Ending Homelessness Today — Affordable Housing
Homelessness: A Brief History
July 01, 2009
So, to kick things off, here’s a nice, soft introduction into how we got where we are today: Homelessness has been around pretty much since there were more people than homes (read: a long, long time). A number of national and economic events (anyone remember the Great Depression?) prompted bursts of homelessness from time to time, but local and federal authorities usually answered the need. Homelessness as we know it today surged around the 1980s. Why the 80s? Good question. Perhaps the most sensationalized - and one of the more controversial - cause of modern-day homelessness is deinstitutionalization.
The 1950s and 1960s saw a wave of activism against mental health institutions as reports of neglect, abuse, and mistreatment in such facilities became commonplace. The goal of deinstitutionalization was to move people who are mentally ill and disabled from these institutions into community-based health centers, where they would be fewer restrictions on patients and a lesser financial burden to federal and state coffers. (Popular opinion seems to fault President Reagan for deinstitionalization, but my own research has not validated that opinion.) Many argue that the effort has been unsuccessful, and that people who are mentally ill are now housed in the criminal justice system or are homeless altogether.
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