Free «Homelessness» Essay Sample


Homelessness is a common feature in most developed countries. This is especially so in the big cities like New York. This paper will view homelessness in the light of it being transgressive. This will be accomplished through the analysis of four questions which touch on the following: transgressive performance in cities such as New York whereby the paper narrows down to focus on homeliness, the reasons given for considering homelessness as transgressive, and lastly the process through which the transgressive such as homelessness become normative. By answering all these questions, the author will fully discussed homelessness in the light of transgressive.

What is Transgressive?

In the words of McLaren and Patin (1997) transgressive is the action or a set of actions which tend to display denaturization. It is the display of a great deviation from the norm. According to McLaren and Patin (1997) these actions show great variations from, "male/female, active/passive, positive/negative axis" (McLaren & Patin, 1997, p. 135). Arguing from this basis it can be said that the state of homelessness can be viewed as transgressive. This is so because those people who are in such a status prefer the status. In most cases they are not in hurry to get out of the homelessness status. This paper focuses on the city of New York with respect to how the homelessness cases are handled.

What is Homelessness?

Johnston (2000) tries to define what homeless is. He claims that there are definitional problems which result in difficulties in the achievement of accurate counts of homeless population. He gives a short overview of the history of the homeless people and simply winds up by grouping the homeless as those, "deinstitutionalized mentally disabled, those who have never been institutionalized, substance abusers, women and children (the former often victims of domestic abuse), racial and ethnic minorities runaway and 'throwaway' youth and war veterans" (Johnston, 2000, p.

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135). It should be noted that this group might include even those who are employed but do not earn enough to rent houses.


What makes Homelessness Transgressive?

Hopper (2003) gives a very comprehensive review of the state of homelessness in the city of New York. In a very clear manner he associates homelessness with transgressive, "when traditional stubbornly resist change while all round evidence mounts that change is needed, an anthropologist's curiosity is piqued, especially one working in the home front" (Hopper, 2003. P. 25). The author moves on to give a clear picture of what kind of tradition he is talking about. He flies back to the early industrialization to show the beginning of homelessness, "homeless men did the dirty work of the early industrialization" (Hopper, 2003, p. 25). As per this time the contribution of these men could not be taken for granted: however, when seasonal demand fell off what happened?

When the seasonal demand was low a not so good scenario was created, "there was swelled up ranks of redundant workers" (Hopper, 2003, P. 25). The real problem arose because these homeless men did not want to change even when it is evident that change was to take place. Hopper (2003) puts it better, "some took to tramping in a determined attempt to avoid work, but others hit the road because they knew of no other way of looking for it" (Hopper, 2003, p.

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Hopper (2003) gives a clear analysis of the attempt to change the state of homelessness in the streets on New York. These efforts have not been very successful as many of the homeless people seem to prefer the homelessness state of life and surviving on almost nothing (Hopper, 2003, p. 81). This has posed a great challenge because it seems that these people prefer the homelessness way of life-an idea whose time is long gone. By behaving in such a manner they seem to act against the norm. Their ways of actions and thinking seem to be out of the normal axis. Because of this preference (to stay homeless) these people have always found themselves on wrong side if the law and the status can be viewed as transgressive.

Usurping Space for Transgressive Purpose

There are many factors which have contributed to the state of homelessness in the city of New York. One of the factors is the rising costs of rental flats: most people are not in a position to afford or rent the houses and thus are effectively rendered homeless. This is especially hard when one has a large family which needs more space. Other factors include substance abuse and lack of decent jobs which can enable one to get a good amount of money to enable the purchasing of a house or rent one. The city of New York is obligated to provide sleeping places for those who are homeless. This has been a challenge because of the few places which are available for such purpose (Webber, 2002).

Yoshida (1995) notes that alcoholism is of the main factor which lead to the homelessness status.  He quotes statistics from the National Coalition of the Homeless (NCH) which shows that fifty percent of the homeless are adults who have had a problem with a drug or alcohol problem. The statistics also implied that the state of alcoholism of an individual determined how easily he or she could secure a job. This implies that a homeless person who is alcoholic is likely to remain more in the homeless status because it will take relatively a long time for them to secure a job (Yoshida, 1995, par. 3). He also notes that since the homeless receive some kind of assistance from government whether they are employed or not they may be tempted to remain homeless so as to continue getting the assistance. Yoshida (1995) concludes that homelessness is caused by a host of factors and one factor can not be viewed as the main cause of homelessness. The causes usually act as reinforcement to each other.

How homelessness has become a normative?

There are steps which have been taken to alleviate the pain of those in the status of homelessness which if viewed from some perspectives can be said to encourage the state of homelessness. For instance in the city of New York, the mayor is obligated to provide sleeping places for the homeless. The federal government offers financial assistance to those who are the poverty line where of course the homelessness belongs. These factors will act as motivational factors especially for the low earners who will view it as a financial burden to rent a house because what he/she earns might not be enough to allow house renting.  

Under such circumstances where the homelessness stand a chance of benefiting from not paying rent to getting some extra financial assistance it becomes very likely that homelessness becomes a normative.

It becomes a normative because it the better option due to the conditions attached to it.



Homelessness is a transgressive state. It is a situation which is quite rampant in the City of New York. Homelessness can be said to be a state in which a person has no place to sleep and depends on the sleeping places provided by the city. The state of homelessness is viewed as transgressive because of the causes associated with it. It is not caused by one particular factor but a number of them which include unemployment, drug abuse, alcoholism, and federal assistance.

It can be argued that the provision of sleeping places for the homelessness and the federal assistance given to the homeless can somehow act to support the state of homelessness. This is because the beneficiaries of these programs due to the fact that they are low earners will stand a chance of benefitting more from the state of homelessness than otherwise.


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