ABSTRACT

Homelessness is a multifaceted social-service delivery problem that afflicts both metropolitan and rural communities in the United States. The magnitude and causes of this problem are unclear; the solutions are the subject of much debate. Despite the public perception, homelessness is not a new phenomenon, As economic circumstances and demographic forces have fluctuated throughout history so have the size and composition of the homeless population. Two trends are seen as largely responsible for the rise in American homelessness since the 1980s: an increase in poverty and a growing shortage of affordable rental housing. The homeless in rural areas and smaller towns have largely been overlooked, despite the fact that rural homeless people have become more visible in smaller communities. During the 1980s, the problem of homelessness received much attention; regrettably, since then, interest in the problem appears to have declined.