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Understanding claims-making activities about social problems : the case of homelessness Hemmingson, Karen


UNDERSTANDING CLAIMS-MAKING ACTIVITIES ABOUT SOCIAL PROBLEMS: THE CASE OF HOMELESSNESS IN CANADA. Liberal Democracy proposes to combine the best of all worlds; individual freedom, economic growth, equal opportunity to achieve wealth, health and happiness. In Canada, we have experienced this liberal democracy for many decades and have witnessed the growth of the modern welfare state. Increases in prosperity and growth have been tremendous, yet we are still faced with the stark reality of poverty and the huge discrepancy between rich and poor. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the housing sector. Homelessness, the ultimate housing inequality, has not been eradicated. Instead, it continues to be a pervasive and growing phenomenon. This leads to the conclusion that Canada's welfare state has not contributed successfully to eliminating and preventing homelessness. This research examines the way society deals with social problems and their emergence. The focus is on the emergence of homelessness as a social problem. It illustrates that conventional approaches to the analysis of social problems limit actions and solutions society undertakes to resolve them. A new framework for analysis is proposed; a process oriented analysis of claims-making activities as a way of understanding social problems. This thesis documents the process of recognition of homelessness as a public policy issue in Canada. It examines the role of 'process' in the development of public policy issues because the way a society views, defines and re-defines a social problem often determines the policy response. One of the key components of understanding the public policy response to homelessness lies within the process of public recognition of homelessness as a social problem. This research contends that the way in which a problem is identified and comes to be defined and the actors involved affects the types of solutions implemented. Indeed, it is this concept of process which is crucial in the emergence, life or death of a social problem as a public issue.

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