Liberalism and Its Application to the Question of Homelessness - Essay Example

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Summary of liberal political theory

Liberalism entails a broad array of political philosophies whose primary assertion is that any political endeavours should focus on preserving and enhancing individual liberty. The philosophies champion for individual rights is a great necessity that should not be violated (Von & Greaves, 2005). According to this philosophy, the government exists as a tool for the protection of human rights. The liberal theories have a specific similarity in that they all support certain principles including freedom of thought and expression, control of government powers and establishment of a transparent government (Von & Greaves, 2005). Liberalism subscribes to the concept that any society must be organized with a given set of human rights that are both inviolable and unchangeable. Some of these rights include the right to property, life, and liberty. A government that does not advocate for and enhance the achievement of these rights becomes an enemy of its citizens.

Application of Liberalism to the Question of Homelessness

Homelessness is a social problem that should not be tolerated since it not only undermines peoples access to housing which is a basic need but also violates various human rights (Lynch & Cole, 2003). It subjects masses to inhumane life where they live along the streets thus exposing them to not only emotional but also physical illnesses. With the adverse conditions experienced by the homeless, their average longevity is appreciably shortened. Logically, homelessness is not just a problem of its own but also a risk factor for other social vices such as drug abuse, involvement in street gangs and rape. Homelessness results in the development of street families that comprise of young children whose desire for personal achievement is dampened by the lack of decent housing. Homelessness also results in social exclusion yet the government is supposed to foster an environment of social inclusion where people interact freely without undue inhibition.

There are various fundamental violations intricately intertwined with the issue of homelessness. The inability of people to access housing is an infraction of human rights and dignity including the right to security, the right not to be subjected to cruel, degrading and inhuman conditions (Lynch & Cole, 2003). A system that forces people to a life in the streets relegates their right to privacy, the right to privacy, freedom to adequate housing and health. Based on this understanding, homelessness should not be tolerated since in doing so, it will be akin to voluntarily accepting the denigration of various human rights that should otherwise be protected at all costs.

In a well-organised society, the government has a critical mandate of ensuring the safety of its people by guaranteeing their basic needs such as food, health, shelter and clothing. Liberalism underscores that any society must be established on specific rights that cannot be violated whatsoever such as the right to security which is not enjoyed by the homeless (Lynch & Cole, 2003). Any government has a fundamental role in establishing a system that protects even the most unfortunate or minority groups from harm. Nonetheless, failure to provide protect the people makes the government an evil since it has the duty of ensuring socio-economic and political order. Subjecting people to live in the streets for whatever reasons including social stratification, imbalanced economic policies, or inadequate housing represents a willful relegation of duty by the government that leads to the unprecedented denigration of the lives and liberty of street dwellers.

Any government has a duty to its homeless citizens to develop systems and structures that help it in protecting individual liberty such as the right to health and personal security. Homelessness is evidence that either the systems put in place by the government such as policies, legislation and financial allocation towards the protection of critical human rights are either inadequate or inefficient (Von & Greaves, 2005). Therefore, the chief responsibility of the government is to eliminate such obstacles as poverty, diseases and discrimination which are the primary challenges faced by the homeless. Social liberalism requires that the government must actively promote the freedom of its citizens through deliberate intervention that improves their health, eradicate poverty, and guarantee a living wage and provision of their welfare needs.

Street families or the homeless in major cities do not live there out of their liking but as a result of skewed social, economic and political environment that relegates them to the periphery. A large number of the homeless are poor and unemployed (In Bell, & In Stanley, 2017). While the political class and the rich live in palatial apartments with adequate space, a section of the community is left without homes. This is enough proof that the government has failed in its role of reducing the income gap between the rich and poor so that the later can also afford decent housing. In a system where the government fails to bridge the economic gap between the high and low-income earners, it becomes difficult for low-income earners and unemployed to access affordable housing.

The homeless have a right to government interventions since they pay taxes to it. A government is vital in creating order, but then not addressing the issue of homelessness turns it to a necessary evil. Ideally, homelessness should not be tolerated since the government has the power to initiate the construction of affordable houses through direct investment in the sector or public-private partnership as a long-term measure to the problem of homelessness (In Bell, & In Stanley, 2017). In realizing the dictates of liberalism, governments must develop a housing strategy which increases the incentives to rent or own homes. This includes building more supportive housing for the low-income earners.

Homelessness should not be tolerated as it undermines the sense of belonging and feeling of wellbeing. Being homeless does not imply just lacking a shelter but degenerates to lost roots, lack of identity and security (Von & Greaves, 2005). Some may argue that homelessness is a voluntary decision by the victims by attributing their predicaments to drug abuse, disconnection from the social support systems, or family violence. Even though the factors may be conceivably among the reasons that lead people into homelessness, any government owes it to its citizens the duty to ensure personal security. Therefore, anything that breaches the right to safety should be corrected by the government as part of its political goodwill to the citizens. Addressing the issue of homelessness not only provides the victims with their rights but also prevents them from exposure to various crimes such as homicide, drug trafficking, and street violence.



In Bell, J., & In Stanley, T. (2017). Making sense of American liberalism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Lynch, P. (2005). Homelessness, human rights and social inclusion. Alternative Law Journal, 30(3), 116-119.

Lynch, P., & Cole, J. (2003). Homelessness and Human Rights: Regarding and Responding to Homelessness as a Human Rights Violation. Melb. J. Int'l L., 4, 139.

Von, M. L., & Greaves, B. B. (2005). Liberalism: The classical tradition. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.


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