historical outline is intended to show that homelessness is
not a new problem. Though we find it easy to blame the homeless
for their own difficult situation, historical record will show
that arrival on the streets is often precipitated by a number
of factors, least of which is a persons flawed character.
A variety of powerful social, cultural, and economic factors,
all of them larger than influence of the individual, participated
in trends of homelessness over the past two hundred years: Immigration
and the conflicts within new mixtures of culture; industrialization
and the challenge it asserted to the American notion of individuality;
transportation and the invitation railroads extended to travel;
social upheaval after war, such as after the Civil and Vietnam
Wars. Understanding that homelessness is not simply the fault
of the individual will help us understand and develop ways to
empower the homeless to better address institutional adversity
and to achieve a more secure existence for themselves.