In American social welfare history, the intent with which one became poor has determined their eligibility for aid from the state. This intent has never been clearly labeled as such. Rather, it has taken the form of equating intentional poverty with those "voluntarily in need," not truly needy or "willfully unemployed." There has not been a distinction between the intention with which one seeks aid, and the intention with which one becomes poor. Recently, such a distinction is emerging in new homelessness legislation. However, the new poverty legislation which grapples with intent will be doing so in a post-industrial society. Intent minimally denotes some type of control over one's life, but the ability to control one's life decreases in a post-industrial society. As will be discussed, this dynamic has many implications for poverty legislation.

The main problem caused by the blurring of states of intent for public assistance is the failure to aid the needy. It also exacerbates economic class differences. In addition, income-maintenance programs effect the bargaining power of workers in the labor market.

The main result of the failure to aid the needy is the rise in the number of homeless individuals in American society. The problem of homelessness has reached such national proportions that state legislatures have begun to react., It is in this context that the blurred states of intent clash with the emerging homelessness legislation.