Homelessness is a major national problem, but the exact extent of the problem is difficult to determine. The homeless are not a homogeneous category of people, but include a wide variety of types. The first problem in establishing the parameters of the homeless population is one of definitions. Different studies have focused on street people, shelter users, people applying for assistance, or those using services. Formal attempts to count the homeless have used indirect counting methods, direct counting methods, and one recent study used a capture—recapture estimation technique. Such methods have some validity in making local estimates, although each has its disadvantages. Attempting to make national estimates is much more difficult, and any national estimate must be regarded with great caution. The numbers of people in specific subgroups of the homeless may be of even greater importance for public policy and planning. While the root causes of homelessness are the scarcity of low‐income housing and the inadequacy of income supports for the poor, there are specific groups of homeless people who need special services. Such groups include the homeless mentally ill, alcoholics and drug abusers, AIDS victims, and families with small children. Assessing the extent of these problems among the homeless is therefore important for planning services.
Journal of Social Issues – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 1990
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