chapter  6
54 Pages

Discussion 1

WithLisa A. Russell

307It must be recognized that the causes and consequences of homelessness in the general and youth populations are numerous, complex, and dynamic. Understanding homelessness requires the study of both macro and micro-level social, economic, political, and health systems as well as the individual who is homeless. The macro-level factors which profoundly contribute to homelessness include the growth of poverty, the erosion of welfare benefits, the reduction of decent low- and moderate-income housing, the decline of employment opportunities, and the political shifting of responsibility for poverty relief, equalization of economic opportunity, and protection of individual liberty. To focus exclusively on the characteristics of the family and/or the homeless individual could result in victim blaming and the reinforcement of negative stereotypes rather than recognizing that these homeless are affected by and react to changes in the macrostructures of mainstream society and the microstructure changes in the culture of street life. The structure and limitations of research funding have encouraged researchers to conduct cross-sectional and retrospective research on service-utilizing homeless individuals rather than longitudinal examinations of persons and families at-risk for homelessness and the systems which affect them. This study’s cross-sectional descriptive results must be kept in perspective with regard to the larger societal forces which affect homeless youth and theirfamilies in the United States.