Homelessness remains an issue in many westernized nations. Although there are programs for helping with the cost of food andhousing, there are often not enough resources to help every homeless person out. Since this remains an issue, many teachers will assign argumentative essays on the subject. Students can check out the following 15 ideas to get started on their essay assignment.
This dilemma ultimately speaks to one of the central issues of contemporary homelessness in America. That is, what should be the goal of policies aimed at dealing with homelessness in America, and what are the most effective methods of achieving that goal? While ultimately there is no "right" answer to these questions given the diverse causes and needs of the homeless population, any significant progress in resolving them depends upon a collective response on the part of all American citizens. Only in this way will it be possible to truly provide the type of social activism and national "continuum of care" that is necessary to combat the continuing problem of homelessness in America today.
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Third, some attribute contemporary homelessness to the increase in dysfunctional and single, female headed households. As Jennings notes, "clearly a relationship exists between poverty status and family structure."39 Precisely what this relationship is, however, is somewhat unclear. For instance, Mary Jo Bane suggests that "an analysis of the reasons for the increased feminization of poverty suggests that about 40 percent of the increase is accounted for by changes in relative poverty rates while about 60 percent by changes in population composition."40 Indeed, less "than half of the poverty of female-headed and single person households and therefore only about a quarter to a fifth of all poverty appears to have come about simultaneously with changes in household composition."41 Moreover, the National Academy of Science's Commission on the Status of Blacks in America suggests that rather than the family structure, "it is low earnings that have led to increased poverty since the l970s."42 This suggests that family composition changes in the 1980s made only a trivial contribution to the increase in poverty.
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This structural transformation in the American economy was highly exacerbated by the conservative, neo-classical fiscal policies of the Reagan administration. These policies followed on the heels of the recession of the late 1970s which, by 1982, had left 10 percent of the workforce unemployed.15 They included: (i) a tight monetary policy characterized by high interest rates, benefiting wealthy creditors while impeding economic growth, (ii) economic deregulation and a favorable stance towards corporate mergers, (iii) the "reduction of top individual and corporate income tax rates", and (iv) an unequal taxing scheme which took a greater share of income away from low income families in comparison with those with greater income.16 These policies, along with others part of the "Reaganomics" fiscal program, contributed to the creation of 9 to 10 million more poor people in the 1980s, the increasing "feminiziation of poverty" in the United States, the rise of an "urban underclass" in the inner cities, and the widening relative gap between the rich and the poor within American society.17 All of these factors had a significant impact on the rise in homelessness throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed, while the economy surged upwards in the mid-i 980s, as Patterson suggests, "the social damage imposed by [this legacy] was severe and lasting."18
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Christopher Jencks, however, lists changes in the housing market as a "less-promising explanation" for homelessness since the mid-1970s. He argues that, in fact, most of the rent-burden increase in housing occurred in the 1970s before the homelessness crisis, while low-income tenant's burden rose very little in the 1980s.24 Moreover, he argues that a large portion of the rent-burden increase in the 1 970s and 1 980s was linked to improvements in the quality of housing, and also erroneous statistical calculations which failed to take into account increases in low-income tenants unreported assets.25 Jencks also notes that "vacancy rates in unsubsidized low-rent units were high throughout the 1970s and 1 980s", suggesting that lack of housing was not a reason for the rise of homelessness during that period.26 And lastly, Jencks points out that while appropriations for low-income housing fell dramatically throughout the Reagan and Bush years, "actual outlays for low-income housing, measured in constant dollars, rose from $9 billion in 1980 to $18 billion in 1992, and the number of federally subsidized rental units grew from 2.9 to 4.7 million."27 Clearly, therefore, while rising rents and changes in the housing market have had some significant impact on the rise of homelessness over the past several decades, precisely what that role has been is still being strongly contested.