Homelessness in the United States Essay

Increasing economic depression in America has contributed to homelessness that was initially nonexistence. The poverty index in America has dramatically increased due to the economic and social policies that the country has adopted in mitigating some of its troubled situations. As much as it is clear that there is an increasing trend of some Americans living far much below the poverty line, the government and the private sectors have continued to support programs like the military intervention that demand an enormous amount of money in other countries. This elicits the question as to whether the public and the private sectors have a responsibility of ensuring a reduction in the margin of homelessness. Additionally, it raises the issue of whether it is ethical to engage in other programs that could be viewed to be of secondary importance when there is an increase in the number of homeless individuals in the country (Bassuk, 2010).
 In an attempt to understand the situation of homelessness in the country currently and in future, this paper will analyze some responses to homelessness and the mechanisms through which the situation can be mitigated. Equally, the paper will discuss the ethical principles behind the responses to tackling homelessness in addition to their analysis from a commutative, and retributive justice perspective.

Overview of homelessness in America

Homelessness in America is an epidemic situation that is affecting people of all ages, ethnicity, and religion. The situation of homelessness in America extends from the rural to the urban areas where the homeless individuals live in dilapidated conditions predisposing them to environmental harm and diseases. According to the statistics of the national student campaign against hunger and homelessness, there is an increase of homeless people by about 13.2 annually. This situation when not appropriately addressed today, will lead to an increase in worse problems for the country in the future such as an increase in the crime rates.
 The statistical findings also reveal that the majority of the homeless individuals are forced to sleep under bridges, in the parks, shelters or some old cars. The inappropriateness of where the homeless people spend their night is yet another factor predisposing them to environmental hazards. Approximately 3.5 million persons in United States experience homelessness annually. About 35 of the homeless individuals are family people with their children. The fact that the children are also born in homeless situations fastens the rate of homelessness in America. Of the homeless people, 23 are the military veterans, children below 18 years form 25 , 30 are those who experience domestic violence while between 20-25 are people suffering from mental illness (Witte, Peter, 2011).

Responses to homelessness

There is a divergent opinion among the American public on how the situation of homelessness can be respondent to. One faction of Americans views homelessness as a social problem and demand strengthening of social policies as an appropriate means of tackling the situation. Some of the social aspects that could be used in the solution of the state of homelessness in America in accordance to the group in support of the social policies, is strengthening the links of religious groupings in support of the homelessness. However, another group of American public views the situation of homelessness as an economic problem that can only be solved by the homeless individuals on their own. This group points to the need for respect of business coupled with the reinforcement of an aggressive criminal justice system to tackle homelessness (Christian & Howson, 2009).

Use of laws in responding to homelessness

The United States laws that are enforced in an attempt to resolve homelessness situation are those that prevent the use of public space for private activities. The law prohibits sleeping, sitting or lying in the sidewalk and begging, and all these offenses attract a considerable amount of fine. The enforcement of neutral laws such as the laws that prohibits public drunkenness equally serves to reduce the number of individuals who sleep in the streets. These laws are implements through a collaborative use of measures such as the involvement of the police, and the use of courts of law are the strengths behind the implementation of the laws (Lee, Tyler, & Wright, 2010).
 A distributive justice approach to the situation of homelessness in accordance to the law operates under three theories of libertarianism, egalitarianism, and utilitarianism. According to libertarianism theory, homelessness is a personal choice and anyone who chooses to be homeless does so at pleasure. In this regard, the legal system has no moral responsibility of imposing stringent actions in an attempt to solve the homeless situation. It is thus unjust for the government to impose fines on people who are found in the streets, as their being in the streets has no direct effect on others. Nevertheless, the opponents of libertarianism theory argue that there is public safety that is involved in the situation of homelessness. The augment is based on the fact that the presence of the homeless individuals in the streets is a public nuisance, and thus interferes with the normal operation of business activities.
 Utilitarianism, which is a moral principle, requires that all parties who are interested in the use of the space share the public space. Thus, the law should devise mechanisms through which the homeless individuals are compensated for their evacuation from the public space. According to Utilitarianism, the law has no morality in fining and evacuating the homeless from the public space as they too have equal rights to be in the space. Just like the Utilitarianism theory, egalitarianism demands that all people have equal right to the use of public space thus removal of the homeless from the public by the use of law and the court system is unjust (Christian & Howson, 2009).
 Commutative justice argues on the context of formal and informal contracts. It thus calls for the fundamental fairness in the treatment of both the homeless and the public in the society. Commutative justice would demand an agreement to be made between the law enforcement agencies, the homeless, and an evacuation from the public space be made after a mutual agreement. According to retributive justice, it is unjust for the application of the law to bar the homeless from using the public space without the government’s initial action of preparing for their alternative settlement. It thus views the use of the law in this situation as socially unjust as it does not offer the homeless an alternative means of living.

Response to homelessness through policy

The United States’ government has developed several policies for dealing with homelessness situations. The government started the funding policy to the homeless in 1980. The policy was synergized by building of shelters for the homeless in 1984. In 1987, homelessness problem became recognized as an enormous social problem through the Mc Kinney act. The administration of President George bush set a national policy for the ending of chronic homelessness by 2012. The idea began as a 10-year plan that was geared towards the provision of both social and economic support to the homeless people as a means of ending the situation.
 The policy set by President Bush’s administration called for a collective responsibility of the whole society to participate in support both financially and socially to the homeless people as a means of providing stable household to homeless. President Barack Obama, on May 20, 2009, signed the “Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009”. The key purpose of the act was to define homelessness, homeless individuals and the homeless individuals with a disability. Equally, this policy was designed to elicit social and economic support of the homeless by the government and the society (M. E. O’Connell, 2003).
 Based on the use of policies as means of solving the situations of homelessness, both distributive, commutative and retributive justice appreciates administration of justice to the homeless individuals by the government. The use of policy as a means of providing homes to the homeless recognizes the significance of the homeless in the society and the entitlement of equal rights and privileges.

Response to homelessness through programs

Majority of the programs that are devised by the government to end situations of homelessness in cooperates housing programs to the clients. The provision of housing programs is given on either transitional or permanent basis and is usually for very low fees or free. The use of transitional housing program for the homeless is aimed at enabling the family to acquire a permanent housing as soon as possible. The use of transitional housing program is thus meant to assist the homeless for a fixed duration or until they are, stable enough to acquire their own. The beneficiaries of transitional housing program are mostly people affected by disasters such as fire, earthquakes, and tsunamis.
 The program for the provision of permanent housings is categorically meant to benefit the homeless with disability. The mentally and the physically impaired Americans are the targets of this program as there are very little promises to adjustment in the life of these people that can enable them acquire their homes. People who have been living under the influence of drugs and alcohol as well and the physically handicapped would benefit for a permanent housing program.
 Analysis of the use of a program-based approach in mitigation of the housing problem is just according to the application of distributive, commutative and retributive justice. In accordance to the retributive justice, provision of temporary and permanent housing recognizes the need for equitable distribution of resources within the society. This makes the program approach a just mechanism for the resolution of the homelessness issues (Bake, 2010).

Response to homelessness through individual behavior

Majority of Americans hold the school of thought that homelessness is a problem that is contributed to by behavioral characteristics of a person. People who consume excessive alcohol or those who abuse hard drugs are prone to homelessness as they lack self-care behavior. These people are the once who are often charged with a violation of the safety of the public space. Behavioral characteristics of a person can lead to a rise in domestic violence that is a contributing factor to homelessness. It is thus evident that, correction of the uncharacteristic behavior of people can be a significant in the resolution of some of the cases of homelessness (Tompsett, Domoff, & Toro, 2013).
 Educational programs are some of the fundamental tools through which behavioral changes can be achieved. Implementation of a compulsory school programs where the schoolchildren are tough on the effects of drugs and drug abuse act as a strong influencer to controlling the nature of consumption of the hard drugs. Equally provision of rehabilitative programs where the former addicts are modeled thus acting as agents of change is important for modeling the behavior of individuals towards resolution from drug abuse. Formation of support groups is an individualistic approach that can be maintained through a partnership between the government and the private sector. The presence of support groups can be used as avenues of reforming the victims of domestic violence who are potential homeless people.
 Analysis of behavioral causes of homelessness through distributive justice reveals that the public and the society have no obligation to the provision of homes to the homeless. This is because of a general principle that every person should be responsible for his or her action. Nevertheless, commutative theory holds that the society has a responsibility of caring and giving guidance to the homeless. The society can provide this needed support through encouragement and support of rehabilitative and school health programs. This will ensure there is maintenance of mental health that will help in the resolution of homelessness resulting from mental illness and drug abuse (M. J. O’Connell, 2008).

Ethical consideration as a response to homelessness

The problem of homelessness is an ethical problem as much as it is a social problem. In a society that is considered developed country, the presence of homes people In America draws an ethical and moral question. America is a country whose resources are sufficient to sustain all the citizens of the country. When some citizens own more than enough for use while a counterpart is homeless, ethical concerns must be considered. Ethical consideration based on the policy of communism requires justice in sharing of the national resources, irrespective of whether all the citizens worked for the development of the resources. The application of a communist policy in the government of the country could be a loophole in the solution of homelessness in America (Runnels, 2009).


The generation of Americans in the next 30 years will view the situation of homelessness differently depending on the contingency measures that are put today. The world is becoming more capitalized, thus diluting most of the social and ethical principles. In the next thirty years, the homelessness problem will not be viewed as a social issue but an individual and a behavioral issue. This is because the individuals in the society will be so egocentric to the level of diluting the responsibility of the society to the provision for the less fortunate members of the society.

The situation of homelessness is an epidemic concern that should elicit a multi-sectorial approach of both the public and the private sector. Provision of homes to the homeless improves the overall health of the country as it helps in the prevention of environmental hazards. By extension, provision of homes to the homeless would help in the reduction of health burden to the country.


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