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'Homelessness is an individual difficulty, not a social problem.' Discuss in relation to current policies.

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Introduction

'Homelessness is an individual difficulty, not a social problem.' Discuss in relation to current policies. The provision of shelter is a basic human need which is identified in Maslows hierarchy of needs as an 'essential' need in order to progress to 'higher order' needs such as belonging and love. Those without shelter are collectively termed as 'homeless'. This report will examine some of the reasons for homelessness in Britain, the problems that homeless people face and how the government has tackled these in the past. A brief history of housing policy is included which then leads on to current legislation intended to prevent homelessness. Stewart, (2002, cited in Davies, 2002:156) remarks that homelessness is the most extreme form of housing need and that it is a failure of access to a secure home. It is therefore important to study homelessness as a social problem as Britain is a welfare state in which poverty and the housing problems and conditions of pre-war Britain were intended to be eradicated by increasing welfare provision such as social housing and social security benefits. The Beveridge Report 'Social Insurance And Allied Services' Published in 1942, sought to address five giant 'evils': Want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. With the introduction of contributory based benefits, subsistence level benefits, and child benefits provided under the National Insurance Act 1946, families who found that their income was reduced either due to lack of work or sickness would not have to suffer hardship. 'Squalor' was tackled with 'slum clearance' and an extensive and ambitious council house building scheme which provided 'Homes for hero's' in recognition of the services that had been given during the Second World War. In 1945 alone, Madgwick, Steeds and Williams (1982:37) state that over 200,000 council houses were built meaning that four out of five houses in Britain were council owned. The introduction of the NHS, the aim of full employment and an education system intended to be the best in the world meant that the 'five giants' detailed by Beveridge should have disappeared. ...read more.

Middle

of general social inequalities we would expect to find significant ethnic differentials reflecting those found in wider patterns of income, wealth and housing inequality (ibid). Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black people would be particularly affected by the growth of homelessness, with the lowest levels amongst White, Indian and Chinese people (ibid). As there is a significantly younger age structure of ethnic minority groups and withdrawal of benefits for young people in general, particularly those in the 16-18 age bracket there is a potential for the growth of homelessness amongst young, single people from the most vulnerable minority groups. Research conducted by the University of Leeds (Davies et al. 1995 cited in Law, 1996:98) confirms that black and ethnic groups are overrepresented amongst the residents of bed and breakfast hotels, hostels and temporary accommodation. They are much more likely to have stayed with friends rather than sleep rough and so are not as visible on the streets and young people and women from ethnic minority groups are the highest users of temporary accommodation such as that mentioned above. The problems that homeless people face are numerous, with health problems and addictions being the most abundant. Crisis (2003:np) report that nearly one in fifty homeless people suffers from tuberculosis and are nearly forty times more likely not to be registered with a GP than the general public. According to Crisis's "Critical Condition" survey 2002 (cited in Crisis, 2003:np) 55% of their respondents had no contact with a GP in the previous year. 81% of homeless people are addicted to either dugs or drink (Crisis, Home And Dry?, 2002. Heron is the most common drug with alcohol a close second. Drug addiction is also cited as being a cause for homelessness in the first place. Such addictions can contribute to the refusal of services for homeless people by homelessness projects. Mental health problems are up to eight times more common in the homeless population (The Health Of Single Homeless People, Centre For housing Policy, University of York, 1994 cited in Crisis, 2003:np) ...read more.

Conclusion

Every authority is required to consider every application. The new act is a welcome addition to legislation and represents a significant achievement for organizations and individuals who have campaigned for increased protection and support for homeless people and those who have called upon local authorities to take a more strategic response to homelessness. However, too few houses are being built at present. Dean (2002:1) reports that 53,000 houses were sold in 2001 under the right to buy scheme, only 18,000 new builds have been completed and each one costs around �50,000. The average council house is sold for around �28,000 including discounts. The problems of 'squalor' were intended to be tackled quickly and efficiently with the provision of new homes under Beveridges scheme, but house building alone cannot rid society of all of the problems associated with poverty, crime, addiction and low income. Although conditions in Britain are not what they were before the introduction of the 'welfare state' in 1945 the problems that people face have changed meaning that the original plans do not fit into todays society. Whilst we may see a hopeful reduction in the number of people who present themselves as homeless and who are sleeping on the streets, more must be done to increase the incomes of those most at risk and to provide more property that is affordable and acceptable to live in. Although councils now have powers to utilise surplus housing stock, much of this stock is in disrepair and in areas which are not desirable because of crime, hence the reason they are surplus! This in effect could create ghetto's of previously homeless people, but as these areas are usually undesirable anyway, does this mean that some of the problems that made them homeless in the first place such as violence, the threat of violence or being a victim of another crime would still be present but in a different area? Strategies to improve housing stock, tackle 'problem estates' new build programmes and affordable housing would undoubtedly be more welcome. ...read more.

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