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Homelessness as a Social Construct
Home is a fundamental asset for human life as it forms the basis for social and
economic security. Unfortunately, there exists a percentage of individuals and families across
the world where who lack roofs over their heads or permanent places they may call homes.
Homelessness, according to the article “Living Rough: Hunter Gatherers of Tiamoana,” by
Revell and Jaye, refers to a situation where people lack safe and secure housing. Such
individuals or families live in uninhabitable houses, in the open spaces, town streets as
temporary or permanent accommodation. But, they sometimes share accommodations in
conjected dwellings because they lack enough capital for affordable housing units. Hugo
Bachega’s article, “Homeless in the U.S.: A deepening crisis on the streets of America,”
presents the problem as not fixed in any part of the world but a shared experience around the
globe despite in varying scales. According to the article, homelessness in the United States is
a growing issue that does not choose age, race, or nationality of the affected people. People
sleep on bare ground, or cardboards, under bridges or trees while their belongings find safety
in their plastic bags that symbolize their temporary lives in a particular geographical location.
Most of the victims of homelessness pass as poverty stridden individuals who beg in the
streets for food or engage in social unrest such as drug peddling and robberies. However,
regardless of nature and experience, homelessness is a social construct by the government,
the media, and the general communities, and it with this idea in mind that this paper purposes
of exposing what and how they frame the causes and effects of the social issue.
II. Discussion
a. Academic sources
Lack of homes or adequate housing in the United States draws roots from several
perceived reasons. Scholars and government agencies explore the issue in various
perspectives to provide narration on what exactly ails the community to contribute to the
surging number of inadequacy in housing with the facts still speculations. Thompson,
Ronald G., et al.’s article “Substance-Use Disorders and Poverty as Prospective Predictors of
First-Time Homelessness in the United States,” associate the problem of homelessness to
substance abuse. The renowned scholar relates cases of mental disorders caused by the
misuse of drugs to the impoverishment of individuals and their dependents. Victims of
substance abuse may not secure employment opportunities and even thrown out of their
families to end up in the streets at night.
Individuals and communities in the United States link homelessness to several social
problems. The public believes homelessness as contributing to moral degradation and crime
in major cities, towns, and the rural areas of the country. According to “Homeless Individuals’
Social Construction of a Park: A Symbolic Interactionist Perspective,” Reuben Addo
indicated the development of land ownership disputes between the actual owners of the land
used by the homeless and the victims of homelessness. However, the real problem ensures
where the public views the landless sleeping in public parks and the streets to threaten public
tranquillity, as they may litter the space or engage in criminal activities (Addo 2063). Such
arguments tend to shut accessibility of the open spaces from the use by the homeless as local
authorities enact bylaws to restrict the unauthorized use of public land for temporary dwelling
and deny homes for the homeless. Another view held by landowners concerning the
homeless is the perception of dirty and devaluation of sceneries in the city centers and parks.
The above arguments about the causes of low house capacities in most states of the
United States are ideas created and accepted by the community because of the main problems
facing the industry related to regulatory measures. The federal and the state government
influence the distribution of land, therefore, affecting housing. According to a recent report
on the stated of homelessness in the United States presented to the Council of Economic
Advisers in September 2019, taxation on land for construction of housing units, subsidies,
and allocation of special zones may hinder the availability of land for housing construction
and influence the pricing of rents among tenants. “When housing prices rise, economic theory
predicts that more people will have difficulty paying rent and in some cases, end up
homeless” (White House 11). The White House report on the state of homelessness in the
United States went further to indicated heavy regulation in the housing industry is the central
driver of the social problem in many communities. For instance, rent control, restricted
zoning, and growth management restrict the mobility of land to cause inadequate housing
systems (White house 11).
Notably, landowners, the government may often blame the disadvantaged individual
sleeping in the street and sees homelessness as a personal problem. This ignores the factual
role of government impressibility, and other social institutions play in providing enough
affordable housing systems and units. Although people with mental health problems may
populate the streets and parks of major cities as this group, according to common knowledge,
it accounts for a small population. Lack of proper housing denies people privacy and comfort
of life and therefore link to numerous effects on the victim against commonly held
perceptions. Open spaces used by the homeless are cold or provide a variety of unfriendly
environment for both physical and mental health. Victimization may lead to the emotional
degradation of the homeless due to their traumatizing status as a cause of the increased
mental breakdown among people without a permanent home. The rough appearances of these
people present then as mentally challenged. Cold injuries, skin diseases, sleep deprivation,
sexual assault, and cardiorespiratory complications may form some of the most common
health problems faced by the unhoused people in the country. They may also suffer low self-
esteem, engage in drug dependency, engage in violence, and increase their chances of
entering the criminal justice system. Improved building technology in the housing sector and
increased employment opportunities
b. Popular sources
According to the article “Los Angeles Homeless population, City County” by Sam
Kevin, the governor of the State of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti, blames on fewer
efforts made by the federal government on creating equitable investment. However, the
mayor points a finger on the government that failed to initiate projects geared towards
minimizing mental health problems such as trump that sends many people into the street each
year. In another article dubbed “Trump: Homeless people hurt the ‘prestige’ of Los Angeles,
San Francisco,” by Rucker and Stein, president Trump claims the homeless as reducing the
value of major cities in California and other states of the country. Most of these advantaged
people in society are collectively seen in a bad light as poor, filthy, and require eradication
from public areas. But, the real problem facing the homeless is far from the painted truth.
However, Phelan, Jo, et al. claimed in their article, “The Stigma of Homelessness: The
Impact of the Label ‘Homeless’ on Attitudes Toward Poor Persons,” that the public perceives
the homeless as rejects of the society. This leads to stigmatization and the development of
mental problems among the victims.
The government and the media consider the problems of homelessness in Los Angles
to be the longest time issue, and the failure of those responsible for actions worsened the
situation. The argument applies to the broader United States. The question of inadequate
housing in the country is, therefore, a blame game where those in power blame individuals
while the community blames the government for negligence or lack of enough projects to
curb the condition. There is a notion that rebrands the homeless as criminals. There seems a
negative push of media headlines that associate the homeless with crimes. Popularised bad
image adopts homelessness as a synonym to crime to leave the victims vulnerable members
of society. In other words, the American public perceives the homeless as harmful members
of the community who need elimination at all costs.
c. Comparison and analysis of claims
Homelessness in the United States is a critical issue that attracts attention to all
stakeholders. However, information is alienated because the presentation is not factual. For
instance, data by scholarly articles, government reports, and the media present different views
on the problem. The government of the United States invests a lot of funds and other material
efforts to eradicate homelessness without having an idea of the scope of the problem. It
presents over 5000,000 individuals spending their nights in the cold or undesirable structures
every night. However, Casey Leins’s article “Facts About Homelessness in America,” reports
more than 700,000 of underage children alone joining the homeless population each year
while Sam indicates the population of homeless people in Los Angeles surpassed a 36,000
margin in 2019 with a projected increase in the near future. While the exact population of the
homeless in the United States may be statistical speculation, figures by the White House may
fall short of the reality.
The causes and effects of homelessness have both similarities and differences, as
presented by scholars and media outlets. The two sources construct the causes of the problem
as emanating from personal issues. Thompson, Ronald G., et al. argue homelessness as an
effect of the mental problems that send many people in the streets. This is similar to mayor
Mayor Eric Garcettisetiments of the government to address the psychological issues as the
contributing factor to homelessness. The effect of homelessness in the country also bases on
varying perspectives. Addo captures the public notion that the homeless invade personal
spaces and litter the environment while increasing drugs and other forms of crimes in the
community. This is similar to sentiments by President Trump’s view of the problem as
captured by Rucker and Stein. The President even claims of homelessness as degrading the
values of rich urban centers. Some of the media outlets frame homelessness as a crime
because it results in an immoral society that engages in robbery and substance abuse.
Homelessness resides in the notion that the victims get into the streets because of
personal and health problems instead of viewing the issue as a result of failing government
policies and initiative to the production of housing units. The resent report on the state of the
housing sector in the United States presented to the White House indicates the facts about the
problem as arising from the lack of proper regulations of housing accessibility. This includes
several media articles performing factual analysis of the issues arising from the willingbuyer-willing-seller that creates capitalistic control of housing systems to disadvantage the
poor. It is also a social construct to view the homeless as criminals since crime may be
prevalent in regions with the least cases of homelessness. The landowners and the media give
a bad name to the homeless and discriminates to subject the victims more trauma, poverty,
and useless life in the street when communities should understand the factual circumstance
ailing the victims and offer help.
III. Conclusion
Generally, homelessness is a social problem that suffers ideological constructions
about its origin and its effects in society because the media and the public accept the notions.
The government, including the President and his handles, peddle the idea of the homeless are
underrated people in society who bring shame to fade the prestigious glory of U.S. cities.
Communities also perceive the homeless as private trespassing places and reducing the
beauty of parks and other public areas and deserve removal. But it even more shocking to
link majority homeless cases to mental problems of the victims as it is their stigmatization
leading to depression, which drives them to trauma, more suffering, and more poverty. Some
of the victims face arrests and harassment because society renamed them as criminals.
Poverty due to unemployment and other causes as well as poorly regulated movement of
land, buildings, and rental resources drive cases of homelessness. And the government would
do the country huge favor when it directs resources towards solutions to the problem. Both
the communities and the media should treat homelessness with justice because it is a sensitive
issue in the country. The United States may come out of the stereotypical social construction
of homelessness by understanding the underlying problems of the problem and work towards
sustainable solutions.
Works Cited
Academic sources:
Addo, Reuben. Homeless Individuals’ Social Construction of a Park: A Symbolic
Interactionist Perspective. 2018.
Thompson, Ronald G., et al. “Substance-Use Disorders and Poverty as Prospective
Predictors of First-Time Homelessness in the United States.” American Journal of
Public Health, vol. 103, no. S2, 2013, pp. S282-S288
White House. “The State of Homelessness in America: The Council of Economic Advisers
September 2019.” White House, 2019, Accessed
5 Dec. 2019.
Popular media sources:
Kevin, Sam. “Los Angeles Homeless population, City County.” The Guardian, 2019, Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.
Phelan, Jo, et al. “The Stigma of Homelessness: The Impact of the Label “Homeless” on
Attitudes Toward Poor Persons.” Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 60, no. 4, 1997,
p. 323.
Rucker, Philip, and Jeff Stein. “Trump: Homeless people hurt the ‘prestige’ of Los Angeles,
San Francisco.” The Washington Post, 18 Sept. 2019, Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.
Other Sources:
Bachega, Hugo. “A Deepening Crisis on the Streets of America.” BBC News, 8 Oct. 2018,
Leins, Casey. “Facts About Homelessness in America.” U.S. News & World Report: News,
Rankings and Analysis on Politics, Education, Healthcare and More, 29 Sept. 2019, Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.
White House. “The State of Homelessness in America: The Council of Economic Advisers
September 2019.” White House, 2019, Accessed
5 Dec. 2019.
Petty, James. “Carelessly Linking Crime to Being Homeless Adds to the Harmful
Stigma.” The Conversation, 29 May 2019, Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.

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