The most common problems that cities face on a day-to-day basis include crime, pollution and homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are around 600,000 people encountering homelessness in this country on any given night. Cities across the country are looking for solutions to decrease this figure and increase safety for these homeless people and the community around them. Houston, Texas has been able to decrease their homeless population by 60 percent since 2011 because there were enough people advocating, donating and volunteering, which is stated by the Coalition of Homelessness. If there is going to be anymore change made to the population of homelessness; there needs to be more programs implemented, shelters built, and awareness of this upsetting circumstance.
First of all, homelessness is defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary by “having no home or permanent place of residence”. While this affects thousands of people all over the United States, looking at one specific city and finding solutions for that one area will help determine more beneficial solutions for other areas in the future. In the Houston area, the most recent statistics, according to the Coalition for the Homeless, indicates that more than 6,300 people are without a home on any given night. These statistics are alarming just by reading the numbers, but it also affects our society as a whole and will not get better if we do not do anything to help it. In fact, $102 million is spent annually on homeless individuals in our community and if the homeless population can decrease the this money can start going towards other problems that need to be fixed as well. There are many different reasons as to why families are being forced into homelessness. “These reasons include an unforeseen financial challenge – such as death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill -which creates a situation where the family cannot maintain housing” (Homelessness 101). Also, the fact that it is very difficult to find affordable housing in the first place just adds to those unexpected challenges that await some people.
While these problems are heavily affecting people, there are multiple solutions that have also been brought to the table. An act implemented in 1987, called the McKinney – Vento Homeless Assistance Act, provides federal financial support for many programs to meet all needs of homeless families. This act created the Emergency Shelter Grant program and a transitional housing demonstration program (Homelessness 101). These programs provide great relieve to those people in need of a place to take shelter or to even find a permanent place of residence. Without creating these programs, homeless persons would have less of a chance to get back on their feet and start a new life in the real world. It might be tough to implement programs that accommodate the entire homeless population, since they are not all the same or come from the same background. Everyone has their own stressors and situation, so it will be tough to provide for all of their needs, but there can be more steps taken to help the best that we can.
Much of the homeless population suffers from habits including: drug, alcohol or other substance abuse because they feel they need to turn towards since everything else is taken away from them. Some of them have even tried going to rehab or AA meetings, but on many occasions these programs conflict with the times to get into a shelter. Some shelters have a check-in time as early as five pm for the purpose to keep people off the dark streets and away from the temptations these provide. Because the check-in time can be this early, some people have to decide to go to a program in which they are receiving help or to have shelter. As early as the check in times for these shelters are, they can have even earlier times than that to be released again. Some shelters kick everyone out as early as five am, when there is nothing to do and not much is open either (Why Do Some Homeless People Shun Shelters). These limitations provide an even greater struggle for those in need of help than they were already enduring in the first place. To much of society a shelter probably sounds like a great idea and place to go, but in all reality it is explained to be like a jail at times. People who have never met each other are forced to spend the night crammed into close proximity with each other, which sounds worse to them than sleeping on the street somewhere. It would be better if we could make better arrangements in the shelter itself for these homeless persons, or stop letting as many people into the same one. It would be a bright idea to create more shelters in one area and allow less people into each one than they were before, so these people can have more room to sleep and not have to be crammed right up next to each other. These shelters would only allow temporary relief, while permanent housing would help decrease the population as a whole.
As Beekman states in his article, “Houston’s solution to the homeless crisis: Housing and lots of it”, rather than continuing to open more shelters there should be more programs for permanently housing homeless people. There is a computer system that prioritizes these people based on vulnerability and connects them with programs. This system is used in Seattle, where the homeless population was booming, but now it has gone down monumentally. The computer system used there could help in Houston greatly and decrease the homeless population even more than it already has. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development named Houston one of the top ten struggling areas across the country to receive extra technical assistance, in 2012. Since this, the homeless population in Houston has decreased by seventy-five percent, but that is still not where we need to be. Maybe more shelters are what we need to fix the issue for now, but it will not fix the issue forever. Regardless if these people have a place to sleep for one night does not help the fact that they do not have a place to sleep every night. Making sure people are fully off the streets and in their own home is the end goal and it will be the end result.
Another reason the homeless population has increased has been due to the lack of homes for veterans when they come home from war. Forty-five percent of homeless Veterans suffer from a mental illness and even then, seventy percent of these people suffer from alcohol or other drug abuse problems (Overview of Homelessness in the Veteran Population). There is not a huge correlation between the war and the mental illnesses obtained, but there are definitely programs that need to be implemented for these people especially. No person should be sleeping on the streets, let alone those people who fought for our right to have a place to lay our heads at night. Approximately 3,600 people who are homeless in Houston are veterans as well. This sounds like a large amount of people, but it is only 28% of the entire homeless population in this area. While only some of these people have mental illnesses, a whopping 70% of them suffer from alcohol or other drug abuse problems. While there are many programs already out there for the homeless, there should be free rehabilitation centers for those veterans in need of help. The last thing in this world we need are people who fought fearlessly for our freedom to not have any of their own. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center helped serve 2,000 veterans in 2011 and continue to increase efforts towards the people who usually avoid any type of assistance. It is very common for homeless persons to avoid any assistance because most of the assistance they have access to does not accommodate their needs fully.
While these people are already struggling in every day life, there are always going to be unexpected situations that arise, even for them. For instance, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston severely back in August of this year, causing many people to lose their homes and everything else they own. While many people were becoming homeless, there was already a significant amount of homeless people just waiting for the storm to pass. Most of the homeless people in whom Matt Sedensky spoke to, most of them stated that they “did not have anything to lose anyway”. Many people clustered together under highway fifty-nine with about twenty tents, as well as many grills and a couple couches for them to hangout on and ride out the storm in “safety”. Some of these people had phones or ways to follow the news as the storm hit, but most of them relied strictly on the flow of information from person to person (Houston’s Homeless Shrug Off Riding Out Harvey On Streets). They were not completely sure that the storm was as bad as they had been told, as they could not see all the flooding that was occurring. They were only able to see the water that was rising near them, which ended up leaving them on muddy ground. There should have been somewhere they could have gone to stay out of the storm, but they had no way to evacuate. The buses in the main part of Houston should be free to ride on considering some homeless persons are trying to maintain a job and accumulate money for themselves. If they cannot get to work, they will not have any chance of making it in this world. It is little things like this that will get people back into the grove of life. If homeless persons are able to have the privilege to get from place to place safely without worrying about scrounging up enough money to pay for the transportation, they will have even a little bit more opportunity than they had before.
The homeless population in Houston may have gone down extremely in the last six years, but it is nowhere near where we need it to be. The likelihood of getting every single person off the street in a short amount of time is very slim, but as long as we can continue decreasing the number, that is all that matters. More space in shelters, free rehabilitation centers, programs to get people into their own permanent homes, and more ways to get people, at least, entry level jobs will help this problem vastly. No one should ever have to struggle the way these people do, especially because most of them are homeless due to unexpected circumstances. A little push up is all these people need, and we have to be the ones to help them. Most people in society today are not selfless people who are willing to give to those in need because our mind set is becoming full of greed and wanting everything for us. It is understandable to want the things you work for, but if giving to people in need will make this community a safer place, and then we should do anything possible to help. If we were down at our lowest point, we would all love someone trying to help us get back on our feet, so you should do that for others as well. Always put yourself in other people’s shoes before you make any decisions that may affect others. The next time you see a family on the side of the road, or walking down the street and see someone who is clearly sleeping there, think about the fact that it could be you right there. You never know what will happen tomorrow, so treat everyone like you would want to be treated if in his or her shoes. Homelessness will always be a problem, but it could be less of a problem if everyone provided what help they do have to offer.
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