From Hoovervilles to homeless encampments: the evolution of American homelessness
Did you know that homelessness in America can be traced back all the way to the 1600s? However, most historians choose to acknowledge homelessness as a nationwide issue in the 1870s, after the second industrial revolution. The increase in factory work led to poor working conditions for laborers, who later organized labor unions against their employers (Lee, Barret A, et al). Workers’ demands were not met, and instead resulted in them being fired and the birth of the first major homeless population.
The homeless population ended up changing based on the current events, such as wars or economic crises, at a given time.
Most notable being the Great Depression (1929-1933), which resulted in many homeless families and individuals, who had no choice but to live on the streets.
In fact, President Herbert Hoover was so reluctant to help the millions of homeless individuals and families, that Americans created their own shanty-like towns, later dubbed “Hoovervilles” (“Hoovervilles”).
Eventually the peaks in the homeless population that occurred all throughout the 20th century evolved into a steadily increasing population around the 1980s. This marked the beginning of the modern homelessness we see today.
For an in-depth look at the evolution of American homelessness, please check out this paper I wrote that outlines specific groups that were homeless as well as the events that got them there.
A look at the problem today
The 1980s marked the start of modern homelessness, and led to the homelessness epidemic that has swept through America today. The homeless population in America peaked (and continued to increase) in the 1980’s due to “declining personal incomes, loss of affordable housing, deep cuts in welfare programs, and a growing number of people facing personal problems” (“The Rise of Homelessness”) and has continued into the modern era of homelessness.
Homeward Bound: America’s next steps to permanently ending homelessness
A variety of federal and non-profit organizations are hard at work trying to end homelessness in America.
In Oakland, the Alliance for Homelessness, Oakland’s own C of C program, is a group of local partnerships that help find homeless people and families “permanent supportive housing (PSH), rapid rehousing (RRH) and transitional housing (TH)” (“Housing First Standards Policies and Procedures”).
There are also national non-profit organizations aiming to combat homelessness that are not federally funded, such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness (“NAEH”).
Additionally, local approaches such as the Human Resources Development Council in Bozeman, Montana, and EveryOne Home in Alameda County, California rely on volunteers to help homeless individuals through data collection, assistive housing, and providing nightly shelter.
To learn more about the organizations combatting homelessness, check out this essay.
How can you be a part of the solution?
Moving forward, it is important that Americans not only recognize the gravity of homelessness problem in our country, but also recognize their ability to be a part of the solution. Below are some ways for you to get involved on a national and local level.
- Starting small, many of the big nonprofits, such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness, need more donations to continue their great work.
- Another more involved way to help stop American homelessness is to look into whether or not there is a local Continuum of Care program registered in your area. If there are not any C of Cs in the area, you can look into the eligibility requirements to start one in your district or city.
- Speaking of local efforts, a way to help your specific community would be to open a Human Resources Development Council such as the aforementioned one in Bozeman, Montana and Alameda County, California.
- Lastly, local volunteer opportunities, such as the East Oakland Collective, offer various events and drives that people can get involved in
- To read more about the above volunteer options and solutions, check out this essay.
In times as unprecedented and crazy as these, it is certainly hard to make a direct impact, but simply raising your voice to make change is a start in the right direction.
Thank you again for checking out this webpage.I hope you learned more about the long-standing issue of homelessness in the U.S and that you feel more inclined to make a change. To view my entire essay on the issue of homelessness in America, check out this link. I could not have come up with all this information on my own, so to view the sources I consulted please click here for a full bibliography.
Please let me know down below in the comments if you felt the youtube video about modern homelessness helped enhance your knowledge of the issue and what it taught you. Also feel free to leave questions and other comments down below.