Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 297

The study guide for the topic "Homelessness" features a holistic perspective on the issue. One of the themes, or sub-topics, is the social perception of homeless individuals, and how this could lead to discrimination and eventually inaction. For instance, there is a stereotype that homeless individuals in the United States—a wealthy country—simply do not want to work or are lazy. This stereotype undermines efforts to address and solve the problem of widespread homelessness.

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There are various economic, social, and political elements that contribute to homelessness. For instance, the job market can experience massive decreases in opportunities if the national economy goes into a recession or depression. The correlation between homelessness and national economic health is seen throughout history (e.g., The Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession of 2008). Likewise, major corporations that monopolize entire industries can suddenly lay off or terminate employees for various reasons that are dictated by company executives and administrators.

Another theme or topic is the growing mental health crisis in the United States and many other parts of the world. Multiple independent studies throughout the decades have shown that there is a link between homelessness and mental illness. The tumultuous history of mental healthcare and support for those struggling with mental illness in the United States has resulted in systemic issues which have to be addressed in order to provide for those homeless people experiencing mental illness.

Additionally, homelessness has become criminalized over the last century: city ordinances criminalizing loitering and public camping have made homeless individuals be seen as a "problem" from a criminal justice perspective. This is in line with the collective societal perception that homeless individuals are outcasts of our civilization. This way of thinking has made homeless individuals invisible and voiceless in American society.

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