Edmonton’s Homeless Population: A Functionalist Perspective

2421 words - 10 pages

Sociology, “the scientific study of society and human behaviour” (Henslin, Glenday, Duffy, & Pupo, 2009) includes five separate perspectives by which to observe people and their interactions with each other in society. These perspectives are particular observations that are placed into a conceptual framework which thus creates five sociological theories through which reality is interpreted in a distinct way. This paper will seek to analyze Edmonton’s homeless population through the functionalist perspective which is “based on the assumption that society is a stable, orderly system” (Kendall, Linden, & Murray, 2008) and examines a group’s functioning as a whole, with each part ...view middle of the document...

Another major cause of homelessness in Edmonton addressed by the committee is the lack of affordable housing available. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (2008) in 1999, the average two bedroom apartment rental rate was $650/month, by 2008 the amount for the same two bedroom apartment had risen to an average of $1,170/month – an increase of 80%. The rental increase, coupled with the historically low rental availability of about 1.5% correlated directly with the “drastic decrease in rental incentives” (Avison Young, 2010); the same rental incentives that generally gave a renter a break on damage deposit, first month’s rent or utility payments. So a major increase in rent saw many people losing their homes; a substantial decrease in availability added to people not being able to find new homes; and the almost complete absence of rental incentives blocked those who found a place to rent from obtaining the rental unit.
Mental health and addictions are also key factors when considering the causes of homelessness. Homeward Trust Edmonton, a broad-based community inspired initiative, states that 59% of homeless persons have a mental illness (2010) and “55% of the homeless population reported using one or more illegal drugs” (Canadian Institute for Health Information [CIHI], 2007). The above mentioned factors are known to appear concurrently where drug abuse compounds the problem of any mental health issue(s) present.
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Lastly are incidents of family violence and/or discrimination. “Research shows that individuals and families who experience homelessness often have histories of family violence.” (A Place to Call Home, 2009). The victims of family violence are often isolated and lacking of communication with family or community support networks, they little or no access to financial support and when confronted with all these factors along with past-capacity shelters, find themselves homeless. Furthermore, those that seek out housing often face discrimination; people of non-Caucasian race are often turned away from apartments which were advertised as available.
Impact of being Homeless on an Individual
While the functionalist theory is equal in the fact that everyone has a role in society, the roles themselves do not amount to equality in social class. Therefore, through a functionalist perspective, even though the homeless population of Edmonton is intrinsic to the success of its society, being homeless does not make a person successful; the necessary inequality in peoples standard of living is the down fall or dysfunction to this theory.
A homeless person’s standard of living or comfort is exponentially less than a person who has sustainable housing. Many of Edmonton’s homeless population find themselves in “No home, no job – no job, no home” (A Place to Call Home, 2009) cycle; without a permanent address, people can’t access income support benefits; without money, they can’t get a...


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