Homelessness is a problem that can be seen when looking just below the surface of the many social problems our country has. Homelessness is a problem that has no regard for its victims. People of all ages, races, gender and religions can be impacted by homelessness. The primary reason that is attributed to homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. Over five million low-income households have struggled to maintain their home due to high housing costs and or substandard housing conditions. (Doorways, 2018)
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The homeless people in our communities struggle day after day to find somewhere to live or wonder where their next meal will come from. Food and shelter are the basis for our human society to be able to stay afloat in any environment we are put in. There are more families that endure homelessness in the United States than in any other industrialized nation. (Doorways, 2018) The sad reality is that one in thirty American children experience homelessness annually and even more saddening, fifty one percent are under age five. (Doorways, 2018)
Over two million children are homeless each year in America. Family homelessness has continued to be a problem that is getting worse and worse over time. At a national level, eighty five percent of providers have seen family homelessness increasing in recent years. (Doorways, 2018) Based on the cost to live in different cities across the United States and the varying pay in salaries, one in four renters spends more than half their income on housing and almost half need to pay over thirty percent of their incomes on rent. (Doorways, 2018)
Many families who become homeless did or do have employment but there are many changing factors can contribute aside from the pay itself not being enough to sustain the financial responsibilities needed to avoid from falling into a homeless state or cycle. Sometimes families go through life changing events such as loss of hours at work, a sick family member, domestic violence or another extreme event that causes a rippling effect that makes the family fall victim to homelessness. (End Homelessness, 2018)
Family homelessness can spiral out of control quickly. The impact that is has on those who endure it can be life changing. This problem is only getting bigger and we need to take action to help slow down the speed at which is it happening and additionally, move to a more proactive state. The challenge to get back to a stable place comes with many hurdles. The earlier that society can help someone who has fallen homeless, the sooner they are able to be a contributing member to society. Another concept that must be considered and understood when learning about homelessness, is understanding the impact it has on children that go through it. A typical homeless family is comprised of a young, single mother, with little to no education and her two young children. (Doorways, 2018) The financial challenges along with the family wellbeing make for a difficult return but it can be done.
Across the United States, the high housing costs and the shortages of available homes has begun to be more and more evident. These adverse effects impact businesses, workers and our economy. The demand for affordable housing exceeds the supply by five point three million units. (No Place Like Home, 2018) Because of the economic boom from the 1990’s, the current population in the United States is somewhat split into two groups. Over two-thirds of Americans currently own their own home and this is more than we have ever seen in our history. (No Place Like Home, 2018) On the other side though, for those looking to buy or rent a home now, the properties have so drastically increased that most people cannot afford to buy or rent. This begins the cycle we are trying to break when it comes to homelessness. Food and shelter are probably two of the most basic human needs we have and it is not only used for comfort, but we need these two critical items so that we can foster an environment for positive childhood development, self-esteem and over family success and well-being. What do we consider to be affordable housing in the United States? We tend to think that affordable entails the cost of a mortgage or rent not exceeding thirty percent of the median family income in a given area. (No Place Like Home, 2018)
A research study showed that in Boston’s South End, the average two bedroom apartment had a monthly cost of about $1400.00 and this by far exceeds the thirty percent margin for affordability. (No Place Like Home, 2018) In Massachusetts as a whole, a study estimated that between 1990 and 1997, more than two hundred thousand people had to leave the state. The main reason cited for their departure was because of the lack of affordable causing. (No Place Like Home, 2018) Our low income families are not the only ones that are impacted by the lack of affordable housing. We are also starting to see a spike and trend of a growing problem in the suburbs. Many companies have moved locations due to tax breaks and other varying factors. Traffic filled highways and polluted air also drives companies to move into different areas. We should be concerned about housing for moderate-income citizens such as police officers, firefights, teachers, nurses and other types of these workers since they are a stabilizing force for the community. Their services are critical for our society to be able to move forward and functioning. It is concerning when they are not able to live and work in a close proximity as this also begins to create an opportunity for financial struggles that could lead to homelessness. (No Place Like Home, 2018)
We can only imagine that if our moderate-income workers are struggling to maintain a financially healthy life style, our lower-income families will more than likely fall victims to a greater dependency on different government services or worse, become homeless. We have seen a pattern across the nation where our government has cut back on construction, maintenance, and subsidies for low-income housing. (No Place Like Home, 2018) This change combined with the growing economy’s real-estate market, has created a very evident affordable housing crisis that can only lead to assuming will get worse if we do not take appropriate actions now. These experts predict that the problem is likely to get worse because salaries are not increasing at the same rate as the cost of living and the available places for housing is continuing to decrease. (No Place Like Home, 2018) Businesses in our society may need to take a stand when their workforce impacts the company’s ability to produce their products or services like they have with education and health care due to workers not being able to afford to get to work, not making enough money to sustain their home or other varying factors. Having affordable housing is a need for every person in our country because it is a fundamental necessity to being able to provide and sustain a positive environment for ourselves and families. Not being able to have an affordable place to live only leads to more problems, especially for our children. (No Place Like Home, 2018)
One of the most unintended consequence that happens when a family falls victim to homelessness is the separation of children from their families. Some shelters do not allow men or older boys to live with women and younger children. Separations are not uncommon in shelters although the effects can become a cycle and some families even have a more formal separation that is guided through the courts and a formal foster care system when a family cannot find a friend or a family member that can take the child in. The facts are chilling when we see the numbers that separations on homeless families has. One study shows that sixteen percent of 8,251 children under sixteen who entered shelters with their families in New York City for the first time in 1996 spent quite some time in out-of-home placements in the child welfare system (before shelter or within the next five years). (ACF, 2018) The study also found that five years after entering a shelter in New York City in 1988, forty four percent of mothers experiencing homelessness had become separated from one or more of their children, compared to only eight percent of continuously housed mothers. (ACF, 2018)
Millions of children experience homelessness every year. The children will sleep anywhere they can find a warm or cool place to stay such as cars, shelters and abandoned buildings. (Doorways, 2018) Most of these children are part of families that are constantly moving and as a result, takes the child out of school and pulled away from family and friends. In the course of a year, about one point six million children will experience homelessness. Studies show that in any given day, more than 200,000 children have no place to live. (Child Separation among Families Experiencing Homelessness, 2018) The problems that plague homeless children are endless. Homeless children get sick at twice the rate of other children, have twice as many ear infections, four times the rate of asthma and five times more diarrhea and stomach problems. (Doorways, 2018) Additionally, with all of these illness that the homeless children contract, not having healthy food only adds to the problem. Homeless children are twice as likely to experience hunger which leads to additional negative effects on the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of children. (Doorways, 2018)
Up to twenty six percent of homeless preschoolers have mental health issues. When looking at the population of children from age six to eleven this increases twenty four to forty percent. (Doorways, 2018) One in three homeless children who reach the age of eight usually have a major mental disorder and this leads to the child suffering from emotional or behavioral problems that cause issues with their learning almost three times to rate of other children. (Doorways, 2018) Although eighty seven percent of school-age homeless children are enrolled in school, only about seventy seven percent attend regularly. Part of the challenge is that most schools do not allow children who do not have all of their medical records or a permanent address register. (Doorways, 2018) As the child gets older, many times their struggles only become more intense. When compared to other children, homeless children are four times as likely to have developmental delays, twice as likely to have learning disabilities and twice as likely to repeat a grade. (Doorways, 2018)
Homelessness can impact many people of all different walks of life and the long term effects can be detrimental. In the society we live in today, we have the ability to help those who end up homelessness and possibly even preventing it from happening or becoming a cycle. There are three main ways that we can address homelessness and they are prevention, emergency response and housing, accommodation and supports. (Prevention, 2018) All of these solutions ultimately create and foster an environment where those impacted can re-stabilize if they are provided housing. When we talk about prevention, we need to understand how we can help families avoid from becoming homeless in the first place. Emergency response refers to how quickly we, as a society, can help provide important tangible items to help the family such as shelter, food, and day to day needs. Once a family is homeless, it is equally important to provide ongoing services to help them transition as quickly as possible. The sooner we are able to provide support for impacted families, the sooner they can return to being an ongoing contributor to our society. (End Homelessness, 2018)
The international evidence reveals that homelessness prevention makes sense from social and economic perspectives. Evaluations of prevention initiatives in Germany, England, and the UK demonstrated that prevention contributed to the reduction of homelessness. (Prevention, 2018) In Canada, research on the importance of discharge planning from correctional facilities, hospitals, and shelters provides evidence that prevention efforts can and will be successful in the Canadian context. (Prevention, 2018) There is not a definitive black and white solution on preventing homelessness but evidence and research shows that we do need to move to a proactive state and investing in our community to prevent it is something we all need to take interest in and most importantly, invest into.
Rapid re-housing provides support to newly homeless families with support to searching for homes, financial assistance and other management services to help the family transition as soon as possible back into a home from a shelter. At times, there are families that may need additional or more long-term assistance to have a positive experience transitioning. The government provides many benefits that the family can use to create a new foundation for their family to begin building on. Some of these programs include child care, employment assistance, early childhood services, income support and or mental health accessibility. (End Homelessness, 2018)
Homelessness really emerged in the mid-1980s in the United Stated and we have used a variety of services to respond to people’s crisis. Our society will always have a need to provide emergency services to our citizens and the goal should be to provide short term and effective solutions but this has not been the trend we have seen. These services are becoming longer term solutions because of the challenge people are finding to be able to recreate their stability within our community. (Prevention, 2018) Our neighboring country, Canada, has created different policies and practices to move to a more proactive state versus reactive. (Prevention, 2018) Canada created the Housing First approach throughout their country. (Prevention, 2018) The Housing First model aims to provide housing and additional needed support for citizens experiencing ongoing homelessness with no housing readiness requirements. (Prevention, 2018)
Looking a little deeper into how we can address homelessness, we can learn from other countries what tactics they have explored. In Canada, they have created a typology of homelessness prevention that might also be fitting for the United States. The model is composed of five layers: structural prevention, systems prevention, early intervention, eviction prevention and housing stability. (Prevention, 2018) Structural prevention is based on legislation, policy, and investment that create assets, and increases social inclusion and equality for the different members of society. Some examples of structural prevention would be increasing the number of affordable places, educating the public on poverty reduction strategies and different types of income supports. (Prevention, 2018) Systems prevention addresses aims to address institutional and system burdens or hurdles that play into the risk of homelessness. Some examples include people who have disabilities, language barriers, and citizenship requirements. (Prevention, 2018)
As mentioned earlier, early intervention is about timely support for individuals and families who are risk of becoming homeless or recently became homeless. Providing medication, shelter, food and case management would be examples of quickly addressing the needs. Evictions prevention focuses on programs and initiatives that help people stay in their home and avoid being evicted from their home. Needs to ensure this happens would be legislation between landlord/tenant, emergency funds when the individual or family does not have sufficient funds to pay their rent and legal advice and representation. Lastly and equally important is housing stability which helps people who have experienced homelessness make a quick and smooth transition back into their home and never have to experience it again. Helping our citizens ensure they are being paid fairly, have the support they need for themselves and family when they have rough times, play a critical part in avoiding the cycle to repeat itself once it has begun. (Prevention, 2018)
Homelessness is a very serious issue that impacts many people and cities in our country. We know that it does not discriminate against its victims and it can become a vicious cycle for anyone who gets caught in it. It is important that we learn about it and try to help those who have experienced it. The numbers are saddening to know that in the Home of the Free, nothing really is free and even those who have worked really hard to have an education, work endless hours and believe in the dream of a better tomorrow, often are caught in the worries of how they will pay for their homes or how they will be able to put food on the table for themselves and family. We should not have any children experience homelessness and for our teens and adults who are caught in the midst of such tragedy, we should be able to quickly offer support and assistance to ensure that this is a onetime tragedy and not an expectation for the next years of their lives.
Homelessness can have an impact on many people and not just those enduring the experience. We will exhaust more resources if we do not take proactive measures to try to address the problem. We will also have more children who experience long term struggles with their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing if we do not take action now. While we may not be able to fix this problem on our own, we have enough opportunity to learn, educate and contribute to help lessen the impact homelessness has in our communities. Together we can make a difference and we must become more proactive and invest into this cause. Our future truly does depend on the actions we take today.
Impact Of Homelessness On Our Life. (2019, Mar 26).
Retrieved March 21, 2023 , from
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