Are The Homeless Crazy ?

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Homelessness in the 1980s and the Convenient Stigmatization of the Mentally Ill In the 1970s there was mass deinstitutionalization of America’s mental hospitals in an attempt to integrate a more human “community-based” treatment system for the nation’s mentally ill (Kozol 433). As the rate of homelessness continued to rise a decade later, it became commonplace to explain the increase as the result of the deinstitutionalization. Written back in 1988 in an essay “Are the Homeless Crazy?,” Jonathan Kozol argues that while the media and government had largely encouraged the misconception that homelessness was mainly due to the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, there were other more serious causes. Kozol argues that in the 1980s the shortage of affordable housing, the lack of well-paying jobs, and physical ailments were much larger factors in homelessness than deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill. According to Kozol, one of the main causes of homelessness in the 1980s was the vast reduction in affordable housing. Kozol explains that “gentrification,” the transformation of a low-rent neighborhood to a more prestigious one, raised rents and pushed the poor into homelessness (433). He states, “Half a million units of low-income housing are lost each year to condominium conversion as well as to arson, demolition, or abandonment” and that rent for lower-income individuals increased more than 30 percent since 1980 (433). Additionally, Kozol claims that almost half of low-income “SRO (single-room occupancy) units” were “replaced by luxury apartments and office buildings between 1970 and 1980” (435). In addition to the reduction in low-income housing, Kozol also argues that there was a severe shortage of employment positions that paid a living wage. He claims that since 1980 there had been a loss of two million jobs per year in the manufacturing
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