Special Populations of Homeless Americans

Surveys conducted over the past two decades have demonstrated that homeless Americans are exceptionally diverse and include representatives from all segments of society—the old and the young; men and women; single people and families; city dwellers and rural residents; whites and people of color; and able-bodied workers and people with serious health problems. Veterans, who are among the most honored citizens in our society, appear in substantial numbers among the homeless, as do former criminal offenders and illegal immigrants. Each of these groups experiences distinctive forms of adversity resulting from both societal structures and personal vulnerabilities, and has unique service delivery needs. All, however, experience extreme poverty, lack of housing, and a mixture of internally impaired or externally inhibited functional capabilities. Attention to the distinctive characteristics of subgroups of the homeless is important in facilitating service delivery and program planning, but may also diffuse attention away from shared fundamental needs, and generate unproductive policy debate about deserving vs. undeserving homeless people. (Authors)

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In Fosburg, L.B., Dennis, D.L. (eds.), Practical Lessons: The 1998 National Symposium on Homelessnes