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Abstract

Homelessness in the United States after World War II was primarily a problem of adult men, and initial attempts to address the problem were generally aimed at getting these men treatment for alcohol abuse and mental illness (Bahr, 1973). In the modern era of homelessness, however, the housing-displaced population also includes sober men and single women, families with children, and unaccompanied youth, necessitating distinct policies and programs to meet the needs of each group (National Center on Family Homelessness [NCFH], 2009). Before making policy decisions, however, it is imperative that we develop a better understanding of homelessness and what we know about how to address it. This article provides a foundation for researchers, policymakers, and educators by reviewing existing literature regarding policy strategies commonly enacted to address individual and family homelessness. It also identifies those practices believed to be most effective in helping people get and stay housed. After providing some introductory definitional and demographic information, we describe the methodology that guided our review. We then describe the main tenets of homeless policy in the United States as it applies to homeless individuals, and also to homeless families. These solutions tend to fall into one of three categories: attacking poverty, increasing the stock of housing, and providing social services.

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