Food, clothing and shelter are the basic necessities of an ordinary person. Even after thousands of years of human evolution, we are still failed to provide adequate shelter to all the people in this world. Apart from poverty and unemployment, lot of individual, structural, family and social problems contribute to the homelessness problem. Children seem to be most important community upon which homelessness problem affect seriously. Government, social organizations and individuals should combine well and act effectively to eradicate homelessness related problem from the world. This paper briefly analyses various dimensions of homelessness problem and suggests some recommendations to avoid homelessness.
In March 2009 CNN reported that in America one of every fifty children faces homelessness, meaning that more than 1.5 million children face this problem, “These numbers will grow as home foreclosures continue to rise” (CNN, 10 March 2009). Homelessness is a big social problem existing in all over the world irrespective of developed, developing or underdeveloped countries. Perhaps developed countries may have little problems with respect to homelessness; however, no country seems to be free from this social problem. The reasons for homelessness are different in different countries. In underdeveloped countries, lack of financial resources would be the major reasons for homelessness whereas in rich countries, people may have enough resources to purchase a home of their own. But they may not think it as a much needed necessity because of their different views about life. Individual and structural reasons are generally cited by the sociologists for homelessness apart from lack of resources. Unemployment, poverty, lack of affordable housing etc. are some of the major structural reasons associated with homelessness whereas alcoholism, drug addiction, lack of qualification and social support, debts, poor physical and mental health, loss of relationships, etc. are some of the individual reasons associated with homelessness.
Homelessness affects children more than any other community. Adults are matured enough to adjust with any situations; however, children during their developmental stages may face lot of physical emotional problems while they face homelessness. Moreover childhood is the learning period for children and their learning from school, family and society would be severely affected as a result of homelessness.
Homeless children are sick at twice the rate of other children. They suffer twice as many ear infections, have four times the rate of asthma, and have five times more diarrhea and stomach problems. Homeless children go hungry twice as often as nonhomeless children. More than one-fifth of homeless preschoolers have emotional problems serious enough to require professional care, but less than one-third receive any treatment. Homeless children are twice as likely to repeat a grade compared to nonhomeless children. Homeless children have twice the rate of learning disabilities and three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems of nonhomeless children. Half of school-age homeless children experience anxiety, depression, or withdrawal compared to 18 percent of nonhomeless children (Bassuk &Friedman, 2005, p.2).
From the above statistics, it is clear that how severely the homelessness problem will affect the children (See Appendix 2). So any solutions sought for homelessness should give priority to the needs of the children. Community based shelters are provided to many of the homeless families in United States. However, such community shelters may create many social problems as clashes between families or children can take place quite regularity. Dominant people in the community shelters may try to dictate things in community shelters which may create severe problems. In short, community shelters is a good idea to eradicate homelessness, but the management of these community shelters should be done properly to make it peaceful and effective for the diverse homeless people. People belonging to same community should be grouped together while allocating the community shelters in order to reduce the clashes. People from different communities may have different beliefs and customs which may result in clashes if different communities forced to stay together.
President Barak Obama knows the severity of homelessness problem better than anybody else in America. He has started some serious efforts to solve the homelessness problems in America. “Around $2.5 billion of dollars has already been sanctioned by the Obama administration for solving homelessness problems in America” (Obama Administration awards $1.4 billion in homeless grants). However, the above amount seems to be inadequate while considering the volume and severity of homelessness problem in America (See appendix 1 for more details about the state-wise ranking of homelessness problem in America). American administration including Congress and president Obama should approach this issue in a more realistic way and should try to allocate more funds to completely solve the homelessness problem in America.
American Congress should; Increase the availability of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Provide special rental subsidies for safe housing for low-income families whose children suffer from severe asthma or other chronic diseases, Increase the number of Section 8 vouchers, which allow low-income families to obtain housing in the private market, Protect the existing affordable housing stock by providing funds to preserve federally subsidized housing etc on order to eliminate the housing problems (Affordable Housing Shortage Threatens Children’s Health, 1999, p.2).
State governments should take more responsibilities than the federal government in solving homelessness problem. “The Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness (GCEH) is a statewide nonprofit and advocacy organization that provides training and technical assistance to homeless service providers, information and advocacy for policy makers, and a Help Line for those facing homelessness” (Homeless in Georgia, 2008, p.9). However, the state governments need to give more emphasize in solving this social problem.
Kendall (2008) has pointed out that “people like to form groups to meet instrumental and expressive needs. Instrumental or task oriented needs cannot be met by one person alone, so the group work cooperatively to fulfill the goal. Moreover small groups are better for all the members to acquaint well and to interact simultaneously” (Kendall, p.151-152). Earlier people like to live in large families. As per the changing trends seen in family concepts and setups, people like to live in nuclear families. A nuclear family is a family in which a husband and wife stay along with their one or two children. Grandparents or brothers and sisters have no place in a nuclear family. Privacy is one of the most important concepts of current generation and nobody wants to destroy their privacy by staying in a larger family. Moreover, the commitments in a nuclear family will be lesser than that in a larger family. All these things motivate people to opt for nuclear family rather than larger family. However, these changing family concepts are putting grandparents in immense trouble. Many of the old people in America are forced to take shelter in community homes or Cheshire homes because of the reluctance of their children in looking after them. In other words, many of the old people in America forced to become homeless even though they have enough financial resources.
The public attitude towards family concepts should be changed a lot in order to solve the homelessness problem permanently. Current generation should realize that it is their responsibility to look after their parents when they become old. They should realize that one day; they will also face the same problem. In other words, homelessness cannot be solved only by the government. Public support and cooperation are necessary to solve the homelessness problem permanently and effectively. Social organizations can play a major role in solving homelessness problem. The concepts of family are changing drastically and family problems are arising everywhere. Family problems often result in some of the family members taking shelter in streets, rented houses or community homes.
Homelessness is a big social problem everywhere in the world and America is also not an exception. Changing family concepts, unemployment, structural problems individual problems etc are making people homeless. Homelessness affects children more than anybody else. Children may develop physical and emotional problems as a result of homelessness. Government, social organizations and the individuals combine well and cooperate well to eradicate homelessness permanently from American soil.
Affordable Housing Shortage Threatens Children’s Health (1999). Family Housing Fund, June 1999. Retrieved from http://www.fhfund.org/_dnld/fact 20sheets/childrenshealth.pdf
Bassuk E.L. MD, Friedman S. M. (2005). Facts on Trauma and Homeless Children. Retrieved from http://www.nctsnet.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/promising_practices/Facts_on_Trauma_and_Homeless_Children.pdf
CNN. (10 Mar. 2009). “Report: 1 in 50 U.S. Children Face Homelessness. Retrieved from http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-10/us/homeless.children_1_homeless-children-family-homelessness-child-homelessness?_s=PM:US
Children Pay the Price for Homelessness.(2008). Family Housing Fund, Oct. 2008.
Retrieved from http://www.fhfund.org/_dnld/fact 20sheets/Children-Pay-The-Price-For-Homelessness.pdf
Homeless in Georgia (2008). Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.dca.ga.gov/housing/SpecialNeeds/publications/homelessReport08lowRes.pdf
Kendall, D (2008). Sociology In Our Times, Cengage Learning. 7th Edition. 2008.
Obama Administration Awards $1.4 Billion in Homeless Grants. (2010). The Macon County News. Thursday, 21 January 2010. Retrieved from http://www.maconnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6192&Itemid=34
The National Center on Family Homelessness. (2010). Campaign to End Child Homelessness. Retrieved from http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org