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It is believed that the origin of homelessness is traced back during colonial America. As early as 1640, the English “vagrants” were listed as outcast individuals and the police were after them. The homeless people were regarded as “Sturdy beggars” in the mid eighteenth century and they were found in every corner of the colonial towns. For example towns like, Baltimore and Philadelphia had a more significant number of homeless than any town in America. The problem of homelessness at that period was a result of the King Philip’ War Of 1675-1676 against the native people. Many colonies were driven out of their homes to seek shelter in the forests or coastal areas. They remained idle for sometime until a law was enacted to prevent “idleness” in the cities and those idle people were made servants or indentured servants. But as the war continued between the French and Indians, the securities of some families were threatened and forced many families to become refugees across the frontier areas like New England and New York.

During the American Revolution, the homelessness increased like never before. Many individuals soon after the war were forced into homelessness due to insufficient needs. By the depression of 1857, most of the growing cities were full of homeless people but there was no effort to intervene from the government. Even though there were some private charities and organizations whose goal was to solve this problem, it didn’t work. It was at this time the"Western Soup Society" came into existence in the state of Philadelphia to help people with food-- especially during the harsher seasons like winter. The organization tried to thrive without the government but there was little fund. The government received criticism from many charity organizations but turned deaf ears on them.

In the years to come, civil war broke out and made the situation beyond human imagination. Homelessness was on the rise again. Many war veterans remained unemployed and others lost their   properties to war and natural catastrophes, thus they spent most of their times in the streets. In the nature of things, many people passed homelessness from generation to generation in the form of poverty and crime.


Kusmer, Kenneth. DOWN AND OUT ON THE ROAD: The homeless in the American History. New      York: Oxford University Press, 2002.