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Essay on Homelessness

The Problem of Homelessness in the USA

Within the USA, homelessness is a serious concern and it is an issue that government agents and social services are fighting to get to grips with. Estimates indicate that there are over 500,000 homeless people in the US at any given time. Of this number, around 25% are children. The largest contributing factor to homelessness is the serious lack of affordable homes. The following are some of the more notable facts concerning homelessness.    

Who Does Homelessness Affect?

For those who have never experienced homelessness on a personal level, it is most probable that your idea of who or what constitutes a homeless person is quite inaccurate, Assuming that a homeless person is a stereotypical drunk as seen in movies is quite easy. In real life, however, anyone can be affected by homelessness. As noted already, children make up approximately a quarter of the USA’s homeless population and about a million youngsters in America’s public schools fall into the classification of homelessness.

Exact figures are difficult to pinpoint because homelessness is defined differently by the various organizations who deal with it. Take the USA’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example. The Department’s figures include people who live in transitional houses, shelters, cars, and on US streets. The figures from the National Center for Homeless Education, however, also take into account children who are temporarily sharing houses and those waiting for foster care places because they do not have their own fixed addresses. It is thought that many thousands of these are unaccompanied children, which means they are without parents or other adult persons to care for them.    

Veterans are yet another group of people who form a large portion (over 11%) of the USA’s entire homeless population. As many as 57,000 veterans (at least) are homeless on any particular night and as many as 40% of these will sleep in unsheltered alleyways and parks.

Factors that Contribute to Homelessness in the USA

A severe shortage of affordable housing is possibly one of the most significant causes of the USA’s homeless problem, and with cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget, this scenario is not likely to improve. Estimates suggest that there are approximately 10,000 subsidized low-income housing units lost every year. An eighth of the country’s low-cost housing has been lost on a permanent basis over the past fifteen years. Neither is the suffering confined to families on low income. Estimates indicate that 50% of many people’s incomes is spent on renting and one out of every ten mortgaged homes has been subject to foreclosure since 2008. This further increases the need for affordable housing. There are no assisted rental schemes, yet over several years, waiting lists have grown. For example, there were 10,000 applicants when Charlotte, NC recently re-opened the application process after a 14-year period of not accepting new applications.     

How Domestic Violence Contributes

Domestic violence is actually another big cause of homelessness. Records suggest that a significant 90% of homeless females have suffered mental, physical or sexual abuse. Most have become homeless after leaving their homes, frequently fearing for their lives. With nowhere to go, they are often faced with choosing between sleeping out or staying in an abusive and usually dangerous situation.  

Other Social Problems Caused by Homelessness

In itself, the notion of being a homeless person with no safe sleeping place is problematic enough, but it is a condition that additionally leads to several other problems. An increasing number of US cities are making homelessness a crime. This means that not just do people have to contend with homelessness – they are also in danger of being branded a criminal, which makes it even more difficult to find employment or rent a house or apartment. In turn, this all makes it even more difficult for people to get themselves out of the spiral of homelessness. In 2014, a Homelessness study undertaken by the National Law Center focused on seeking the views of 187 US cities on the issue. It was found that 18% of cities consider it illegal to sleep in a public place, 53% have made it illegal to sit or lay down in particular public places, and 43% are willing to arrest a person who sleeps in his or her car.   

The horrific affect that homelessness has on a person’s health is another crucial factor. It has been shown that in the general US population, 6% suffer severe forms of mental illness. Among those who are homeless, however, the figure increases to a considerable 25%. Approximately 50% of homeless people are self-prescribing and administering their own medication, a fact that likely worsens the situation because it adds addiction and often physical frailty to the pot. Indeed, statistics indicate that the life expectancy of a homeless person is less than an average person – essentially, homeless people can expect their lives to be shortened by 30 years. Thus, a homeless person can expect to live only to the age of 47, or 43 in the case of a homeless woman.      

To conclude, it can be said that homelessness is a huge problem in the USA and it is one that people from all facets of life are affected by. Inadequate support for society’s poorest people and a shortage of affordable housing has led to huge numbers of the population having nowhere to live.