STEWART B. MCKINNEY HOMELESS ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1987
This research paper examines the economic, social and political factors which led to the enactment in 1987 of the federal Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (McKinney Act), its legislative history, its human services and social policy underpinnings, its principal provisions, subsequent amendments to it and an appraisal of its effectiveness, including benefits and costs.
The McKinney Act represents the first attempt by the federal government to provide assistance to states and localities to handle the growing problem of homeless persons in America. The McKinney Act provided limited emergency assistance and the rudiments of a more comprehensive national approach to the problem of homelessness. The act was adopted because of the efforts of advocacy groups and a bipartisan consensus in Congress, in which the Reagan administration grudgingly acquiesced. Because of a lack of adequate funding, ineffective leadership by the Department of Education, the lack of a broad public consensus as to the basic causes of homelessness and the role of government in preventing it and alleviating its ill effects, which have been reflected in growing public hostility and apathy toward the plight of the homeless, the McKinney Act represents little more than a preliminary, somewhat feeble and groping approach to the solution of a problem which has reached the level of a national disgrace.
By 1987, large numbers of homeless persons, largely concentrated in the nation's urban areas, provided vivid and unsightly evidence of the growing lack of shelter for the very poor in American society and other elements of the population, the mentally ill, victims of drug and alcohol abuse, runaway teenagers, veterans, unskilled workers and racial and ethnic minorities, among other subgroups, who lacked a roof over their head. Estimates of their numbers varied widely, principally because of the...