The Structural and Individual Causes of Homelessness.
Prof. Cecilia Benoit
February 24, 2009
Over the past three decades, the presence of homeless people has become increasingly evident on the streets of Canada. According to the United Nations, Homelessness describes “the condition of people without physical shelter who sleep outdoors, in vehicles, abandoned buildings or other places not intended for human habitation”(United Nations 2005). “In this sense, it is a master status directly affecting lifestyle and quality of life”(Lagory, Fitzpatrick and Ritchey 2001) Those people facing a deprivation of resources that may be life threatening are then defined as living in Absolute Poverty. Homelessness can also vary in lesser degrees, such as in the case of those living in Relative Poverty. People living in such situations face deprivation of resources in relation to others. This paper will focus upon the societal and social causes of those living in both Absolute and Relative Poverty.
All we have to do is look a mere five km from our beautiful University of Victoria campus to the downtown centre to become exposed to this alienated group. The causes of homelessness are extensive and widely varied. There have been “studies abroad that have found members of the public explain social inequality in an individualistic manner: Whether successful or not, people are deemed responsible for their own socioeconomic fate.”(Lee, Hinze-Jones and Lewis 1990) This individualistic orientation is especially evident in Canada and the rest of North America’s views about the causes of poverty. That is to say, most North Americans believe that the causes of poverty are completely in the individuals’ hands. However if we view the world through a sociological perspective we see that society as whole contributes greatly to this crisis. There is a strong consensus in Canadian...