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Regional-Level Challenges: California’s Homelessness

According to statistics, the app. 115,000 people living in California are homeless, 73,000 of whom are unsheltered, and have to sleep in the streets. The problem is pressing indeed since California is still one of the few states with increasing homelessness (which has risen by 3% in 2016). Despite the efforts of city leaders to solve the problem through various social campaigns, the tendency has been steady for more than a decade (Mayo, 2014).

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The key challenge that social service workers have to overcome the problem of homelessness is a lack of shelters. Addressing this challenge is crucial indeed as shelters now have to turn away approximately 70 people daily owing to lack of beds (Mayo, 2014). Building new, year-round shelters will make a huge difference as they will not only provide accommodation for thousands of homeless families and single people but also make California much more advanced in terms of public facilities and social services provided.

The following ethical problems might arise when attempting to address the challenge:

  • Family homelessness, which is becoming increasingly widespread, poses an ethical problem as it is often unclear what has to be done with children. For instance, some social workers support the idea that they should be separated from a family and placed in foster care or with relatives. Others, on the contrary, believe that it is better to leave them in shelters with families.
  • Youth homelessness is connected with another ethical issue. On the one hand, it is a positive change to build more shelters, on the other hand, there have been numerous reports that shelters often keep their tenants for sex or labor trafficking.
  • Building more shelters will also make it easier for the government to ignore the delicate problem of veteran homelessness and cease developing programs providing financial assistance to veterans.
  • Finally, chronic homelessness is the most troubling ethical problem that may be brought about by the suggested change. After all, what is more ethical: to build more shelters or to get rid of homelessness? The second option is preferable but it will take more time leaving people in the street here and now (Homan, 2016).

The major problem connected with homelessness is that social service organizations tend to adopt narrow practice approaches reducing the human need to basic ones (shelter and food) (Lenette & Ingamells, 2015). However, it is highly important to remember that it is not enough to build shelters. They must be able to provide assistance in finding permanent lodging, organize literacy courses, and help its inhabitants with employment.

Since the change should be comprehensive, I believe that the most applicable theory, in this case, is transformational as it encompasses change and leadership approaches. The theory states that the success of any policy or change is determined by the ability of a leader to transform the entire context of the situation (Northouse, 2015). The theory can be applied to resolve ethical problems enumerated above.

For instance, a good leader who will initiate the project of constructing new shelters should promote the idea that these shelters are not created as permanent dwellings–they give people in difficult circumstances a chance to find a job and a real home. Good leaders should communicate with homeless people and support them in their strivings for a better life. In this case, it is not enough to show good management skills to make the project successful. The leader must demonstrate that promoting changes, he/she still sets people and their feelings as a priority. Otherwise, constructing new shelters will never solve the problem of homelessness either in California or any other state.


Homan, M. S. (2016). Promoting community change: Making it happen in the real world (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage. Web.

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Lenette, C., & Ingamells, A. (2015). Mind the gap! The growing chasm between funding-driven agencies, and social and community knowledge and practice. Community Development Journal, 50(1), 88–103. Web.

Mayo, E. (2014). The social problems of an industrial civilisation. London, UK: Routledge. Web.

Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Web.

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