Homelessness: A System Perspective

A men sleeping on the bench downtown black and white photo

In 1917, Edward Amherst Ott, a scholar at Drake University, offered a list of policy principles that he called “Hot Shots” in support of fighting a productive “War on Poverty”. Ott was optimistic that the world was sufficiently enlightened and capable so that “Poverty […] can be eliminated. There is little joy to the imaginary mind in the enjoyment of abundance, while other people are in want.” Almost 50 years later, on 8 January 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his own war on poverty to build a “Great Society” in his State of the Union Address4. “Let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last 100 sessions combined. […] As the session which declared all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States.” And thus, the war on poverty should become “America’s longest war”, a war it is still fighting on many fronts, new and old, today.

Note: This is the first part of the historical development of homelessness in the US since the 1960s. Part 2 contains several original data that we want to use as a basis for a peer (blind) reviewed research paper. Therefore, we will publish part 2 some time in early summer 2021.

If you want a copy of the full case study for your personal use, please send a email to Christian Seelos at