Homelessness had been around since the beginning of mankind. While some become homeless due to factors beyond their control, others become homeless on their own accord such as philosopher Diogenes, or Siddhārtha Gautama also known as the Buddha.
Homelessness and Westward Expansion.
During the eras of colonization, and westward expansion, and times prior, homelessness for many was easily combatable. During these times manifest destiny was still part of the conscious mind within society. This meant for many finding a place to live was as simple
as finding an empty parcel of land, and being capable of building and maintaining your own home.
The beginning of westward expansion all started to come to fruition at the end of the Civil War. Many prior slaves were left with the expectation of reparations from such political sentiments such as “forty acres and a mule”. Such acts however never came to be. This left many people unfairly displaced, and a large portion of wealth left to an undeserving autocratic class of citizens. While the outcome of the civil war was supposed to end slavery and bring about a egalitarian form of government, it failed short of those endeavors. This created a widespread form of debt slavery, such as sharecropping which became very popular after the Civil War.
Homelessness and The End of Manifest Destiny.
Eventually the times of manifest destiny ended. Due to the technological revolutions of the industrial age many people were displaced from rural areas. This was consequence of farm work drying up, due to technology making labor easier. As these people went broke, corporations slowly seized properties, and moved most labor jobs to urban areas. At first this worked remarkably well for many. With the creation of the first automobile, steam engines, and the construction of massive infrastructure projects within cities, there seemed to be no shortage of work. However life for the urbanites of that time quickly changed after the events of the Great Depression.
Many of the manufacturing jobs that originally were a hallmark of urban cities dried up after the end of WWII. This had a huge impact on the city dwellers who relied on these jobs, with no work and not enough jobs with livable wages, they were forced out of their homes. This impoverishment led to a massive increase in homelessness. Old warehouse became a haven for squatters and battlegrounds for gangs who relied on criminal activities for wealth.
Homelessness and Civil Rights.
All of this happened around the same time as the civil rights and women’s rights movement. This was an absolute necessity that helped to quell some of the atrocities that had arisen from the separatist movements, gender inequality, and Jim Crow laws of the time. This helped provide more equality to minorities and women. Giving them greater access to equal rights and an increased capacity for upward mobility within the work place, that many were refusing to provide. However this also created a huge influx of workers.
While this could have been used as a good thing, corporations used this to their advantage to disenfranchise the middle class. Due to the overly saturated markets the majority of new workers were willing to work for less,. This same occurence happened during the end of slavery. This competition drove down the competive pay that was seen as a hallmark of American society. While this could have been used as a way to lower the traditional 9-5 working hours, it was used as a weapon to inflate the currency, and lower the standards of living, while increasing the costs of living. This allowed banks to create huge markets for gentrification.
Homelessness and Consumerism.
Consumerism had quickly become a widespread tool used in media. Corporations saw nothing but profits. Many of these business’s shipped overseas to lower the cost of their production even further. This decreased even more manufacturing jobs, and has been a factor for the trade deficit.
Corporations used mass media as an advertisement wing, while using lobbyists to spread propaganda to help form laws with their profits in mind, rather than the general welfare of mankind. Banks used this consumerist market as an opportunity to increase their wealth acquisition by offering subprime loans to people they knew wouldn’t be able to afford it. Eventually leading to the economic crash and bailout. The laws that were formed to prevent another bailout and to decrease banking corruption eventually lead to a decrease in homelessness over the past decade.
Politics of Homelessness.
Past politics played a major role in the formation of the huge homeless population of past eras. Richard Nixon set up the war on drugs to destabilize minorities, and what he coined as the “hippie movement”. Many of these people were non violent drug users, this created a surge in Federal Prisoners. Many of these people were business, and home owners who lost everything after being placed into the system. This increased poverty and crime especially with in urban areas.
The military at the time was also involved in the Vietnam war, which caused more domestic homelessness in a variety of ways. First off the military personnel was used to transport illegal drugs into the United States, this was made quite famous by Frank Lucas. Many allege that the CIA at the time was directly involved with selling drugs to America as well.
Vietnam War and Homelessness
The Vietnam war by itself effected many soldiers negatively. In Vietnam many of them became addicts, many of them suffered from PTSD. Many of them were trying to use drugs as a coping mechanism, but eventually succumbed to addiction. The stress from the PTSD, and addiction left many seeking psychiatric care. Due to their mental imbalances, many struggled for gainful employment and wound up drug users, in mental institutions, on welfare, and homeless.
Following the Nixon administration President Jimmy Carter saw the need of increased mental health care, and signed the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. However this act was shortly lived as most of the legislation was repealed through the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 signed by President Ronald Reagan.
Causes of Homelessness
The largest cause of homelessness is economic instability, which is most directly affected by mental illness, addiction, and disability which can all be addressed with proper legislation and funding. Some of the factors cause homelessness are:
- Poor public education, which doesn’t properly teach students about how to be economically successful.
- Drug addiction which isn’t properly addressed, but overly punished creating a criminal association rather than a relationship that leads to rehabilitation.
- Mental illness which often times is left undiagnosed and untreated due to poor health care systems.
- Poor support for those that are disabled and incapable of working.
- Lack of livable minimum wage.
These situations have been caused by corporations which have used lobbying to get subsidizes to disenfranchise small business owners. Banks who created an economic downfall for their own personal profits, that led to multiple foreclosures, and then made the American public clean up their mess. The government who has purposely armed gangs and sold drugs to it’s own citizens for profit, such as in the Iran-Contra scandal where they purposely created the crack epidemic. Then there is us the American voters who need to stand up and fight against the tyranny that is controlling our people and destroying the health care of the American People.
Homelessness in the Past Decade.
While homelessness has dropped in many areas in the United States, it has risen sharply in certain states. If proper measures are not taken a resurgence maybe on the horizon. As automation increases, jobs become more autonomous and need less, and less people. If we do not make the required changes within society to reflect the trends of those changes homelessness will once again become more commonplace in the United States. Another battle that we must fight is to regain a positive foreign trade balance, having at home manufacturing provides economic stability, and decreases influence from foreign nationals.
Many states, and local business’s have gone to great measures to help the homeless populations. They’ve set up food banks, homeless shelters, and some even provide tents and clothes. These however don’t directly combat the main causes of homelessness, but rather are de facto solutions. While they are of tremendous importance for taking care of our civilization, they don’t do anything to prevent homelessness themselves.
What Should Be Done About Homelessness.
We need to take a hard look at our society, and determine the best course of action. In the United States we already have more houses than homeless, and waste enough food to feed everyone in the United States. If our country was motivated enough to battle these causes homelessness and hunger could easily be eradicated. We have the resources at our disposal to end homelessness the only question is whether or not we will, and the course of action we take to do so.