The first homeless people lived in emerging urban cities, such as New York City. In the 20th century, the Great Depression of the 1930s caused a substantial increase in unemployment and related social problems, distress and homelessness. After a brief decline after the Civil War, homelessness first became a national problem in the 1870s. Facilitated by the construction of the national railway system, urbanization, industrialization and mobility led to the rise of drifters who “traveled along the rails” in search of work.
Jacob Riis, the Danish-born social reformer and swindler whose subsequent photojournalism described the deplorable lives of those living in slums and residential neighborhoods, arrived in the United States in 1870 at the age of 21 and described the next three years as a member of the “great army of vagrants looking for work all over the country.”. This “army” of white men, mostly young and healthy, created a culture that combined the search for work with a love of the open road and disdain for the limitations of workers in the industrialized United States (DePastino, 200. Willing to work hard, they constituted a counterculture with rules and habits that often generated the ire of society at large. Francis Wayland, dean of Yale Law School, wrote in 1877: “When uttering the word wanderer, we are immediately presented with the spectacle of a lazy, immobile, wandering or arrogant savage, ill-conditioned, unrecoverable, incorrigible, cowardly and utterly depraved (Wayland, 1877, p.
The first cases of homelessness in the United States were documented in the 1640s. In 1734, the first home for the poor was opened in New York City, which served as shelters for the homeless, as well as psychiatric institutions and prisons. The Bloomberg administration also imposed and tried to implement other punitive regulations, including so-called “next step” shelters with reduced services for homeless families and individuals, as well as a misguided plan to collect rent on housing, which the Coalition and its allies managed to stop. The amount of time that homeless people are left without stable housing varies considerably, from short periods to longer periods.
Finally, in 1985, in response to the enormous loss of SRO staff and the increase in the homeless population, the city established a temporary moratorium (eventually overturned by state courts) on all SRO conversions and subsequently issued more restrictive procedures for the conversion of SRO housing. Ironically, these people who lived in SRO and guest houses during this period would be considered “housed” under HUD's current definition of homelessness. There was a rudimentary system of emergency shelters that were almost always full to capacity, especially in winter, and thousands of homeless people seeking shelter were forced to take to the streets. According to Jeff Olivet, in his article A Brief Timeline of Race and Homelessness in America, there was an 80% reduction in federal investments for public housing, along with cuts in other social safety net programs, which caused an increase in the number of homeless people and laid the foundation for the contemporary epidemic of homelessness.
Often, time served is the result of laws specifically aimed at the homeless population, including regulations that prohibit prowling, sleeping in cars, and begging. A five-year study that tracked about 500 homeless families moved from shelters to housing, conducted by researchers at New York University and published in 1998, revealed that 80 percent of homeless families staying in subsidized housing remained in stable housing (i). Academic studies from the 1990s concluded that subsidized housing is the most successful type of rehousing assistance for homeless families and that it dramatically reduces subsequent episodes of homelessness. Historical research from the 1990s on the different patterns of shelter use has provided important information on the diverse characteristics of single homeless adults.
The Texas Homeless Network states that “these discriminatory practices paved the way for the overrepresentation of African Americans in today's homeless populations. Later, there was a briefing at the White House on homeless youth in the United States, with an emphasis on racial equity. However, the period also witnessed a dramatic reduction in the number of single adults who are homeless, largely as a result of investments in permanent supportive housing. It wasn't until the end of the decade that New York City began to address the permanent housing needs of the growing number of homeless New Yorkers.
The mayor's stubborn refusal to assign more of his affordable housing plan to homeless New Yorkers has prevented the City from significantly reducing the number of homeless men, women and children. .