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Homelessness In America January 30, 2008

Posted by Reginald Johnson in Culture, Family, Life, Mental Health, News.

Homelessness is defined as “people without a home of any kind”. In America alone millions of people become homeless each year. The questions we should be asking are how we as a society can prevent homelessness and how can we fix our broken systems so that millions more don’t become homeless? Some of the factors why some individuals become homeless are personal problems, domestic violence, lack of education, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness and lack of social skills.

Nearly 1 out of 5 (19.1%) of DC residents—or roughly 104,000 people—live at or below the poverty line. This makes the District of Columbia, the jurisdiction with the 3rd highest poverty rate in the nation. These numbers compare with rates of 8.2% in Maryland, 10.0% in Virginia, and 13.3% in the United States, as stated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many factors contribute to homelessness; the main cause of homelessness is due to economic reasons. Some people simply do not have the economic resources to make it on their own; thus why so many homeless people are housed with families and friends. Many people who are classified as homeless have jobs and chances are they won’t stay homeless for more then few months or up to two years the most. Legally anyone who is staying in temporary housing or has unstable accommodation is considered being homeless. Clearly anyone who is homeless and mentally stable would agree that homelessness isn’t the direction in which they saw them self and would like a better life in the long run. Based on factual research, here are some statistics.

DC is the jurisdiction with the highest child poverty rate in the United States, with more than 2 out of 10 children—32%—living in poverty, compared with 12% in Maryland and 13% in Virginia. 17% of DC’s families live in poverty, compared with 6% of Maryland’s families and 7.4% of Virginia’s families.

54% of DC’s children live in low-income (less than 200% of poverty) families, compared with rates of 29% in Maryland, 29% in Virginia, and 39% in the United States, making it the jurisdiction with the highest rate of low-income children in the United States.

Only 2.7% of families and 7.4% of individuals living in Ward 3 live at or below the poverty line. Conversely, 33.1% of families and 36% of individuals in Ward 8 live in poverty.

In 2006, 9,369 individuals and families were homeless in the District of Columbia, a 13.5% increase from 2004. 1,891 people were chronically homeless, meaning they had a disabling condition and had either been continuously homeless for a year or more OR had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three (3) years, as stated by DC Government.

Research shows that numerous social problems—such as poor health, low school performance, violence, and teen parenthood—are tied to family poverty and neighborhoods with high-poverty levels. For example, the poorest fifth of DC neighborhoods experienced 34% of the violent crimes in 2000 compared with 6% in the quintile with the lowest poverty.

Respectively, African Americans and Hispanics make up 12.1% and 14.5% of the U.S. population. However, these two groups make up nearly half of those living in poverty. As of 2005, 9.2 million or 24.9% of African Americans were living in poverty, as were 9.4 million or 21.8% of Hispanics.

Research shows that child poverty is very costly for the U.S. economy. The costs to the U.S. associated with childhood poverty total about $500 billion per year, or 4% of the GDP. For example, experts estimate that child poverty each year: reduces productivity and economic output by about 1.3% of GDP; raises the costs of crime by 1.3% of GDP; and raises health expenditures and reduces the value of health by 1.2% of GDP.

There are various reasons why and how a person can become homeless. Research suggests that each reason and cause depends on the individual. With that said, the focus should really be on how to end homelessness for those individuals that want the help and to have a better understanding for those with mental illness that might seem other wise content with being homeless. Although most homeless people can carry out normal lives like keeping a full-time job and paying most of their bills, not having a home to go to the end of the day takes serious emotional strain on that person.

Unemployment rates are reasons why homelessness exists. With minimum wage being $7.50, it’s nearly impossible to afford rent anywhere in the United States, causing more people to get two jobs just to pay rent.
In reference to the questions we previously covered, perhaps homelessness can’t be fixed for every homeless individual in America. Even with support from communities and our government, chances of preventing homelessness all together is uncertain but the fact remains that with expensive care and attention from the government and each community, homelessness can decrease and those people can lead a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

While some of factors that cause homelessness does include mental illnesses and addictions and some these individuals choose to stay homeless as a way of freedom; research confirms that mental illness isn’t a permanent fixture for all people. Some people with mental illnesses can be treated with proper help and guidance. As for the addictions, it’s easier for the addict to feed his or her need of drugs on the outside world, where as in a shelter they would be restrained from their habits.
How can we end homelessness among people with serious mental illnesses?

Here are some suggestions:
•“Encourage the adoption of evidence-based practices for services, treatment, and prevention of homelessness.”
•“Establish partnerships with Federal agencies, state and local governments, and public and private agencies to reduce barriers to services and increase resources and funding.”
•“Conduct research that addresses important gaps in knowledge. “

Consistently reaching out and providing treatment options is a good method to helping the homeless with mental illnesses. People are more likely to except help from strangers if they feel they care and that they are trying to build some personal relationship. Another good method is to provide support within housings and give continuous attention from the homelessness to the housing stages.

As I have mentioned the different cases of homelessness and its affects on an individual’s emotional and mental state; another important and yet overlooked problem is children who are homeless or under the guardian of homeless parents. In any given week, it is estimated that more then 200 000, children have no place to live. Over the course of a year, as many as 1.4 million children experience homelessness. Forty two-percent of these children are under the age of five, where as homeless families take up forty percent of the total homeless population.(Burt)

Some factors that contribute to family homelessness are traumatic abuse to single mothers, mental health problems and interpersonal problems. Research suggests that the population of homeless single mothers with dependents is significantly higher then coupled parents. Due to an increasingly large population of teenage pregnancy’s and more young couples having children out of wed log, its no wonder there are so many single mothers can’t afford to support their children in a stable home. Being homeless has its effects on the children as well it would have on any adult.


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