Homelessness among Children in America


Homelessnessamong Children in America


Homelessnessis described by the state of people living without permanentresidential places for themselves. Homeless people, especiallychildren stay in temporary shelters or overnight places like thestreets and public place all their lives. The situation for thehomeless is dire when children are the homeless people in thesociety. This paper seeks to explore homelessness among children inAmerica as a social issue and discuss the different viewpoints on theproblem. The discussion in this paper will illustrate the historicaltimeline that shows how viewpoints about the children homelessnesshave changed. Moreover, the discussion will illustrate the social,political and economic factors during the different time periods thatshaped the viewpoints about homelessness among children in America.

Thenumber of homeless children in America has increased over time to analarming level. According toBeker and Boxill (2014), theincreasing level of poverty rate is mostly blamed to be the maincause of the increasing number of homeless children in the UnitedStates. However, there are fundamental factors that contribute to theproblem in relation to different time lines of the homelessnessissue. Therefore, understanding the historical timelines of theproblem is important to comprehend these factors. These factors shapethe viewpoints through which the public and the government viewed thehomeless children. From the early nineteenth century up to thecurrent times, the problem of homeless children has shaped thesocial, economic and political discussions because of the impact ithas on the country. As the factors affecting the homeless childrenchanged, the viewpoints also changed.

Duringthe early and mid twentieth century, homelessness was a socialproblem affecting the urban centers in America. Most homeless peopledwelt in the streets and specific sections of the cities and townsand travelling stations. For example, in New York, the area calledBowery was then known of homelessness with the homeless children andalcoholics, sleeping on the street and the train stations. Thesituation created a stereotype called the Bowery Stereotype, whichviewed the homeless as alcoholics and drug users (Beker&amp Boxill, 2014). Bekerand Boxill (2014) argue that children do not fit in this opinion, butwere considered to be in the same category. Duringthis period, a number of social, political and economic factorsshaped the state of homeless children in the country, and how it wasviewed.

Povertywas a major economic factor that shaped the viewpoints of people inregard to homeless children. Children from poorer families could notget enough or no food at home, as parents could not afford to caterfor them. Therefore, they were forced to go to the streets in urbancenters to borrow from the people. As a result, the people viewedhomeless children in the streets as those from the poor background.As the times changed, the number of homeless children increased, butthe common denominator that shaped the viewpoint of people stillremained to be poverty. While there were political factors likegovernment negligence to take care of these children, the main causeof the problem was poverty.

Inthe late twentieth century, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, thenumber of homeless people and children increased in America. Theincrease led to a bigger problem as the competition for the littlespace in the streets and public places was high among the homelesschildren. This time, the problem of homelessness in America wasshaped by a macroeconomic problem of national economic crisis due toeconomic deterioration. At this time, especially between 1981 and1990, the economy of the United States was in a distress, amacroeconomic problem characterized by high unemployment rates andbudget deficits (Beker&amp Boxill, 2014). As a result,the government cut the budgetary allocation for low-cost housingleading to increased homelessness, which contributed to having morechildren living homeless on the streets.

Inaddition, the government cut the social services to people, whichincreased the level of poverty and housing capacity in the UnitedStates. At the same time, there were no designated programs by thegovernment to stop the rise of homeless children or even prevent theproblem. Therefore, homelessness was viewed as a failure by thegovernment to offer social support services to the population.Moreover, homelessness was viewed as an indicator of the economiccrisis in the country and the government`s inability to manage thesituation. While this was a cause of homelessness, the problem led tothe rise of social and economic issues that affected both thehomeless and the general population of the United States.

Inthe beginning of the twenty first century in 2000s, childhomelessness in America was consistent, but the rate of increase wassignificantly reduced by the government. However, the number washigh, standing at 1.5 million homeless children in 2006 (Ziv,2014). While the problempersisted towards 2010, the government made efforts to throughinitiatives that cooperated with the people in the programs toresettle the homeless. During this period, the main factors thatshaped the view of homelessness were political and social. Thepolitical opinion in regard to the problem changed as governmentviewed the homelessness problem as a threat to the social peace andeconomic stability of the country. The change in the politicalviewpoint led to the development of the initiatives that were notexistent in the periods before. However, the problem still increasedto a higher number in 2010 compared to the 2006 figures (Ziv,2014).

Atthe same time, the social problem of prostitution affected theviewpoint of the people in regard to their opinion on the homelesswomen and children. The rise of the cases of prostitution in thecountry was deemed to be contributed by the homelessness in thestreets, especially in the urban centers. Therefore, the associationbetween the two viewed the homeless children differently, especiallyyoung women who were genuinely on the streets due to homelessness.Bekerand Boxill (2014), the reason forthis viewpoint is because homelessness increased the poverty levelsof the victims. Therefore, the children found it easy to look forincome through the sexual means of becoming commercial sex work. Thisshaped the viewpoint that people had on the homeless children,especially the women.

Inaddition, this period saw a change in the viewpoint of the people inregard to crime and homelessness. This association and viewpointchanged due to the rise of crime in the streets and the increase inthe level of homeless people in urban centers. According to Bekerand Boxill (2014), this isbecause the homeless children turned to crime to generate income fortheir own survival as they found no other way to create the means ofliving. Therefore, most people viewed homeless children as criminalswho are out to rob in order to generate income. This associationshaped the way homelessness of children was viewed in the country andthe treatment that some of them get from the public.

Atthe current time, the rate of homelessness among children hasincreased to significant levels in the United States. This is becauseof the increase to the homelessness levels in the country. Accordingto Ziv(2014), about 2.5 millionAmerican children are homeless, which translated to about one inevery thirty children in 2013. This was an increased from the 1.6million homeless children in the country in 2010 (Ziv,2014). The issue is viewed with adifferent perspective as more people recognize the real impact of theproblem. Many people have found it wise to support the governmentsolve the homelessness problem in the country. For example, somecorporate organizations have established social responsibilityprograms and initiatives that seek to resettle the homeless children.The increase in the numbers of the homeless children been viewed as asignificant social and economic issue because their plight raisesconcern for the public.


Theproblem of homeless children is a social issue that has persistedover various historical times. As the problem progresses, the way itis viewed also changed as the social, political and economic factorsthat influenced the view changed. In the early and mid nineteenthcentury, the homeless children were living in towns affected by lackof programs to solve their plight. In the late nineteenth century,the economic crisis and budget deficits led to increased homelessnessand low support from the public and government. However, in thetwenty first century and up to current times, the government and thepublic have been positive and receptive of the homeless children. Thechanging view is as a result of the change in the factors affectingthe homeless and the understanding of the plight of the affectedchildren.


Beker,J., &amp Boxill, N.A. (2014). HomelessChildren:The Watchers and the Waiters.New York: Routledge

Ziv,S. (2014). ChildHomelessness in U.S. Reaches Historic High, Report Says.RetrievedFrom,&lthttp://www.newsweek.com/child-homelessness-us-reaches-historic-high-report-says-285052&gtMay 4, 2015