The Homeless

How can the complex problems of the homeless be overcome?


When homelessness began attracting national attention in the early 1980s, U.S. cities initially responded by providing the barest of accommodations -- a roof and one meal. That response was borrowed from the past, when the typical homeless person was a white, middle-aged alcoholic. But today's new generation of homeless is young, poorly educated and increasingly composed of families, often from minority groups. Many also suffer from severe mental illness or substance abuse. To help such people, providers are building small, resource- centered facilities designed to change peoples' lives, even if it means singling out those individuals with the motivation to improve. Critics say this approach discriminates against the hard-luck cases. Others say the emphasis should be on preventing homelessness in the first place.

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