Homelessness is the state of having no home or permanent residency. According to The Data Face, there were roughly 554,000 homeless people living somewhere in the United States on a given night [in 2017]. A total of 193,000 of those people were unsheltered,’ meaning that they were living on the streets and had no access to emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens (Benedict 2018:1). In this paper, homelessness will be discussed through the viewpoints of the three different sociological perspectives; conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, and functionalism.
Conflict theory was born due to the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century and was created Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Conflict theory emphasizes social inequality and suggests that far-reaching social change is needed to achieve a just society (Barkan 2010). A conflict theorist sees social life as a competition for a limited amount of resources that creates conflict. Homelessness is viewed by a conflict theorist as the result of limited resources that have been used up. In their academic journal, Main causes of homelessness and adaptation of homeless to environmental factors, Marta Sarnowska and Sonia Gach interviewed ten people living in homelessness and found that the three most common causes of their homelessness are loss of permanent work, subsequent threats of evictions, and the inability to deal with the new economic situation that came in the 1980’s when the economy marketized and collapsed (2018). The authors suggest that when the economy collapsed in the 80’s, it left many people homeless due to the new lack of resources available for the working class. This matches up perfectly with conflict theory because there was a subsequent amount of resources available, but once the resources became scarce and more expensive, people were no longer able to afford them: therefore, they became homeless.
Symbolic interactionism came about in the early 20th century due to the theory of Herbert Blumer. Symbolic interactionism is how people construct their roles as they interact. As this interaction occurs, individuals negotiate their definitions of the situations in which they find themselves and socially construct the reality of these situations.
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