V anderbilt u niversity Center for Community Studies


Background on Homelessness



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Background on Homelessness

Although homelessness has likely been a problem for U.S. communities since our nation was formed, the 1980's saw a rise in people on the streets and society's consciousness of the issues surrounding their plight. During the 80's, the number of people on the streets and the causes for their homelessness rose sharply – changing the strategies necessary to alleviate homelessness (Lee, 1989). Through the surge of research in this period, we learned how complicated homelessness is and what the myriad outcomes of being on the streets are; homelessness is associated with problem behaviors in children, strained family relationships, increased exposure to trauma, increased anger and depression, and greater social stigma (Biswas-Diener & Diener, 2006).

As the stereotype of the homeless person started to fade, research focused on understanding the real face of homelessness and the incidence of homelessness within the population. According to a 1990 phone poll, 7.4% of people had been homeless at some point in their life and 3.1% of respondents had been homeless within the previous 5 years (Shinn & Tsemberis, 1998). These data defy the image of lifelong, mentally-ill, substance abusing men that previously dominated the nation's vision of homelessness and tell us that a large and wide segment of the U.S. population face the streets at some point in their life. Although the 90's saw a reduction in national political focus on homelessness, in 2002 the Federal Interagency Council on Homelessness reinvigorated its efforts toward prevention of homelessness (Burt, 2003). The national resurgence in the interest to cure homelessness has led to many cities adopting and enacting a 10 year plan to end homelessness. Nashville has taken this plan seriously, creating a homelessness commission and conducting research to understand and end homelessness in the metro area.




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