged controversy over poverty and social class to posing a functional question of social service delivery. At the heart of his analysis is insight into why we accept highly symbolic policies that dampen public outrage, but fail to address the fundamental structural problems that would allow real change.”

Think about giving the book a read- it isn’t localized or targeted at alleviating homelessness in one place, but in the understanding of the plight that is homelessness everywhere. And through better understanding why we can ‘accept’ homelessness as a condition of society, we can better condition our own minds out of accepting it as a permanent reality. Questions to ask ourselves are; why do we readily accept “highly symbolic policies” that subdue our otherwise intense reaction to the crisis of widespread homelessness? And; is our failure to “address fundamental structural problems” due to our lack of communication and discussion about the issue? Can advocacy really be the impetus that “would allow real change?”

It seems that advocacy, outreach and open discussion of the issue remains the undeserved, and under-appreciated/recognized, component of ultimately alleviating homelessness. There is no better way than to start a discussion and follow its path to see where it goes from there…

  • Wagner, D., & Gilman, J. (2012). Confronting homelessness : poverty, politics, and the failure of social policy / David Wagner with Jennifer Barton Gilman. Boulder, Colo. : Lynne Rienner Publishers, c2012.
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