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A perennial problem in an unequal society in which people unable to pay for accommodation, or who lack the mental, emotional, or financial resources to maintain a dwelling to provide them with shelter, are forced to rely on charitable hostels for shelter or live on the street. Homelessness can result from poverty and chronic unemployment or from the inability to maintain a dwelling because of mental or emotional illness, alcohol or substance misuse, or other chronic disability. Its prevalence in affluent societies such as those in the United States and Europe is partly a consequence of the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric services and demolition of institutions that formerly provided long-term custodial care, and reveals the indifference of the general public and its elected representatives, who may blame the victims rather than try to help them. See also asylum.

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