Homelessness in America

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The luxury of having a place to lay ones head and being able to provide reliable shelter is something that thousands upon thousands of people across the world do not have the ability to state. What does it mean to be homeless and when did it emerge? The origin of homelessness can allegedly be traced back during Colonial America. As early as 1640, people were being labeled as English vagrants and being listed as outcast individuals with the police being after them (Homelessness, 2018). Kenneth Kusmer discusses on page 13 of his book Down and Out, on the road: The Homeless in American History how homeless individuals, vagrant persons, had become a steady sight amongst the streets of Boston and how Boston peacemakers were more often than none charged with arresting them (Kusmer, 2002).

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Millions of people in America are living on the streets daily, homelessness is an all- around social problem. Homelessness affects people of both genders and all ages and racial cultural individuals; nevertheless, single men, young children, veterans, teenagers and young adults living in low-income families are disproportionally represented among the homeless population. During the 1980s, homeless men, women, and children began crowding urban America’s back alleys and streets (King ct al. 1989, National Mental Health Association 1988). Current debates center around the makeup of the homeless population and its size.

Government-sponsored research suggests that the homeless are made up of deinstitutionalized mental patients, drug and alcohol abusers, families with a black or Hispanic woman as head of household, and the marginally employed who have suffered a major financial setback, such as with a prolonged illness (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1984). Increases in homelessness are due primarily to a public policy of deinstitutionalization of the mentally III, who are released into communities unprepared to provide adequate support. Conversely, Wright (1988) reports that the true rate of mental illness among the homeless is only 10-33 percent.

There are many different social problems that a person will encounter the minute they are faced with homelessness. Within the upcoming paragraphs I will be discussing these three categories: Mental Illness Substance Abuse, and Un-employment. There are numerous things that can cause homelessness one of them of course being housing. There is a lack of housing that low-income people can afford. Without housing opportunities, people are faced with eviction and, unpredictability can result into one becoming homeless. Low -income families often do not earn enough money to pay for food, clothing, transportation and a place they can call their own home.
By the early 1980’s homelessness had emerged as a major social problem especially in many communities it has a become a huge distraction and most would even say a big problem. There are a few things a community can do to help bridge the gap with homelessness. People who are homeless in the community need someone to advocate for them by helping them secure housing, health services and employment.

Defining a Community Problem and Needs

As the weather grows colder, we are hearing more about homelessness in our different communities. As we all know homelessness is a year- round problem that affects nearly a billion people in America. The cold weather causes a great concern for those who are homeless during this time of the year. Majority of the homeless population can’t afford to stay in a shelter due to the obvious of them being un-employed and, the average cost of a shelter nowadays being $7.00 per night so they sleep on the park benches, on sidewalk streets, under the bridges of the highways. To address the homelessness, communities should take a synchronized approach, moving from a group of individual programs to community world wide -programs. The problems that the communities face with homelessness are substance abuse, unemployment/ low income, and mental illness.

On an average, most households become homeless because they simply do not make enough money to pay for housing. For those who are low -income but working, incomes have been stagnant and have not kept pace with expensive housing cost. Several of those who experience homelessness are unable to work due to a disability or are not able to swiftly earn the money they need for rent. One solution for solving the income problem to keep people from becoming homeless would be for the communities to rally together to have more job training and placement programs that will be funded by the government. Also, provide the tools some people need to secure steady, long-term employment. Improving access to supportive services, such as childcare grants and transportation assistance would also go a lengthy way in helping people stay employed, attain housing stability and remain housed.

Moving along, one’s community would need to address is mental issues and healthcare problems that arise daily. An acute physical or behavioral health emergency or any long-term disabling condition may lead to homelessness; homelessness itself can worsen long-lasting medical conditions. A person can become homeless when his or her health condition becomes disabling and stable housing is too hard to maintain without help. Individuals with serious mental illness that goes untreated are mostly vulnerable to homelessness. Both poverty and absence of access to care contribute to inequalities in mental health. The last community problem with homelessness is substance abuse when being homeless. Substance abuse is often a cause of homelessness. Addictive disorder disrupts relationships with family and friends and often cause people to lose their jobs.

For people who are already struggling to pay their bills, the onset exacerbation of an addiction may cause them to lose their housing. Homeless people with both substance disorders and mental illness experience additional obstacles to recovery, such as increased risk for violence and victimization and frequent cycling between the streets, jails, and emergency rooms (Fisher and Roget, 2009) As a community there should be treatment facilities in place to help those who are homeless get off drugs and get back to a normal way of living which means to find steady employment and steady housing.

Data Collection and Analysis

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty underwent an analysis in which The NLCPH currently estimates that each year at least 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans sleep in shelters, transitional housing, and public places not meant for human habitation. In addition to the 2.5 to 3.5 million at least an additional 7.4 million individuals resulted in housing with other individuals due to losing heir own homes and lacking the necessities to be economically successful. The statistics and data NLCPH collected has proven that the data gathered in relation to homelessness is far from exact. Part of the difficulty is that there are numerous definitions of how homelessness is now defined and or depicted. For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD) narrowly defines homelessness as being largely limited to people living in shelters, in transitional housing and in public places (Nlcph, 2018).

The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) defines homelessness on an even a broader perception that defines homelessness being families who are doubled-up with others due to economic necessity. Another difficulty concerns methodology (Nlcph, 2018). Methodology being a body of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline (Merriam-Webster, 2018). HUD reports annual Point-in-Time counts of the unsheltered homeless population; however, the methodology used to collect those numbers varies by community and is often deeply flawed. In a USA Today article titled Homeless Problems Bigger Than Our Leaders Think reporter Maria Foscarinis states how Urban Development, says homelessness decreased by nearly 4% over the past year. But it doesn’t actually measure homelessness. Instead, it looks at people who are in shelters or transitional housing and the number of people who are outside on a single night. Not included are those doubled up or couch surfing because they can’t afford their own place. Neither are people in hospitals, mental health or substance abuse centers, jails or prisons with nowhere to go upon release (Foscarinis, 2014). The third difficulty is, the overall population.

Moving along, let’s look at the data collected and analyzed regarding the homeless population as a whole. Before the 2008 recession, an estimated 2.5 to 3 million men, women, and children were experiencing homelessness each year (using the HUD definition), including a total of 1.35 million children, and over a million people working full or part-time but unable to pay for housing.4) Since then, there are 6 indications are that the crisis has deepened:
1.) The number of people who have lost their homes and are living doubled-up with family or friends due to economic necessity remained at 7.4 million people in 2012 (the last year for which data is available), consistent with 2011, but some states saw as much as an 80% increase.
2.) Over 1.2 million school children were homeless (using the DoE definition) during the 2012-2013 school year, an 8% increase over the previous school year. Sad to say, almost 2.5 million children overall were homeless in 2013, an 8% increase over 2012.
3.) A 2014 survey in the Law Center’s report, Welcome Home: The Rise of Tent Cities in the United States, showed media reports of tent cities in 46 states across the country.
4.) According to a June 2014 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, there is now a crisis in affordable rental housing. In 2012, more than one out of every four renters (27%) paid over 50% of their income in rent.10) The number of cost burdened renters has increased each year since 2007.
5.) According to the same report, racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected. In 2012, 27% of African-American households paid over 50% of their incomes in rent, along with 24% of Hispanic households and 21% of Asian households; only 14% of White households paid over 50% of their incomes in rent (Nlcph, 2018).

Next, there are the demographics of the homeless population. According to data collected by HUD, over the course of 2012 the sheltered homeless population tallied to be: 63% male; 37% female 15) (data based on sheltered adults) o 83.7% non-Hispanic/non-Latino; 16.3% Hispanic/Latino 16 to 38.9% White, non-Hispanic; 9.5% White, Hispanic; 39.4% Black or African American; 5% other single race; 7.2% multiple races 17 to 22.6% under age 18; 23.5% 18 to 30; 35.0% 31 to 50; 15.6% 51-61; 3.2% 62 and older 18 63.1% single-person household19 o 38.6% disabled 20 (data based on sheltered adults) (Nlcph, 2018).

Children, youth, and families were another group in which data was collected and analyzed in regards to the homeless population. In October of 2014 HUD published an annual homelessness assessment report The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development OFFICE OF COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT on page 22 of the publication it stated that People in families made up 37.4% of the total sheltered and unsheltered homeless population in 2012 (AHAR, 2014). The proportion of homeless people who used emergency shelters and transitional housing as part of a family increased from 30% to 35% from 2007 to 2010, with the majority of homeless families consisting of single mothers with young children. About 2.5 million children, or one in every 30, were homeless in 2013, an increase of 64% since 2007. From 2011 to 2012, the number of unaccompanied children in shelter increased by 28%. For the 2012-2013 school year, 1,258,182 students were identified as homeless, an increase of 7.6% over the previous year.28 Of those students identified as homeless, 75% were living doubled-up with family/friends; 16% were living in shelters; 6% were living in hotels/motels; and 3% were living in some type of unsheltered location (Nlcph, 2018).

Veterans were the next group analyzed. On a single night in January 2014, veterans accounted for about 11.3% of all homeless adults. During a 12-month period from October 2011 to September 2012, homeless veterans accounted for one in 156 veterans. Domestic violence survivors were yet another group whereas data was collected and furthermore analyzed. In a 2014 survey of 25 US cities, 15% of all homeless adults were identified as survivors of domestic violence. In a national census of domestic violence services conducted in September 2013, 36,348 victims of domestic violence received housing services from domestic violence programs, which includes emergency shelters and transitional housing, in a 24-hour period (nlchp, 2015).

Ethical Challenges and Dilemmas

There are several ethical challenges one could face being in the human service field. Ethical issues that will affect Human Service Professionals are failure to protect your client’s Privacy and Confidentiality, not being able to help your clients with their goals. If someone working as a Human Service Professional fails to keep the client’s integrity, safety and security of their client’s records. If one working in the human service field has sexual relationship with their client or a conflict of interest or discrimination of some kind arise. There are a few more dilemmas that can cause significant challenges when becoming homeless. Signature for consent to treatment’ a application to apply for Welfare, having a 24 hours homelessness requirement, the need to apply for Social Security, staff substance use/mental health issues Safe Haven Sex. Also, discharging a client when 2 agencies are involved. By using the codes of ethics in the human service field this will help one to stay focused on the problem at hand and be attentive to the clients.

Ethical Principle: Human Service Professionals respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person Human Service Professionals will need treat each person in a caring and respectful manner, mindful of individual differences and social and ethnic diversity. Human Service Professional encourage clients’ socially responsible self-determination. Human Service Professionals seek to improve clients’ capacity and opportunity to change and to address their own needs. Human Service Professional act in a truthful manner. Human Service Professionals are frequently aware of the profession’s mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Human Service Professionals act honestly and responsibly and encourage ethical practices on the part of the establishments with which they are affiliated. Ethical guidelines are not legal documents. However, because they reflect the values of the professional associations that created them, human service professionals are expected to abide by them. Thus, when a professional violates the codes of ethics, consequences could include banishment from a professional association, revocation of a credential, or even dismissal from a job. (Neukrug, Milliken, & Walden, 2001)

In some instances, states have legislated that part or all of an ethics code holds legal authority. In these cases, stiffer penalties such as fines or even imprisonment could result from an ethical violation. Of course, the actual outcome depends on the seriousness of the violation. In either case, when faced with difficult ethical dilemmas, you should consider your ethical code as well as some of the models just discussed and come up with a wise decision whatever that decision is. Throughout this text, we will raise various professional and ethical issues that are related to the NOHS code of ethics.

Summary /Conclusion

The case study concluded with discussions on the importance of Ethics and Dilemmas of Human Service Professionals, statistics of those who are homeless and data collections. As a society what can we do to help with the problems of homelessness in the communities? The fundamental problem encountered by homeless individuals lack of a steady residence has a direct and harmful impact on health. Not only does homelessness cause health problems, it perpetuates and exacerbates health by seriously hindering efforts to treat disease and lessen disability. Although the crucial need for intensive health care and other speedy interventions is readily recognized, the committee found that the health problems of the homeless are inextricably tangled with broad social and economic problems that require multifaceted, long-term approaches for their determination.

Research has shown that homelessness cannot be defined by one source. The issue contains a complex mixture of societal and individual causes. Individual causes of homelessness influence a substantial percentage of the population with conditions such as mental illness and addiction. Society has impacted homelessness with decreases in affordable housing and limited funding linked to the scope of the issue. The opinion of the public also influences the solutions developed on local and national levels. As the public opinion moves, so follows the policies and media coverage on the matter that leads to either resistance or welcoming of long-term solutions. Explanations can also be implemented from community level to worldwide scales. From implementing mandates to build affordable housing to the creation of worldwide and local organizations or communities to address the array of sources of the issue, homelessness can be decreased and even removed. One action can impact millions and originate meaning from one act into a multitude of solutions that help our communities’ homeless. As the American people suffers with homelessness for the next centuries ahead it will be up to those who care to make that extra effort to make sure the homeless are not over looked and receive the social services they deserve this will have to start with our leaders and council members just because a person becomes homeless do not mean they deserve to be over looked mistreated. Becoming homeless is never anyone’s choice it is the fact that life sometimes happen and we as adults have trouble with dealing with life as it happens .

In conclusion, Becoming a Human Service Professional will be the best thing that ever happened to me. Helping people has always been a passion of mine. There are people in the world who need good people who are willing to help them and not judge them based on their life experiences.

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Homelessness in America. (2019, Mar 26). Retrieved March 24, 2023 , from

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