Homelessness means having no home and living in emergency shelters, transitional housing or safe havens. The big question is: why are people homeless?
One reason is because there is a lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs have contributed to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. Recently, foreclosures have also increased the number of people who experience homelessness.
The second reason is due to homelessness and poverty being closely linked. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. If you are poor, you are essentially an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets.
In 2016, there were 40.6 million people in poverty. While the poverty rate has been slowly declining since 2014, a couple of factors account for continuing poverty:
- Lack of Employment Opportunities – With unemployment rates remaining high, jobs are hard to find in the current economy. Even if people can find work, this does not automatically provide an escape from poverty.
- Decline in Available Public Assistance – The declining value and availability of public assistance is another source of increasing poverty and homelessness and many families leaving welfare struggle to get medical care, food, and housing as a result of loss of benefits, low wages, and unstable employment.
Other major factors, which can contribute to homelessness, include:
- Lack of Affordable Health Care – For families and individuals struggling to pay the rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness, beginning with a lost job, depletion of savings to pay for care, and eventual eviction.
- Domestic Violence – Battered women who live in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness.
- Mental Illness – Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.
- Addiction – Many people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs never become homeless, but people who are poor and addicted are clearly at increased risk of homelessness.
In January 2016, 549,928 individuals were counted to be homeless. Most homeless persons (65%) are individuals while 35% of homeless persons are in family households. In urban areas, estimates commonly rely on counts of persons using services. However, by this measure, homeless persons in rural areas are likely undercounted due to the lack of rural service sites, the difficulty capturing persons who do not use homeless services, the limited number of researchers working in rural communities, and the minimal incentive for rural providers to collect data on their clients. It is difficult to count homeless children and youth because they are less likely to disclose that they’re homeless; they try to blend in with peers who aren’t homeless.
As a society, we have the resources and knowledge to end homelessness—we just need the collective will to make these ideas a reality. During the week of November 11-19th, join together with people across the country for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. You can help lend a hand to those in immediate need, while also supporting meaningful long-term solutions by:
- Volunteering. Pitch in at your area food bank or shelter.
- Donating. Support local programs with food, clothing, and money.
- Educating. Raise awareness about hunger and homelessness in your community
This information is provided by: http://nationalhomeless.org/about-homelessness/
Submitted by Josie Penberthy, Connections Store and More, Indianhead Community Action Agency
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