… In debates about social rights the work ethic reasserts itself with a vengeance. The belief that normal citizens deserve by right only those social benefits they have earned remains a formidable ideological obstacle to the reform efforts of the advocates. As a result, the benefits and virtue of spreading responsibility for the homeless through an expanded welfare state stirs up considerable disagreement – not just between conservatives and liberals but, even more important, among liberals themselves.
… The public seems willing to help the visibly dependent and vulnerable, but it stops short of supporting policies that would subsidize housing for the poor. Ironically, the result has meant increased funding for emergency and transitional shelters, whose residents are likely to find it increasingly difficult to leave. Increasing shelter populations are in turn justifying increased expenditures for additional caretakers and services, producing a new type of public, nonprofit welfare bureaucracy.
Attempts to reverse this situation have also floundered, in part, because of homeless people’s lack of political muscle. Efforts to organize this population have proven largely ineffective because of the profound uncertainties the homeless face every day.
From a section “The Politics of Entitlement” in the book New Homeless and Old by Hoch and Slayton.