Poverty and Homelessness in America is a daunting subject which everyone recognizes but do not pay attention to. A homeless person is stereotypically thought to be a person who sleeps at the roadside, begging for money and influenced by drug with dirty ragged clothes and a person who is deprived of basic facilities in his or her life such as; education, electricity, proper clothes, shelter, water with a scarcity of balanced diet is termed as person living under the line of poverty. We are facing an epidemic as the number of people who are homeless and living in poverty is increasing.
Poverty and homelessness can be different when compared to other countries and a continent like Asia or Africa or compared to countries like India, China, Syria etc. However, the problems are a major issue in many countries but compared to developing countries and developed countries where there are advanced technologies and advanced education system where the government is focused on people and made by people they are also facing the same problem. The United States of America which is called the “Land of Opportunity”, the opportunity for normal people or people who are born into poverty has very less chance of changing their lives and their living standards over their lifetime.
There are many factors which are backbone for this problem such as Proper education system, Lack of employment facilities, Decline in availability of child assistance, Lack of Affordable health care, Domestic violence, Mental illness, Addiction which are the major factors that are resulting in increasing number of homeless and making the society and people more poor. The research done by End homeless organization shows At the time of the 2017 Point-in-Time count, the vast majority of the homeless population lived in some form of shelter or in transitional housing (360,867 people). However, approximately 34 percent (192,875 people) lived in a place not meant for human habitation, such as the street or an abandoned building. Single individuals comprised 66.7 percent of all people experiencing homelessness (369,081 people), and about 33.3 percent were people in families (184,661 adults and children). Approximately 7.2 percent of people counted were veterans (40,056), and 7.4 percent were unaccompanied children and young adults (40,799) (State of Homelessness12).
The above data shows the situation of families and children is really horrible which is affecting the present day society and also putting risk to the future of society as the children who are under poverty and homeless are proven to be more prone towards as doing crimes and creating different problems in society as they lack proper education and awareness in their life which follows unemployment and leading a life of crime and violence. We are facing an epidemic as the number of people who are homeless and living in poverty is increasing although the transformation and evolution of technologies breakthrough are changing lives all around the globe but can’t catch up with the people at the bottom of the society. Where are we missing out and What is our responsibility for helping another human facing such kind of problems?
Poverty is not a new topic for America but the modern day homelessness is a new topic. The government has implemented many ways to reduce homelessness and largely failed. New jobs and affordable housing programs were introduced to tackle such problems along with social security and GI bills have helped a bit. This all was taken into the act after World War II which helped many families to get a chance to provide a roof over their head. However, after 1970s people started noticing people sleeping under the bridge, elders standing at the doorway at the building, people putting a tent in public place. From 1978 to 1983 the federal housing budget fell from 83 billion to 18 billion, 64 billion a year which would provide an opportunity for people who were poor and homeless and those federal cuts has never been restored. When I imagine becoming homeless not knowing where I would sleep in cold, people staring at me thinking I am a junkie judging me from my dirty smelly clothes, my entire body is tired and painting as I am not able to get proper food and sleep deprivation, Many people who complain homeless or poor people being lazy which results in much worse conditions but the society and government are the root cause for this problem.
Breaking the numbers in terms of race. the number is even more striking disproportionality as the African American make up 40 percent of the homeless and poverty chart while being the 13 percent of the total population. The situation from slavery and segregation, people of color have been facing discrimination and has always been denied equal right and opportunities. These factors linger the situation of a person with color to overcome the situation of homelessness and poverty. Educational sectors in America which are mainly divided into private and public sectors is one the system which affects the person’s future in long terms aspect. Schools in low- income neighborhood across America, specifically where people of color and different minorities lack resources that are standard at wealthy private schools. An education system which has never been designed to offer justice or quality opportunities to the people of color. The educational system should always provide attention to resources and think about the finance, work on the student’s background on being poor and their family situation, provide them with access to the same high-level curricular and pedagogical opportunities. The educational curriculum should consist of multicultural topics, should teach them about personal biases and cycle of poverty and classism in and outside of school.
The gap between the rich and the poor In America is increasing more and more every year, a country where there is a number of rich people than poor people. The poor family average 2.03 children per household which also worsens the child’s condition as the family has more problem to share the same resources with more family members. Research done by Frank and Jennifer Muller from Chicago University shows; According to U.S. Census Bureau data, in 2015, 14.5 million children lived in poverty. Of these, more than 6.5 million children lived in deep poverty that is, lived in households with incomes less than half the poverty line. The poverty rate was higher still (21 percent) for children under the age of 5.(Frank, Jennifer M. 393). Child poverty is especially high in rural areas and it happens where there is a single parent. Thirty percent of children living with a single parent earning lower than minimum wage working full time was also found to have experienced poverty.
Health insurance is also a major problem for people who are homeless as they cannot afford to get an insurance and if they are sick they undergo any kind of treatment the medical bill is really expensive in America which results in them to be not able to pay on top of their own poverty and homeless issue. The government should be able to provide free health insurance to poor or affordable insurance to the people who are living a impoverish life. The single parents who are working to make up their children live better should get raise from the minimum wage along with supporting pay equity. The parent should be provided with paid leave and paid sick days to care of themselves or their children in need. The government should invest in affordable high-quality childcare system which works accordingly to urban and rural areas. We just need to enact the policies that will increase the economic growth for homeless and people living in poverty by expanding these opportunities and help them grow into the middle class.
The other reason which is common among youth, single adults and families being the immediate cause of homelessness is Domestic violence. Survivors of domestic violence seek to the different homeless program seeking a safe environment to start a new living after feeling the abusive relationship or family. Recent statistics suggest that on a single night in January 2017, 16 percent of the overall homeless population, 87,329 people, reported having experienced domestic violence at some point. Research from a study in New York City indicates that one in five families experienced domestic violence in the five years before entering the shelter. Among families that reported domestic violence in the prior five years, 88 percent reported that it contributed to their homelessness a lot (Domestic Violence, Jan 2017).
The need for people feeling from such abusive domestic situation is safety, some people may be able to stay safe in their own housing but many require to stay in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program before getting their own independent housing program A new model for housing model is suggested by Susan Finlay from the University of Washington which explains The new model for social transformation offered by Dignity Village suggests a radical shift in social attitudes toward poverty and homelessness. Their creation of a new type of democratic coalition of poor people builds upon goals stated in their operating charter, where the Villagers commit themselves to provide a community in which “all constitutional and human rights of all people are respected and protected.”(Finaly ,2003). These kinds of housing village model could help this kind of people with affordable rent to start a new life staying away from being homeless or being under poverty as they work between themselves for making each other lives better.
As we know without health there is no wealth, America has one of the most expensive health services. Even the middle class has a problem finding a cheap affordable insurance for themselves and their loved one, imagine the condition of people in poverty and the homeless people. One of the major issue for these people is mental health, through an vision of social and biological mechanisms which are acting in multiple situation where the person is unable to afford properly balanced food to carry on the normal metabolism in the body and the homeless who are unable to stay safe from cold or rain and have to go through sexual assaults, emotional problems too. Various mental factors like poor parental health and birth outcomes, toxic exposure, financial stress, chronic acute stress life, violent event exposure are the reasons affecting the mental wellbeing of such people. There are so many shreds of evidence that prove the mental situation of a person-affecting when they live in poverty and homelessness.
Personally, economic inequality or income inequality lead a person to think so much about their life and question, compare different scenarios they live in which leads to depression, drug use, schizophrenia, homicides and different adverse outcomes. People with mental and/or substance use disorders can be particularly vulnerable to becoming homeless or being precariously housed. According to HUD’s 2016 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report, of those who experience homelessness, approximately 202,297 people have a severe mental illness or a chronic substance use disorder. In January 2016, one in five people experiencing homelessness had a serious mental illness, and a similar percentage had a chronic substance use disorder(Homeless Housing. 2017).
Being a Woman or LGTQA, it’s even harder for them as they have to through physical assaults, sexual exploitation, and substance use disorder. The situation of minorities is really horrible as they have to go through the same problems mentioned above along with police violence and different drug-related problems which affects their mental health. I think the solution for mental issues in homeless and people in poverty could be done by integrating mental health services into existing programs, raising awareness through advertisement on streets, generating modules and tactics for drug addicts to fight against their addiction as well as if we put subjects related to mental health issues in our school curriculum everyone would be aware of the problems and could try to fight against it.
The government along with different INGO and NGO have tried to tackle the problem of homelessness on never every level starting from the 1980s, but some solution worked out many failed, despite spending billions over the time new problems came along the time. The federal government has set an aim of ending homelessness for families with children and youth until 2020. But looking at the data and statistics reaching these goals appears to be much further off. However, every new parliament has new work ideas to tackle against these problems, but practically what really work that stay and work on the street and is there any way to work it out that wouldn’t be wildly expensive? First, we need to consider the number of housing shelter available for poor and homeless people, but getting to know that your number for housing list in around 5 hundred and have to wait for a year to get into the housing seems a big problem to me. Can we really count the present number and condition of the homeless shelter and transitional housing as a long-term solution? It would be better if the government start to build a number of such housing facilities only then we can maintain the balance between the number of people and number of housing option available. Although, if a homeless person gets into a transitional housing the cost to operate such housing options are really expensive.
The research conducted by The Atlantic shows that Nationally, the average monthly cost of serving a homeless person in an emergency shelter is $4,819. Providing him/her with a voucher for housing, on the other hand, is just $1,162. (Semuels,2016). Looking at the data I think providing an emergency shelter is much worthy than providing to a person as a family could bring up their lifestyle save some money and it would help more number of people while a homeless person could be given a voucher which would save more money for the government. People with addiction and mental health issues should be provided with better rehabilitation option and much affordable health so they can start a normal life. The big companies could provide the employment opportunity for the people living in poverty paying them more than minimum wage. The 2015 federal minimum wage of $7.25 / hour comes to $15,080 annually for full-time work, 52 weeks a year. The federal poverty threshold for a family of three is $20,090 (RaisingofAmerica,2016). Imagine living with 15 thousand a year working full time but not meeting the basic requirement of life, waiting every month to month paycheck to pay your bills and fill up your basic need and family’s desire.
The government should provide more importance to existing programs like Unemployment insurance, Food Stamps, Cash assistance and the earned income tax credit. The American justice holds almost one-quarter of the world’s prisoner which were a victim of using violence on poverty getting into drugs or gang-related activity. The use of violence for homeless and people living under poverty has been shown in an article by Javier Auyero Violence is also used to advance or defend territory, to discipline children, to defend self and property, to acquire economic resources, and to establish dominance within the household in other words, violence is deployed to solve pressing problems.(Auyero Javier, p4) The war on drugs and police racism on black people has been going on for decades tearing father from their families or mother or any workforce from their families preventing them to fulfill the necessities for their family. Even after they change their mind and turn their life away from violence and other drug-related activity it is really hard for them to find a normal job as no one would hire a person with criminal records. Along with this, the immigration laws should be worked on helping undocumented aliens to get employment option and help their family. Only then we could help a family or a person get out of poverty and provide them with a roof over their head to lead a normal life as a human.
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