This 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 person’s 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.
Note: Information on the subsequent pages was compiled and quoted from Down and Out in America by Peter H. Rossi, Down and Out, on the Road by Kenneth L. Kusmer, and "Homeless in America" by Elaine S. Abelson.