‘I’ve detached myself from everyone and have become anonymous. I don’t participate in life, nor do I care to participate in life. I’m just an observer,’ said a homeless guy on the street. He looks hopeless and hungry and walks off. Here we are in the 21st century and still, in this great nation of ours, we face a dilemma of problems. What are these problems? These problems range from drugs to terror and even to homelessness. Over the past year, over 2 million men, women, and children were homeless and this number is sure to go up in coming years. Why is this? No one really knows why but many factors can cause one to become homeless. Losing one job, becoming ill, and a lack of affordable housing can all play a major role in ones becoming homeless. What exactly does it mean to be homeless? The word homeless means having no home or permanent place of residence. To better understand the issue of homelessness it is necessary for one to not look at it in only one way but from a few different angles.
You have to look at the way that different homeless people act and behave in society; you have to look at it from a sociological perspective point of view. Within sociology, there is not a single theoretical perspective, but many theoretical perspectives. The three main perspectives are functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interaction perspectives. The functionalism theory is about social organization and how this organization is maintained throughout society. This theory emphasizes the importance of stability and integration in society. The ideas come from natural sciences and look at a society like a biologist would look at a living organism. They both try to identify the various parts or structures and see how they work and/or function. In this theory, homelessness is viewed as inevitable and basically a must for society too well, “function.” Individuals occupy specific, fixed roles in society. Homelessness is just looked at as nothing more but a social class that is needed.
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It is believed that once one is part of this class, one will remain with this class for as long as he or she lives but if there ever is change and one moves up in class, the change will be very slow and gradual. The functionalism perspective is basically a perspective in which all different parts of a society come together and work as one whole part, in which power is underplayed. The homeless are one of the parts of the society that work and come together with the other social classes so the society can go on. The conflict theorists view society from an objective and hierarchical point of view. In this perspective, individuals are subordinated to society. The basis of social order is power or coercion and the only way to change within the society is through a power struggle in which there is a lot of competition. Social class is extremely important in this perspective for it defines your place in the pyramid of power.
Resources are limited greatly in society and people are constantly in competition for these resources. Conflict theorists approach the issue of homelessness just like a master approaches his slaves. They see the homeless as people that are too weak and unable to climb up the social ladder to achieve higher social status. Conflict theorists see themselves as the kings of the jungles and think of the homeless as the little mice that roam around doing nothing because they are incapable of really doing anything. Basically, the conflict theorists view themselves as the ones with all the power in political, economic and social resources. Higher social classes dominate the homeless. The third and final perspective is symbolic interaction. This theory tells of the role of individuals in giving meaning to social behaviour, which in turn creates society. Society is viewed as subjective and social status and inequality is demonstrated through status symbols. The relationship between the individual and society is that the individual and society are both interdependent. This perspective approaches the homeless through symbols. These symbols can be anything. The clothes they wear, the way they act and the foods they eat all represent symbols.
The three main sociological perspectives, functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interaction are all very different but they play a very important role in our society. Neither of these is perfect and neither of these is bad but they do give us three different ways to view many issues in our society. Homelessness is a very serious issue and it will continue to be. The functionalists view it as a stable and cohesive part of society that’s important because it plays an important role in helping the society work together as a whole. The conflict theorists view it as kind of a dirty thing. They think of themselves as a more superior society simply because the resources are limited and in there control. The symbolic integrationists view it through status symbols which can include anything from the way they eat or to the way they dress. All in all, what’s important is that these three perspectives come together and help the people better understand something from a variety of different angles. Homelessness is a major problem and we as people need to do something about it.
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