Our class met with Bill Bosworth, now a Research Coordinator on housing issues, but in the early 1970s working with homeless men at shelters in Toronto.
As a result of Mr. Bosworth’s involvement with this group of individuals, he noticed that during this specific era, these men were considered to be a part of Skid Row, rather than being classified as homeless individuals. This is so because the concept of homelessness was not used until later years. In 1987 the United Nations declared the International Year of Shelter for the homeless and the lack of affordable housing became publically recognized as causing homelessness.
Furthermore he said, the public and service agencies generally thought homeless men were all alcoholics, and carried the label “drunks.” However, he was quite convinced that a large percentage of the homeless men present were not “drunks.”
As a result of this, Mr. Bosworth asked the front-desk staff at the hostel to record whether individuals coming through the doors were too drunk to relate to, or had something to drink but could relate, or had nothing to drink at all. Of the 120 individuals each night, a maximum of 38 had had something to drink and only 3 men were too drunk to relate to.
Through this analysis, one is able to recognize that through the different aspects of stigmatization and labeling the overall concept of homelessness was being shaped. Many of the public and social service agencies have changed their negative perceptions of the homeless population, which resulted in housing programs targeted at the homeless population rather than blaming them for being homeless.