Social theory entails the theoretical approach used to study and analyse social problems such as homelessness. Social theory approaches have helped in examination of homelessness, identification of factors that cause it, its consequences, persistence factors as well as development of social policies and strategies aimed at preventing it.
Understanding the Phenomenon of Homelessness
Social theory encourages more research into homelessness for better understanding of the problem. One such approach is the Risk Society theory which states that the risk is complex and affects all levels of society from the government to the people, and each of them are linked and dependent on each other. It therefore implies that to be able to survive in a risk society, you need to develop life skills. For example, you need to be able to anticipate dangers in your social, political or economic life and develop skills on how to endure the dangers. In this case, you should identify, anticipate and provide for your own housing by working. Additionally, you should have social welfare protection such as insurance coverage.
Identification of Controversies Concerning Homelessness
Social theory approaches provide the means to develop research hypotheses and understanding of findings essential in conceptualising and solving controversies surrounding homelessness. According to Structuration theory, there are a number of common behaviours, social and structural characteristics that homeless people share. Accordingly, when research findings suggest factors including inadequate housing, natural catastrophes, poverty and personal disabilities to be responsible for homelessness, the controversies surrounding homelessness are identified and measures to prevent it are taken. Federal and state governments have identified personal disabilities such as physical disability, mental illness or alcoholism as factors responsible for homelessness and as a result provided emergency shelters, housing subsidies and mental health interventions.
Evaluation of Policies Concerning Homelessness
Social theory has been significant in evaluating perspectives, programs and policies concerning homelessness. Approaches such as integral theory helps to identifying the processes that can be used in understanding the social problem of homelessness and how homeless service delivery can be supported. The information it provides concerning the population of the homeless people, their lifestyle, their characteristics and what health care services they need can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the policies and programs so that more strategies that target homeless people can be developed.
Identification of Preventive Measures
Social theory is instrumental in the identification of appropriate methodologies that can be used to solve the problem of homelessness. In the United States, policies aimed at reducing homelessness have often experienced a major change based on the approaches used and how practicable the approaches are. For instance, Housing First Model, an approach aimed at ending homelessness. was largely criticised when it was first used in New York City in the early 1990s. However, after varying degree of success in ensuring homeless people were housed, it has since been adopted by many cities across the country and around the globe.
- Megan Ravenhill London Metropolitan University: British Homelessness: Theoretical Perspectives
- CUHP: Theories of Homelessness
- Annual Reviews: Social Science Research and Contemporary Studies of Homelessness; Shlay Anne; 1996
- University of Pennsylvania: Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives; Dennis P. Culhane; 1997