Despite a recent upsurge of interest in the issue, homelessness is a problem of long standing in American society. This article traces how several forces catalyzed the problem's re-entrance onto the political agenda in the 1980s. It then reviews the ongoing debate over homelessness causes and cures as a struggle for problem ownership that has complicated the choices of public policymakers. The final section examines various descriptive attributes that figure into the dispute over how to define homelessness and influence the nature of the public policy response to it.



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