- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 21 November 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0021
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 21 November 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0021
Homelessness has existed throughout human history, and as far back as the 17th century in the United States. The causes of homelessness are complex and include both environmental and individual factors. External environmental factors include economic conditions, social policy changes, and demographic shifts. Individual vulnerabilities and circumstances also contribute to the risk of homelessness. Descriptions of homelessness as a social issue have shifted from the early “tramps,” to Skid Row with its extreme poverty and addiction, to the present-day view of invisible homelessness consisting of men and women, children, and veterans. Defining homelessness as a practical matter has proven difficult for policy makers and researchers. A decision about how to classify homeless people living in shelters, those receiving services, and those on the streets dramatically alters the count. Recent estimates suggest that 656,129 people were homeless at a single point in time (i.e., measured on one night in January annually) in the United States in 2009. Efforts to demonstrate the extent of homelessness guide social and housing policies. The varied counting methodologies influence the public policy response to homelessness differently, guiding housing policy and health and social services based on their inherent assumptions. Attempts to quantify homelessness as a social problem began with efforts by Peter H. Rossi in the Chicago studies and have continued with studies by the US Census Bureau, and most recently with biannual point-in-time counts conducted by the Continuum of Care. Providing homeless services and housing dramatically changed in the late 1980s with the passage of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77), which eventually created the Continuum of Care (CoC) system in the 1990s to provide coordinated outreach and assessment, prevention, permanent housing, and services. This legislation shifted the response to homelessness from a primarily grassroots effort to a national campaign to end homelessness. Under this act, funding and homeless services were consolidated to have a more regional approach to homeless services and housing. This coordinated approach was developed to address the diverse needs of the homeless, extending beyond providing shelter to addressing the causes of homelessness and the health-related risks. Homeless populations have a higher prevalence of infections and chronic diseases. Moreover, their mortality rate is four times higher than that of comparable housed populations. The homelessness literature is cross-disciplinary and reflects the diversity of homelessness, especially in the United States.
Homelessness as a social issue has been described broadly in a variety of books. The introductory works Baumohl 1996, Blau 1992, Hopper 2003, and Robertson and Greenblatt 1992 provide a thorough collection of articles by leading experts covering public policy, research, and social issues related to homelessness in the United States. Levinson 2004 provides descriptions and suggestions for further reading on salient topics associated with homelessness. Since most of the introductory literature is somewhat dated, more recent publications (McNamara 2008; Barrett, et al. 2010) are useful because they describe current social policies and research on homelessness.
Baumohl, Jim, ed. 1996. Homelessness in America. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx.
This book provides a broad overview of homelessness from a variety of perspectives. It is organized into three sections covering a range of topics from the causes of homelessness to prevention.
Blau, Joel. 1992. The visible poor: Homelessness in the United States. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
This is another book reviewing the basic issues of homelessness. It provides a synopsis of the key topics that describe homelessness, including causes, policy responses, needs, and misconceptions about the homeless.
Hopper, Kim. 2003. Reckoning with homelessness. 3d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.
This book is organized into three sections examining the history of homelessness and the evolution of homeless shelters, and it reviews early field work to examine homelessness and summarizes an ethnography of homeless men in New York. Finally, the author reviews the role of advocacy to legitimize the homeless and address their needs.
Lee, A. Barrett, Kimberly A. Tyler, and James D. Wright. 2010. The new homelessness revisited. Annual Review of Sociology 36:501–521.
This is a review of research and public policies about homelessness from 1980 to present day. The purpose of this article was to highlight the most recent sociological literature that advanced knowledge of this social issue.
Levinson, David, ed. 2004. Encyclopedia of homelessness. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
This is an introductory reference covering multiple topics associated with homelessness. This book provides the reader with basic information and suggestions for further reading on each subject.
McNamara, Robert, ed. 2008. Homelessness in America. 3 vols. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Volume 1 focuses on demographics of the homeless population and covers topics such as homeless policies, homeless veterans, homeless women, and homeless families. Volume 2 discusses the causes of homelessness. The third volume focuses on solutions, discussing both old and new strategies, covering such topics as past attempts to solve homelessness, new shelter communities, criminalization of homelessness, and Homeless Management Information Systems.
Robertson, Marjorie J., and Milton Greenblatt, eds. 1992. Homelessness: A national perspective. New York: Plenum.
This book is an overview of homelessness from a cross-disciplinary perspective. It provides a description of mental illness, health care for the homeless, substance abuse, veterans and elderly homeless, and homeless families and children.
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- Access to Health Care
- Action Research
- Active Aging
- Active Living
- Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior in the United States
- Advocacy, Public Health
- Agricultural Safety and Public Health
- Air Quality: Health Effects
- Air Quality: Indoor Health Effects
- Alcohol Availability and Violence
- Alternative Research Designs
- Ambient Air Quality Standards and Guidelines
- American Perspectives on Chronic Disease and Control
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
- Asthma in Children
- Attachment as a Health Determinant
- Behavior Change Theory in Health Education and Promotion
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
- Bicycling and Cycling Safety
- Birth and Death Registration
- Birth Cohort Studies
- Board of Health
- Built Environment and Health, The
- Business and Corporate Practices
- Cancer Communication Strategies in North America
- Cancer Prevention
- Cancer Screening
- Capacity Building
- Capacity Building for NCDs in LMICs
- Capacity-Building for Applied Public Health in LMIC: A US ...
- Cardiovascular Health and Disease
- Child Maltreatment
- Children, Air Pollution and
- Children, Injury Risk-Taking Behaviors in
- Children, Obesity in
- Citizen Advisory Boards
- Climate Change and Human Health
- Climate Change: Institutional Response
- Clinical Preventive Medicine
- Community Air Pollution
- Community Development
- Community Gardens
- Community Health Assessment
- Community Partnerships and Coalitions
- Community-Based Participatory Research
- Complexity and Systems Theory
- Definition of Health
- Dental Public Health
- Design and Health
- Dietary Guidelines
- Ecological Approaches
- Enabling Factors
- Environmental Laws
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Ethics of Public Health
- Evidence-Based Public Health Practice
- Family Planning Services and Birth Control
- Food Safety
- Food Security and Food Banks
- Food Systems
- Frail Elderly
- Functional Literacy
- Genomics, Public Health
- Geographic Information Systems
- Geography and Health
- Global Health
- Global Health Diplomacy
- Global Health Promotion
- Guide to Community Preventive Services, The
- Health Administration
- Health Communication
- Health Disparities
- Health Education
- Health Impact Assessment
- Health in All Policies
- Health in All Policies in European Countries
- Health Literacy
- Health Literacy and Non-Communicable Diseases
- Health Measurement Scales
- Health Planning
- Health Promoting Hospitals
- Health Promotion
- Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
- Healthy People Initiative
- Hepatitis C
- High Risk Prevention Strategies
- Human Rights, Health and
- Immigrant Populations
- Immunization and Pneumococcal Infection
- Indigenous Peoples, Public Health and
- Indigenous Populations of North America, Australasia, and ...
- Indoor Air Quality Guidelines
- Internet Applications in Promoting Health Behavior
- Intersectoral Strategies in Low - Middle Income Countries ...
- Justice, Social
- Knowledge Translation and Exchange
- Knowledge Utilization and Exchange
- Law of Public Health in the United States
- Media Advocacy
- Mental Health
- Mental Health Promotion
- Migrant Health
- Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention
- Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
- National Association of Local Boards of Health
- National Public Health Institutions
- Needs Assessment
- Obesity Prevention
- Occupational Cancers
- Occupational Safety and Health
- Ottawa Charter
- Parenting and Work
- Parenting Skills and Capacity
- Participatory Action Research
- Patient Decision Making
- Pesticide Exposure and Pesticide Health Effects
- Physical Activity and Exercise
- Physical Activity Promotion
- Polio Eradication in Pakistan
- Population Aging
- Population Determinants of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages
- Population Health Objectives and Targets
- Precautionary Principle
- Prenatal Health
- Program Evaluation in American Health Education
- Program Planning and Evaluation
- Public Health, History of
- Public Health Surveillance
- Public-Private Partnerships in Public Health Research and ...
- Public-Private Partnerships to Prevent and Manage Obesity ...
- Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment
- Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies
- Randomized Controlled Trials
- Real World Evaluation Strategies
- Reducing Obesity-Related Health Disparities in Hispanic an...
- Rural Health in the United States
- Safety, Patient
- Sex Education in HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Skin Cancer Prevention
- Smoking Cessation
- Social Determinants of Health
- Social Epidemiology
- Social Marketing
- Statistics in Public Health
- Systems in the United States, Public Health
- Systems Theory in Public Health
- Traditional, Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative M...
- Translation of Science to Practice and Policy
- Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Tuberculosis among Adults and the Determinants of Health
- Unintentional Injury Prevention
- Urban Health
- Vaccine Hesitancy
- Violence Prevention
- Water Quality
- Water Quality and Water-Related Disease
- Weight Management in US Occupational Settings
- Worksite Health Promotion