Homelessness in the United States is gaining polarized debate. This is because it has detrimental effects, which seeks urgent intervention. Currently millions of people such as the elderly, veterans, children, mentally ill in the streets and families live without food and a regular dwelling (Crowley 36). The homeless suffer from various diseases and this poses danger to the society at large. This problem therefore seeks solutions since it is one of the major crises facing the society today. This paper explores on various issues relating to homelessness in the United States. It focuses on the definition, background and history, analysis of the problem and finally looks at the possible solutions to either prevent or deal with the problem.
The definition of homelessness varies from region to region and the legal aspect of a given nation. Generally, it is described as the condition of individuals without habitual residence. According to the American government, homelessness includes people who sleep in either public or private places unfit for use as a regular dwelling for human beings. Further, the terms may also refer to people, whose primary residence at night is in a warming center, homes for violence victims, homeless shelter, or extemporized housing situation. Homelessness is categorized into three areas namely: chronically, cynically, and temporary (Kathryn & Cynthia, 376).
Background and History
According to Kathryn and Cynthia (378), homelessness began in America following the invention of money, specialized building, electric wiring and plumbing that augmented the cost of constructing homes. Early account through the 1800s witnessed a large number of homeless individuals known as “hobohemia” as a result of American Civil War. In the twentieth century, the great depression caused hunger, poverty, and homelessness and there were roughly 2 million immigrants in U.S. In 1970s economic stress and unavailability of affordable housing led to the modern homelessness. In the twenty first century, children and families formed the bigger homeless populace in America because of the unpaid advertisements by companies followed by the Great Depression in 1930s. In 2008, homeless person migrated to the cities thus calling for the U.S. Congress to appropriate $25 million in Homeless Assistance Grants to facilitate re-housing efforts. Kathryn and Cynthia (379) affirm that in 2009, U.S. President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which partially addressed the issue of homelessness. Obama then allocated Homeless Prevention Fund amounting to $1.5 billion that was distributed through the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) program (Kevin 83). And finally in late 2009, various homeless advocacy programs were in place to deal with homelessness. Presently, in spite of great efforts being made by various organizations, homelessness remains a challenge.
Analysis of the Problem
Homelessness is a problem worldwide. It is has both causes and effects but the effects outdo the causes. As many as 3.5 million Americans are rendered homeless yearly (Kevin 84). Amongst these, more than a million are children. With the perception that the homeless are primarily episodic or chronic, the less fortunate individuals dwelling on the streets in various cities have families with children. Most of these people have been pushed to homelessness via life altering events that are unavoidable. Contrary to the notion that homelessness is mainly as a result of either traumatic events or physical and mental problems, there are other various causes of homelessness.
To begin with, homelessness is related poverty and in fact, those living below the poverty line are likely to seek refuge in the streets. This is an issue that is manageable to higher income earning individuals but those with low income are unable to afford better housing. Secondly, a tragic event in life of an individual can also render a person homeless. Things like lack of employment, family violence, demise of those we cherish, and other domestic disputes such as divorce can also thrust an individual to homelessness. Large portions of homelessness are because of physical, mental disabilities, stress, and post distressing stress disorder.
Thirdly, natural disasters that cause housing problems to become untenable and require huge money to repair also lead to homelessness. One example is the Hurricane Katrina which displaced many people leading to trauma and loss of various members of different families also pushed many people to the streets. Currently, there is rapid dislocation of individuals because of being unable to cater for their bills, serious illnesses, which has dramatically increasing the population of homeless in the U.S (Kathryn & Cynthia, 376). Finally, housing markets and lack of expansion in the government “safety net” also contribute to large numbers of homelessness in the United States (Crowley 25). This was clearly noted during the reign of Reagan and Clinton. During the legacy of Clinton, decline in the availability of public support and lack of affordable health care for the poor and seriously ill also pushed homelessness.
Conversely, the effects of homelessness on homeless individuals are abundant. The effects range from personal entrapment to health matters. It is important to understand that it is not the wish of the homeless to estrange themselves from the rest of their families but rather, various problems that cause detrimental effects. Health issues associated with homelessness are many. Homeless individuals encounter various health problems in their lives such as: cold injury, tuberculosis, mental illness, sleep deficit, transience, corporeal and sexual attack, nutritional paucities, skin infections, respiratory diseases and HIV/AIDs.
In addition, there are various personal issues such as loss of self-esteem, increase in substance use, increased chances of engaging in criminal acts, increase in violent and abusive behaviors, loss of individual care, and development of behavioral problems. Homeless person in the above situation can do anything to keep them alive. This makes them engage in various dangerous activities. This situation further leads to psychological problems.
Overall, homelessness currently is a problem that affects many people in the United States. The United Nations confirmed that more than 100 million people around the globe are without residence. This is a serious humanitarian problem but focus has only been on the developed countries, however, it is time to shift the gear to the developing countries where natural disasters are major causes of homelessness. The number continues to grow thus calling for the humanitarian intervention rather than donations to charities. Above all, adequate and affordable housing must be put in place for such people in dire circumstances.
The government support must be available and adequate to help the homeless. A way of ending poverty in the U.S. through increasing economic growth is vital. The resources must also be available not only to keep the homeless going but also to improve their financial security. Apart from economic development, education is another important aspect in solving the American problem of homelessness.
Homelessness is a problem to all and requires collective responsibility. We must put all our differences and perceptions behind to save the lives of innocent Americans because societal/physical/psychological disability and financial problems should not be the reasons to abandon our citizens. Generosity is the key to lowering the larger number of homeless globally.
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Sheila, Crowley. The affordable housing crisis: Residential mobility of poor families and school mobility of poor children. Journal of Negro Education, 2003. 72, 22-38.
Swick, Kevin. “The Dynamics of Violence and Homelessness Among Young Families.” Early Childhood Education Journal 36.1 (2008): 81-85. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 March. 2011.