A social problem is essentially an undesirable condition that is experienced by some people. Social problems are varied and at times it depends on groups of people and even age for example loud music in a public vehicle or place may be comfortable to a youth but a nuisance on an older person. There are some social problems which affect some people the same way.
This paper seeks to explore the issue of homelessness which is the most common social problem globally. According to Mullaly (2002), a social problem must affect a significant number of people; Be undesirable, changable and indeed something that can be changed. Homelessness is certainly a social problem today because it subscribes to the above tenets.
Homelessness is a social problem that is basically brought about by structural inequalities and lack of resources where some individuals are at a higher risk or highly disadvantaged. The causes of homelessness reflect an interplay between structural factors, sytems failure and individual circumstances hence homelessness is but a result of the cumulative impact of a number of factors, rather than a single cause(Mullaly, 2002).
Structural factors that lead to people being homeless are simply societal and economic issues that affect opportunities and social environments for individuals. This includes lack of adequate income, access to affordable housing and health support or experience of discirmination. Additionally, shifts in the economy can create challenges for the people to earn an adequate income, pay for food and for housing. In America for example there have been structural changes within the American society over the last twenty years and these changes have had a profound impact on the economic landscape on the “bottom” segment of the American society. This transformationis charactrised by a general move in America towards a more “ post- industrialised” and global economy. Domestically there has therefore been a shift “ away from ralatively well- paying manufacturing jobs to minimum wage service jobs and temporary or part- time positions.”
America’s integration into the world economy through a multitude of regional and multi- lateral trade agreements resulted in the loss of about 7% of jobs in the manufacturing sector between 1979 and 1994(Carol, 1990). Such structural shifts drive people out of their homes because they cannot afford to pay rent after loss of jobs or reduced income.
Personal circumstances can also lead to homelessness. This may be due to traumatic events such as losing a job or house fire. Family break- up and domestic violence also lead to some people being rendered homeless. According to a statistic carried out in Canada for example, domestic violence is estimated to affect 2 million Canadians. Domestic violence forces individuals and even families to leave home without proper support in place. Women and youths are the most affected and at times poor women are forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness.