Paper Example on Social Work

Published: 2023-12-12
Paper Example on Social Work
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History Church Social work
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1708 words
15 min read


Homelessness is often perceived as a moral and personal failure, yet it is a political and structural problem that unmasks the growing inequality in society. The rate of urbanization in the world today is alarming, with shocking results. Skyscrapers have become the most discernible sign of gross inequality as people sleep in makeshift shacks on pavements silhouetted by the urban landscapes. Urban centers have become classic tales of the haves and have nots, where cities exist adjacently separated by rights and status. As many struggles to survive, state inaction and poor policies have elevated few individuals who profit immensely at others' expense. This disparity's tragic manifestation is growing homelessness; individuals left without their inherent human right to physical space.

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Homelessness manifests in different contexts and various ways. The homeless are often not a homogenous class of people but involve various groups (Heerde et al., 2020). Typically, the most visible are those forced to live in open public spaces and are often subject to condemnation, public scrutiny, and at times violence (Heerde et al., 2020). Some are usually invisible and, as a result, neglected, especially in areas where homelessness presents itself in precarious housing conditions lacking security of tenure and essential services. In most instances, homeless people endure discrimination, criminalization, and stigmatization due to their "homeless" status based on their association with a socially constructed group perceived as unworthy (Heerde et al., 2020).

The cause of homelessness is attributed to several factors, with inequality emerging as the most consistently identified (Kim & Wee, 2018). On the contrary, homelessness is the least discussed version of disparity due to its attribution to moral failures and individual circumstances. In reality, its causes are structurally linked to the free market ideology (Kim & Wee, 2018). Unequal distribution of property and land on a global scale consigns the most vulnerable in society to homelessness – a life in the margins. Government consent to real estate conjecture that downgrades housing to a commodity from a human right is also to blame as the primary cause of homelessness (Kim & Wee, 2018).

Historical Development of Homelessness

The origin of homelessness can be traced back to the colonial period in the United States. By 1640, English tramps had already been banned and considered outcasts with the police always chasing after them. In the mid-1700s, homeless people in the country were viewed as "Sturdy beggars," and they had by then spread all over the colonial towns (Oudshoom et al., 2018). For instance, the number of homeless individuals in Philadelphia and Baltimore was higher than in any other city in the United States (Oudshoom et al., 2018). During this period, homelessness was majorly attributed to the 1675 King Phillip War against Native Americans (Oudshoom et al., 2018). Several colonies were forced out of their settlements, compelling them to seek refuge in coastal areas and forests. They endured this state while lying idle in the towns until a law preventing idleness in the cities was ratified. Under the law, such idle individuals in the cities were to be made servants. However, the endless war between Indians and the French forced many homeless families to seek refuge in frontier areas such as New York and New England (Oudshoom et al., 2018).

The American Revolution was the hallmark of homelessness in the United States. The war forced many into homelessness because of insufficient needs. As the 1857 depression was fast approaching, most emerging cities were already full of homeless families forcing the government to intervene (Oudshoom et al., 2018). During this period, the Western Soup Society was established in Philadelphia to assist with donations after private organizations and charities' efforts were fruitless. Although the organization tried to remain harsh independent seasons like winter hindered its sufficient funding. Subsequently, many charity organizations criticized the government for lack of funding.

After the Civil War, homelessness again became a national issue in the late 17th Century as many war veterans lost their properties and remained unemployed for long, forcing them into the streets (Oudshoom et al., 2018). This continued until World War II in the early 20th Century. World War II was viewed as an economic engine that could steer the country back to a working nation. In the next three decades, homelessness was still disproportionately male and white but rapidly became disabled, older, and reliant on social security (Oudshoom et al., 2018).

Towards the end of the 20th Century, around the 1980s, a modern era of homelessness emerged. The major forces that changed homelessness complexion during this period included the inadequate supply of affordable housing, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, high rate of unemployment, mentally ill deinstitutionalization, and urban renewal of the inner city (Oudshoom et al., 2018). The confluence of these events altered the face of homelessness again, and it was disproportionately young, impoverished, and mentally ill (Oudshoom et al., 2018).

Historical and Contemporary Contributions

In the mid-17th Century, homelessness was considered a character flaw (moral deficiency) (Bass, 2009). Generally, it was believed that as staunch believers of the faith, Christians would have their needs, such as housing naturally met. Individuals excluded out of this grace in one way or another deserved their plight as God delivered justice fairly and accordingly. As a result, families found homeless in the 1640s were forced to come upon towns and prove their worth to community fathers (Bass, 2009).

As time progressed, homelessness became a complex social issue with no link to an individual's intrinsic worth (Bass, 2009). The Christian church and faith-based organizations then started to advocate for quality housing and committed to offering hospitality to those in need (Johnsen, 2014). Several early sermons focused on the plights of the homeless and Jesus' call to assist this needy group in the society. In line with the sermons, the Christmas story has been the pillar for the church's motivation and commitment to helping the homeless and the downcast in the society for centuries (Johnsen, 2014). In the 1960s, a cluster of Jewish and Christian charities led a first significant concerted action to address homelessness (Johnsen, 2014). From this, several Faith-based organizations emerged with the main target being the homeless.

Among these included the Orange County Rescue Mission, which was founded as a faith-based organization in 1963. Since its formation, the mission's main aim was to minister the word to the least last and lost in society by assisting them with healthcare, clothing, food, shelter, education, counseling, and job training (Orange Rescue Mission, 2020). The mission's programs were tailored to offer comprehensive services that transform homeless families from dependency to self-sufficiency by preaching hope. The nonprofit organization also set up an outreach program to search for homeless veterans in Orange County after the number of war veterans in the county streets inclined dramatically with the federal government in limbo (Thompson & Bridier, 2013).

Other programs of the mission included rapid, affordable housing and rapid re-housing programs. Such programs were used to provide long term housing solutions to homeless individuals living in poverty motels by stabilizing them financially to become self-sufficient (Orange Rescue Mission, 2020). On the other hand, transitional and emergency housing programs were designed to offer emergency shelter at several campuses for homeless families.

Tensions and Partnerships

For decades, FBOs have partnered with local, state, and federal social departments in sheltering the homeless and the poor in major cities in the United States. Such church charity programs continue to play a significant role in improving needy and homeless populations' housing services. Recently, the legislative and political environments have been specifically conducive to promoting partnerships between FBOs and government social services (Fu et al., 2020). Although the role played by social workers is crucial in working the homeless to uplift the change, collaborations with FBOs have proved to be critical despite the challenges. In this section, the main focus will be on FBOs' strengths in addressing homelessness and why they should not stay out of social services altogether. In line with this, their challenges and opportunities for a close partnership with social workers will also be key.

Strengths of FBOs

During his tenure, President Bush focused more on FBO initiatives and made them an integral part of his domestic agenda, especially when addressing issues within distressed communities such as homelessness (Fu et al., 2020). In as much as they have disadvantages, FBOs play a significant role in addressing the growing problem of homelessness. They have unique resources and strengths that are pivotal in social services and community development in general (Fu et al., 2020).

One of FBOs' key strengths that make them remain in the loop of social services is the community trust (Fu et al., 2020). FBOs, such as Orange Rescue Mission, always have enduring histories in distraught communities since they always remain even after other social service agencies have departed (Means & Rankin, 2018). The commitment FBOs have to the community and their strong mission positively impact their perception among distressed neighborhoods. Therefore such communities believe FBOs are principled and can be trusted.

Another advantage Of FBOs is that they are cultural and community anchors. FBOs' open-door policy like the Orange Rescue Mission makes them serve as a meeting place for communities, where social issues can be addressed and activities organized. (Fu et al., 2020). In addressing homelessness, some FBOs have even gone as far as developing a facilitative role to accommodate landowner stabilization (Fu et al., 2020).

FBOs also tend to provide community leadership that is often a major challenge faced by federal and state social service agencies (Means & Rankins, 2018). Social issues in distressed communities such as homelessness always demand community leadership that encourages the congregation and community members to work together towards a common goal.

Moreover, FBOs can easily access financial and human capital that other social agencies find inaccessible. In Orange County, the major problem facing state social service agencies that have led to a high homelessness rate in the county is lack of funding. Contrarily, the Orange County Rescue Mission as an FBO capitalizes on free access of skilled and committed volunteers from allied congregations to ensure effective operations.


Potential risks accompany the FBO strengths that most federal and state social service agencies need to know when collaborating to tackle the homelessness menace. Typically, most FBOs lack organizational capacity that guarantees the effective implementation of housing projects (Fu et al., 2020). Christian charities are usually over-reliant on volunteer staff and may lack the necessary financial management to implement key housing projects.

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