Homelessness Research Paper

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Each country shares a common deficiency: lack of housing or shelters. This research paper brings to light the historical background of this human tragedy but also exposes several plausible causes. Among them are migration from rural to urban life and lacking skills to support family needs, mental illness, breakdown of family support, substance abuse, inept governments, and the global economy. It is an understatement to claim that this is a complex condition to resolve, especially when there are multiple causes. However, the moral implications made here are straightforward: human beings are suffering as a result of conditions outside of their control. In the final segment of the research paper, it is demonstrated that the human rights violations against the people either created conditions of their homelessness or have allowed it to prevail. Moral responsibility implies knowledge and ascriptions of blameworthiness. There are sufficient leads to the economic engines that, in some cases, blindly carried out policies whereby innocent people were harmed. Finally, there is a moral duty for human beings to implement technology that would more clearly present the empathic obligation to resolve homelessness.


Homelessness is peculiar to human beings. It is a condition that is the subject of sociologists and anthropologists whose concern is describing the societal and organizational breakdowns that correlate with poverty and then lead to people living without shelter. For nearly 20 years philosophers have begun to examine the essential humanity of people whose lives have become marginalized by economic, political, and legal interests. Homelessness is a uniquely human phenomenon that other human beings acknowledge and fail to do enough to curtail it, let alone prevent it. This is substantiated throughout history and poverty is its antecedent. The two terms will be used interchangeably in this research paper since the circumstances allowing poverty immediately lead to homelessness. Ethicists examine the values that shape policies that determine the treatment of the poor and the homeless and how these have contributed to large-scale poverty and homelessness across the world. It abandons people to a form of living that raises existential concerns of the meaning of life and challenges fundamental value of human rights and equality. How do such policies sustain the deplorable conditions wherein value of dignity of a human being is disregarded? When Pope

Francis, champion of the poor and homeless, visited the USA in September 2015, he commented that “these phenomena [homeless] are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste’” (Wilson 2015, p. A16).

It is important to avoid referring to homelessness as a problem. A problem, most often, has a technique that may be implemented to solve it. It implies an aberration that can be made right with the appropriate methods and tools. It could be fixed. Instead, homelessness is a recalcitrant issue with complex causes often driven by sustaining forces so that it is more commonly and best referred to as a social condition. There is bountiful literature about the homelessness condition in the USA, perhaps due to its emergence and increase in one of the wealthier nations in the world and the open access there is for researchers to study it. The studies of homeless people across the globe lack extensive research, and most of it focuses on several developing nations which will be included in this work. Some of what is reported about the homeless in developing countries bear similar characteristics of what is found among the homeless in the USA except for a few of the causes. The segment on causes of homelessness and its moral dimension will explore the violations of moral rights it entails and consider the plausibility of ascribing responsibility, if not for causing the pervasive global condition, but for allowing it to persist.

History And Development: Background Of The Issue

Although the date of origin is difficult to cite by this title, it is safe to state that homelessness becomes identifiable apart from well-formed and structured societies. Perhaps the earliest group of recorded non-dwellers is the nomads. Nomads are individuals or groups living without a dwelling. They are known to wander without a stable place to call “home.” The groups carry out distinct activities; some are hunter-gatherers and some are pastoral, dating back hundreds of years BC. The nomads accepted their wandering existence whereas many homeless are not voluntarily on the streets. The homeless population is contrasted from those people who live in houses or dwellings and whose lives contribute to the society. Homelessness, regardless of the society, reflects on how well social structures may impact its continuation or relieves the needs of those subjected to it. People who are displaced through an economy that no longer includes them or through wars or government projects result in unsettled peoples; paupers and beggars were names given to these people who sought handouts on the street. In seventeenth-century America, the early settlers displaced Native Americans, and some settlers were forced out of the big port areas. In early nineteenth-century France, the rising middle class worried about the increasing numbers of poor on the street, so vagrancy laws were enacted to curtail their presence. Not long after, distinctions were being drawn between deserving and non-deserving poor. Only the former would receive some social relief. The undeserving poor were thought to exhibit a lazy behavior due to a deviant psychology that could be passed down to future generations. Such a theory gained popularity during this period of time. Scholars at the time thought the poor were a threat to social order. Later in nineteenth-century America, the Industrial Revolution was underway, and major cities were transforming into the trade economy. Increasingly, people were leaving rural farms for the city where those who did not become employed soon found themselves living on the street. Those who were employed risked losing limbs in accidents, and without social agencies to care for the disabled, they found themselves on the street, homeless. When the economy slowed and went into the recession of 1850, the numbers on the street increased. The Civil War years brought about greater numbers of homeless men but more youth were found wandering the streets for food and shelter. The aftermath of the Civil War in the USA brought about desperate survivors referred to today as mentally disabled, having suffered traumatic brain injuries rendering them in need of special care. Without this care many became homeless. Others after the war would advance on farms to get chickens and fruit for sustenance. They were given the names “tramp,” “bum,” and “hobo.” These terms, not used as frequently in contemporary society, nonetheless connote perhaps a more romantic meaning of being homeless.

Most countries have the condition manifest on their streets, although some are more serious and extensive than others. The most often cited causes shared by international cities are poor economic system, unstable government, mental health problems, unemployment, lack of relationships and family support, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and the lack of affordable housing. We also find people struggling with homelessness through fleeing their homelands displaced by natural disasters such as a tsunami and earthquake that occurred in Thailand and Nepal, respectively, in 2014 and 2015. The ongoing oppression and uprising in Syria since 2011 is a recent example of voluntary homelessness as millions of people flee Syria with their families for safety in Europe. Droves of migrant homeless seeking asylum meet a similar resistance to aid them as found on streets around the world to assist the homeless. Europe struggles to devise a humane policy that will embrace those who are self-exiled to attain peace and a secured shelter in their countries.

The United Nations estimates that there are 100 million homeless people in the world today. Descriptions vary about homeless exposure but the reality is the same. In the UK their state is known as rough sleeping while in India it is referred to as pavement dwelling, and in other locations they are labeled street sleepers. Most of the population is found in urban areas because of the services provided there for their needs, yet this environment increases their chances of contracting tuberculosis, drug and alcohol abuse, and becoming crime victims. Space does not permit itemizing every city throughout the world that has sizeable numbers of people without shelter, but highlighting the plight among some, we can benefit from the common characteristics in these locations. Among the global cities that have the largest population of homeless worldwide, 6 of 15 are in the USA. They are as follows:

(1) Manila, Philippines, has the highest number of homeless in the world with 70,000 living on the street; (2) New York City, NY, USA, records 60,352 dispossessed; (3) Los Angeles, CA, USA, has 57,000 down and out people and about 13,000 seeking refuge; (4) Moscow, Russia, three-quarters of the city population are homeless; (5) Mexico City, MX, of the 30,000, 50 % are children living on the street; (6) Jakarta, Indonesia, has 28,000 people living rough; floods displaced thousands of families; (7) Mumbai, India, records 25,000 living on the street; (8) Buenos Aires, Argentina, has 15,000 homeless, 30 % are children; (9) Budapest, Hungary, 10,000 roam the streets in a city that criminalizes being without a shelter; (10) Sao Paolo, Brazil, 50 % of this most populated city in South America is homeless; (11) Boston, MA, USA, reports 16,540; (12) Washington, D.C. USA, 13,000 live on the street; (13) San Francisco, CA, USA, there are 10,373 people housed in shelters as of 2013; (14) Phoenix, AZ, USA, reports 11,314 destitute people without a home; and in (15) Athens, Greece, there are 20,000 who are homeless for different periods of times. (“The 15 Most” 2015)

In addition, there are poor who are sheltered in transit camps such as Porta Farm in Zimbabwe where there are 30,000 residing and where the mortality rate is very high. This underscores the extensiveness of sheltered poverty or inadequate housing that by some definitions of homelessness exclude these people. Definition offers the parameters of the condition that can better serve a more reliable counting of the homeless as well as devise strategies to eradicate it.

Conceptual And Clarification: Definitions Of Homelessness

The definition of homelessness is complex. There is a physical sense that identifies the lack of what home provides: a roof, a shelter, and a center of privacy and security. These characteristics are most often found in industrialized countries. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (as cited in Tipple and Speak 2009, p. 51) underscores five conditions:

  • Living on the street
  • Living in crisis or refuge accommodations
  • Living in temporary arrangements without security of tenure, for example, moving between the residences of friends or relatives; living in squats, caravans, or impoverished dwellings; or living in boarding houses
  • Living in unsafe family circumstances, for example, families in which child abuse or domestic violence is a threat or has occurred
  • Living on very low incomes and facing extraordinary expenses or personal crisis

In the USA, the Stewart B. McKinney Act of 1987, which was updated in 1994, provides a similar set of conditions. A homeless person

Lacks a fixed regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and a primary night residency that is (A) a supervised publicly operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations, (B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or (C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings. The term ‘homeless individual’ does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant an Act of Congress or a state law. (Tipple and Speak 2009, p. 51)

The definition of homelessness lends itself to oversimplification that it means literally without a home. Yet, this overlooks thousands of people who seek temporary coverage in shelters, hostels, and abandoned cars and buses for their lodging. They move so frequently so never have a fixed place that would be close to calling it a home. “In Japan, homelessness is defined as those who are visible sleeping on the street” (Tipple and Speak 2009, p. 52).

The Council of Europe’s definition (as cited in Munoz and Vazquez 1999, p. 105) enlarges the sense of adequate accommodation. They state that the homeless are:

Persons or families that are socially excluded from permanently occupying a personal and adequate home. Persons or families that:

  • Have no roof over their head and are condemned to live in the street as vagrants
  • Are temporarily housed in hostels or centers for the homeless, especially created by public authorities or the private sector
  • Are temporarily housed in the private sector, in bed and breakfasts, in cheap hotels or private hostels, or with friends or relatives with whom they may be obliged to live
  • Occupy, legally or illegally, unsafe housing, shacks, abandoned houses, etc.
  • Live in institutions, children’s homes, hospitals, prisons, or psychiatric units and have no home to go to when they leave
  • Live in a dwelling that cannot be considered adequate or socially acceptable, thus converting them into poorly housed persons or families

The main features of these definitions are captured by Edgar et al. (as cited in Tipple and Speak 2009) who distinguishes three classifications of referring to homelessness: “rooflessness (living rough), houselessness (relying on emergency housing accommodation or long term institutions), or inadequate housing (including insecure accommodation, intolerable housing conditions or involuntary sharing)” (p. 52).

The definition of homelessness in developing countries is more challenging. There is lack of information and to include those who are inadequately housed is too encompassing. There are accommodations that include waterlines for houses so that if people lack these waterlines but nonetheless are housed, they are considered homeless.

In their book, The Hidden Millions, Tipple and Speak (2009) show that definitions of homelessness in developing countries vary:

They range from non-existent to all-encompassing. Despite using the term ‘homeless’ widely in policy, a number of countries, including Peru, Ghana, and China, have no single official governmental definition of homelessness. The way in which the term is used in housing development policy and in censuses, however, give an indication of how some governments use the term ‘homeless.’ (Tipple and Speak 2009, p. 68)

Ethical Dimension Of Global Homelessness

At a time when there appears to be more wealth in the world than ever, millions of people are suffering, and, in some countries, they are dying, directly or indirectly, from poverty. The increasing disparity between the wealthy and the poor has crystallized the question of what we owe each other. There is ongoing discussion among philosophers about the right claims of the homeless and duties to fulfill this right by those individuals and institutions who are arguably duty bearers. The minimal count of global homeless is 100 million, and the material resources that can mitigate this through just distribution of goods is possible but has not been meted out. This failure has resulted in inhumane living conditions among the severely poor which underscores the coerciveness of their condition thereby preempting any notion of free choice. Philosopher James Rachels states that 22,000 children, many under the age of 5 years old, die each day from problems related to malnutrition; a total of eight million human beings losing their life each year due to causes related to poverty (Rachels and Rachels 2012). The population most affected by such conditions lives in underdeveloped and developing countries. This disparity not only contrasts with people in the world who may have exceeded their satisfaction of basic needs but also raises the question of whether this inequality is morally justifiable. In understanding this question, three aspects must be focused on in this section. It would be instructive to consider (a) the causes of global homelessness, (b) moral rights of the global poor, and (c) locating moral responsibility for global homelessness. The persistent circumstances of global homelessness are sufficient moral grounds to invoke the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. A Declaration that repeatedly is found unfulfilled states,

“Everyone . . . has the right to social security” (Article 22), “Everyone has the right to work . . . and to protection against unemployment” (Article 23), and “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family” (Article 25). This statement “places the highest priority on the rehabilitation of expelled and homeless people who have been displaced by natural or human-made catastrophes. All countries have the duty to cooperate fully in order to guarantee that such displaced people are allowed to return to their homes and given the right to enjoy their properties without interference.” (as cited in Tipple and Speak 2009, p. 20)

The fulfillment of this right is foundational to securing other rights. For this reason, homelessness diminishes human value. It obfuscates notions of opportunity one can otherwise access to improve their life.

Causes Of Global Homelessness

The definitions of homelessness represented earlier reflect the value perspectives of the region in which it originated. Political and economic structures often present complicated conditions out of which homelessness arises. Suzanne Speak (2013, p. 14) noted that

government who value the qualities of modernity might define informal settlers as homeless as it allows greater authority and control over them and the land on which they settled. Alternatively, those who value the qualities of self-help and independence, as embedded in sweat equity of informal settlers, might exclude them from the ranks of the homeless.

There is a large gap between the demands for housing and the supply available as, increasingly, people move into urban areas: the move from rural poverty into urban poverty. One aspect of this is found in the difference in changing family cohesion. There is a value shift as many leave families seeking greater success apart from this unit. The dislocated families leave older family members so they lose immediate physical and financial care expected from their children. These urban settings do not satisfy expectations as they find that the employment does not pay enough, so sleeping on the street, choosing food over shelter, is not a real choice. In this risky environment they are subjected to illness, abuse, and crime. They suffer poor health ranging from respiratory to gastric disorders. This homeless group, which is predominantly male, expanded to include women and families with children. Often suffering from abuse and lack of economic equity, women and children take their chances by living on the street. There they are subjected to criminalization charges for ad hoc ordinance violations such as pan handling, sleeping on a park bench, and being without a shelter; they are ushered off to prison. The choice of street living is to maintain some semblance of autonomy over their lives even in light of dire circumstances. For women, it is not uncommon that they turn to prostitution or drug dealing and other risky activities and relationships so they may provide security for their children. They are caught up in conditions that are doomed to be repeated because they lack property rights only having a house will give them. Without this condition satisfied, their coerced choice to provide for their families only tarnishes their dignity and diminishes their likelihood of being housed. One can imagine how this cycle ensconces children. “If orphaned, they can lose any rights to their family home or land, rendering them homeless…. street children are criminalized and in many countries incarcerated or removed from the street” (Speak 2013, p. 49). An already blighted condition of inequity spirals into more egregious conditions for the most vulnerable: women and children.

Similar to Western cultures, lack of employment, mental illness, substance abuse, and people who live in broken homes and fractured relationships lose their means of support. They slip into homelessness. It was intimated earlier but homeless women and children are cited as a growing percentage among the homeless, often due to financial reliance on the male in the family. Their break from this relationship/marriage for safety forces a woman to direct her own life. Without a career of her own, the tendency of women becoming homeless to escape abuse in countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Chile, is considerably higher than in the West. Western women, generally, fare better under similar circumstances than resorting to living on the street. Of course, there are some cultures that find women-headed households more acceptable, such as in Latin America, than other cultures, as Bangladesh.

It is difficult for women to work in many Muslim countries, or certainly to earn adequately to support a family independently. In some situations, particularly in cultures where lone working women are often perceived as immoral, the woman and her children may be ostracized to the point that they must leave their home and area. (Tipple and Speak 2009, p. 156)

Even women who are widowed can find themselves without respectability in some cultures. Furthermore, if no financial support was provided by her deceased husband, his family most likely will turn her and her children out and into homelessness.

It is not enough to have strict cultural practices and transient living situations from rural to urban that cause some homelessness, but there are overwhelming political and financial causes that precipitate peoples becoming homeless. The first of these was cited in the opening segment of this piece. There were 4.5 million Syrians who fled Syria’s authoritarian government and volatile conditions as the ISIS faction, vying for power in the region, made their lives fragile. Their long journeys to various countries that will accept them for asylum, essentially, make them homeless, expatriates. This migratory homelessness is uncertain of ever having “home” again in a foreign land, but for millions of them they did not have a choice. In regard to the financial cause, better known as globalization, it has improved the lives of some developing countries, but overall, the policies enacted have contributed to the status quo. The focus on the capital flow of goods and services is a crucial feature of globalization. As trade restrictions were lowered, capital value rather than social humanitarian needs was the mainstay of the free market policy. According to some sources “the political process of this program nearly erased social justice as a concern of international regimes, where they exist, and of the absence of mechanisms of global governance, can go unchecked as ever before” (DeVita 2007, p. 114). This increase of financial transactions between countries illustrates this moving from $15 million in 1973 to $1.8 trillion in 1998. Again, the focus of this growth in international trade has little to do with production of goods and services. However well-intentioned are the financial forces to improve the impoverished countries, this improvement has been redirected from human interests. The result is greater economic inequality pushing farther away from the grasp of those most in need, the humanitarian assistance that would provide opportunities for developing human capabilities, rendering conditions for more homelessness.

The policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have driven more people into a quality of life without much hope and lacking in respect for their autonomy.

Structural Adjustment has been the most far-flung coordinated project of large-scale policy transformation in human history. It has changed the contract between government and citizen in developing countries from a state commitment to manage development to a state commitment to give the lead to global private enterprise. The role of international trade-capital flow in setting the pace and shape of economic change has substantially enhanced. While economic displacement has created extensive needs for help, social expenditures as a proportion of GDP have normally been reduced, often sharply. (Miller 2010, p. 139)

Both Richard Miller (2010) and Thomas Pogge (2002) agree that the Structural Adjustment, now renamed Poverty Reduction Program, creates frameworks by powerful organizations that render more harm than benefit to poor countries. These have resulted in reduced government subsidy for education, health care, and other key social services. There is no provision in these programs that enable the affected countries to navigate their own economy for satisfying their needs. Instead they are exploited to benefit the already well-off nations. They remain subjected to the will of global financial elite.

Moral Rights Of The Global Poor

It is fundamental to the pursuit of a full human life that a person have basic needs met: food, water, clothing, and shelter. Poverty denies people the material goods that would grant opportunities to engage their capabilities to the fullest. The inequalities between the wealthy and the poor exceeds an income differential. The qualities and range of choices make for opposing worldviews. For the poor and homeless who are without economic goods, their liberties are narrowed as are their lives. This harm that poverty inflicts violates the general understanding of the rights owed to human beings for being human. This moral status of the poor continues to be either overlooked or rejected by institutions. Henry Shue (1980) emphasized that the needs of subsistence and security should be considered rights. Without these rights being fulfilled by society, Shue argued, “it paralyzes a person, preventing her or him from exercising any other right. . . . Social arrangements must be established that will bring assistance to those confronted by forces that they themselves cannot handle” (Shue 1980, p. 26). The homeless are repeatedly forced to live in a manner that contravenes their moral personhood. It is unjustifiable to have harms inflicted on them that render their futures vapid and hollow. “The right to security protects people from assaults which would interrupt their plans or force them to act in ways unbecoming themselves. Without security, choices of what to do, where to live, how to live, become drastically curtailed” (Abbarno 1999, p. 188). By satisfying subsistence rights, the poor have conditions available for realizing their hopes and dreams and to optimize their potential, maintaining human dignity. The claim rights for subsistence has echoed throughout decades and since this right goes unmet, the inequality persists.

Each person has the right to have his or her needs satisfied in their pursuit of happiness. The distribution of wealth has been, for decades, concentrated to serve the fewest number, oftentimes referred to as the 1 %. As noted above, among the causes of poverty, this new status quo marginalizes millions of people into homelessness and lives of desperation. “We should allow that if the ongoing infliction of severe harms on a vast number of people is endemic to the behavior of a vast number of agents, these harms may also constitute human rights violations” (Ashford 2014, p. 102). Unless persons are respected qua persons, the generative rights that follow will be preempted: right to life, right to security, right to privacy, and right to liberties, among others. Personhood also generates “a right to basic education and a minimum provision needed for existence as a person – something more, that is, than mere physical survival” (Griffin 2008, p. 33).

That a person should be accorded dignity and respect is an uncontroversial axiom. It is the multiple ways that this is ignored and even made systemic, afflicting profound harms that endure forever, that places it among the worse moral wrongs and a failure to fulfill the subsistence rights of a vulnerable class. The historical development of global homelessness underscores that the negative duties human beings have toward the poor, taking measures that prevent greater harm than their condition already causes, was not fulfilled. This condition morally eviscerates poor people, forcing them to live with the scorn of their fellow citizens who look down on them, denigrate them; in some cases, the poor begin to believe it about themselves. So, they do not expect to be regarded with respect. For the wealthier nations’ failure to acknowledge their duty to the human rights of the poor diminishes themselves as well as denies full moral standing to the poor.

Locating Moral Responsibility For Global Homelessness

Moral philosophers disagree over whether groups, organizations, or simply collectives can reasonably be held responsible for actions that are done. They find that there is no good reason to deviate from the traditional methods of ascribing responsibility which is between individual agents and for any action, whatever the magnitude, originates with individuals. This account acknowledges that actions are interpersonal, bringing about consequences from sets of reasons, and one’s worthiness of conduct is based on the merit of the reasons, intentions, and/or consequences rendered. However, for many moralists, there are actions that are carried out by collectives that can be described as if they were individuals. They have an identity central to their mission of being, such as General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Nestles, Monsanto, or the Philadelphia Phillies and the like. These organizations originate to fill certain roles or purposes in terms of which they are identified. They are comprised of offices that are diverse in function yet unified by the common mission, policies, and programs that direct its actions in the world. Organizational decisions are made in sync that reflect the command of the highest order in the organization. Now, ascribing responsibility for actions committed in the world is often complicated enough for an individual agent. For example, a pharmacist dispensed a drug to a customer but was unaware that it was tainted with an ingredient detrimental to the customer and kills him. There are distinctions to be made here between acting in ignorance or out of ignorance that only begins the levels of discerning responsibility. However, if the problem is the one this chapter focuses on, global homelessness, discerning or locating the responsibility involves assessing larger contributing factors. We could, nonetheless, make some progress in the analysis by using collective responsibility. So, we begin with global groups whose aim is to facilitate global markets and trade between countries or being a source of lending for developing countries to carry out structured projects. These groups were identified earlier as the IMF, the WTO, and the WB. Other influential bodies are the governments that are members of the above groups as well as the governments who are contracted to receive benefits. As noted earlier, these goods were not realized, and far worse conditions of poverty and homelessness, increasing human suffering, resulted from these and the lack of leadership in the affected countries.

If knowledge implies responsibility, then powerful organizations cited above should bear most of the responsibility since they were in a better position to know how their policies and actions would affect the poor. The economic consequences and political erosion were foreseeable and avoidable, but policies were enacted nonetheless.

—-By insisting that national leaders place the interests of financial investors above their own citizens, the IMF and the World Bank have short circuited the accountability at the heart of self-governance, thereby corrupting the democratic process. The subordination of social needs to the consensus of financial markets has, in turn, made it more difficult for national governments to ensure that their people receive food, health care, and education-basic rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Global Exchange 2001, p. 13)

David Miller distinguishes two types of responsibility: outcome responsibility and remedial responsibility. These shed light on how to determine the appropriate agents contributing to global poverty and homelessness. The “outcome responsibility [are what] we bear for our own actions and decisions” (Miller 2007, p. 136). “Remedial responsibility [he goes on to state is] the responsibility we may have to come to the aid of those who need help” (Miller 2007, p. 136). It is the remedial responsibility that is appropriate in sorting out the failure of WTO, IMF, and WB agents whose policies were major contributors to not relieving the suffering or deprivation that was their original design to alleviate. By focusing on formalistic and financial processes of engaging with governments and meeting terms of the contract, the people whom these governments serve are overlooked. Other aspects of economic globalization have led to a feminization of poverty, especially in developing countries where women disparities are underscored by both biological strength and social vulnerability. This provides them with fewer options to be autonomous and accede to sex outlets that will be profitable. Women and children, then, find recourse in trafficking their lives as instruments of others who can pay, reinforcing another dimension of the feminization of global homelessness. So, collectives, whether governments or financial organizations, are also responsible in the outcome sense insofar that the consequences of their policies were foreseeable as factors contributing to human suffering.


The groundbreaking work by Peter Singer (2007), “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” first appeared in 1971. In it he proposed a principle of sacrifice upon the wealthier countries as a remedy for global poverty, which requires a transformation of the virtue of charity into a moral duty. Nearly 46 years later the issue is magnified but the methods of counting those impoverished around the world also locate the increasing homeless population, a population that is inclusive of men, women, and children, indeed infants. Causes for this condition are laden with moral values since they comprise forces that can be modified, redirected, and become mindful of its own role in the lives of human beings. It is a striking difference of approach when global governments come together to aid victims of natural disasters, mobilizing relief efforts for survivors but also establishing plans to rebuild the damaged country. By comparison, the effort to remediate broken lives due to a tidal wave of a global economy lacks a sustainable resolve to assist the global homeless in rebuilding their lives. Our empathy for the suffering of fellow human beings can be transcultural, not limited by personal contact. The Internet and other electronic mediums have claimed to benefit us by enlarging the human community. This condition demands more depth than the linearity such medium allows. This paradox, of course, is that it enlarges our membership but seems to sacrifice the depth of transferred feelings of another’s severe deprivation. Yet, more creative exposures to the avoidable sufferings permitted by what economically benefits the well-off parts of the world may extend human empathy as a moral duty to the global homeless. A technology of care must supplant the depravity of indifference.

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