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Causes of Homelessness in the United States

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    In the beginning of the 1920’s the United States had recently become a mass consumer economy and was thriving, that was, until when the stock market would crash in 1929. The economy of the United States would become ruined, and as a result millions of people would lose their jobs and become homeless. In current times, this number is far fewer with a prediction of approximately 550,000 homeless people living in the United States. At first glance it might be hard to see the problem since there are far fewer homeless people than before, but truly the growth of homeless people is increasing more each year exponentially. The reason for this is because of the increase in cost of living over the last few generations in the United States. There has been a decrease in the number of job opportunities in the United States and the housing market prices have risen dramatically to the point where people cannot afford to stay in their current homes. There are many potential solutions to fix this situation, but the one to most likely to be successful would be focusing government aid to help create housing for low fund families, alongside creating more work opportunities for families in need. Action must be taken now to prevent another stock crash or we risk going through another economic depression.

    One of the main reasons there is such larger growth of homeless people is because of the inflation on the cost of living in the United States. Ellen Bassuk describes this problem in her paper “Ending Child Homelessness in America” in which she says, “ From 2001 to 2007, the affordable rental housing stock decreased by 6.3% or 1.2 million units (Collinson & Winter, 2010; U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness [ICH], 2010)… With the current economic recession and high rates of housing foreclosures, many of these families are likely to lose their homes. In fact, between 2007 and 2008, the numbers of homeless families increased by 9% (HUD, 2009)” (Bassuk, 497). It goes without saying that if housing becomes too expensive people will be forced to sell their homes and find a new place to stay. It is also known that temporary housing actually tends to be more expensive than a permanent home due to the high recurring payments. People are running out of options and are slowly being pushed towards becoming homeless.

    Another cause is actually mainly revolved around a specific group of people, U.S. veterans. There are trends showing that many veterans end up becoming homeless after their service in the military. Suzanne Creech describes this trend in her study, “Identifying Mental and Physical Health Correlates of Homelessness among First-Time and Chronically Homeless Veterans” “…recent evidence among a large sample of Veterans who served at the time of the most recent conflicts indicated that pay grade at the time of military discharge, substance use, and psychotic disorders were associated with increased risk for becoming homeless (Metraux, Clegg, Daigh, Culhane, & Kane, [ 12] ). Among Veterans who deployed to the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was also a significant predictor of homeless risk” (Creech, 2). Soldiers can experience very powerful and emotional things while in combat and what they experience becomes tied to them for usually the rest of their life. Some people do not know how to cope with these experiences and as a result can struggle with these memories. This can often lead to these veterans developing addictions with alcohol or other substances to help with the coping. This can then potentially ruin their lives and push them towards homelessness. These people served their country and deserve better than this.

    Along with these, there is data showing that people from minority groups are more likely to become homeless than say a person from the majority white population in the United States. In Joy Moses’ “Demographic Data Project: Race, Ethnicity, and Homelessness” data is given which shows, “African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics/Latinxs are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness at the national level and in various locations throughout the country. In other words, the percentage of each racial/ethnic group that is homeless is greater than its percentage of the overall population”(Moses, 1). Obviously one can not choose their race nor should they be ashamed for it. That means that there must be some form of racial discrimation be guided towards these groups. If there was not, there would be much more equal data between the groups. This discrimination is fueling homelessness towards people who do not deserve it.

    Another potential cause for the increase in homeless could actually be the advancements in technology. Over the last couple hundred years humans have become far more efficient in creating products to sell. Machines can do the jobs of an average person over 10 times more effectively. Machines do not tire, and are much more cost efficient than people in the long run. The only downside is that they would need occasional mattiance to make sure they perform correctly. This means that many jobs have been replaced by machines, and more will keep being replaced as time goes on. This causes many people to unexpectedly lose their jobs and have no back up to support their families especially factory workers. Also, many factory workers do not attend schooling past secondary school. As a result, they might not potentially have the necessary skills to work certain white collar jobs, or if they do, they will most likely be denied being hired due to not having a college degree.

    Lastly, one should try and think ahead on how the Covid-19 outbreak might affect the rise of homeless people in the United States. Writers, Patricia Cohen and Tiffany Hsu, who are associated with New York Times, write in their article “‘Rolling Shock’ as Job Losses Mount Even With Reopenings” that as of May 14th, 2020, “that nearly three million people filed unemployment claims last week, bringing the two-month tally to more than 36 million”(Cohen & Hsu). As time goes on more people are bound to lose their jobs, resulting in a loss of income. This means that if this outbreak lasts for too long, it is very likely that some people might have to resort to homelessness due to losing their jobs.

    Obviously being homeless would never be something someone would intentionally want, it causes the person to lack the basic necessities such as, shelter, a consistent food source, and basic hygiene products. As a result of not having these, many homeless people can develop mental and physical illnesses. In “Homelessness” from the textbook Human Diseases and Conditions, they associate being homeless with having an increased risk of developing, “chronic (long-term) health problems such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, or arthritis”(Gale). By allowing homelessness to continue, peoples health are at risk.

    Along with these physical problems, many mental health risks may also develop as a result of homelessness. This can take the form of anxiety, depression and much more. Going back to Bassuk’s article, she says,” The realities of homeless children’s circumstances—poverty and traumatic stress—can result in poor mental health outcomes, including high rates of behavioral problems, delayed developmental milestones, emotional dysregulation, attachment disorders, and anxiety and depression (Bassuk et al., 1997; Guarino & Bassuk, 2010; The National Center on Family Homelessness, 1999)” (Bassuk, 498). While Bassuk is specifically talking about children it can be implied that these mental effects can pass on to their adult years. Homelessness both mentally and physically harms a person and if not treated properly can ruin their lives.

    Going back to the topic of Covid-19, people should realize that the homeless population is probably hit the hardest by this outbreak. These people obviously cannot “stay home” during this outbreak since they have no permanent home. Also, many homeless people live in groups with other homeless people for safety, but in this case, it means they are more likely to catch the virus from others. This causes a much higher risk for the homeless, and also means that they will experience more fatalities than other groups of people. Unless these people are given shelter, they will continue to get infected and die.

    Lastly, it can be argued that people who experience homelessness are pressured towards developing substance abuse and eventually addictions. Many of these people face gruesome mental struggles so their only option to cope with these is to use narcotics. The camps they tend to live in have needles scattered about, and it is far too easy for them to obtain the drugs. In “Homelessness and Addiction” written by Krystina Murray from the Addiction Center, she writes how, “Reports suggest 33% of homeless people battle mental illness. Sources cite mental illness as another major cause of homelessness, which often leads to drug and alcohol abuse” (Murray). She also says, “In addition to suffering mental illness, homeless individuals suffering mental conditions are more likely to be victims of assault, further needing the comfort they temporarily find in harmful substances. Homeless individuals suffering difficult mental and emotional conditions may find it convenient to self-medicate with harmful substances as well” (Murray). Everyone knows the risks associated with dangerous drugs, they can cause damage to one’s body and even potentially death. Every day that action is not taken towards fixing this problem, more homeless people will put their lives at risk by using these dangerous substances.

    Currently, there are programs that are focused on supporting the homeless and also preventing future people from becoming homeless. The flaw with these are that they only put half effort into stopping homelessness. There are so many different programs run through the government that they can not achieve actual progress with the funding they currently have. The way to fix this is to focus the current government funds into helping people currently homeless find housing and jobs. After doing that they can use their funds to help prevent future cases of homelessness. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness currently has a website full of solutions towards homelessness. Similarly, they agree that to fix the problem of affordable housing that they need to, “Improve access to federally funded housing assistance by eliminating administrative barriers and encouraging targeting and prioritization of affordable housing”(USICH). If the funding is focused on specific problems it is almost guaranteed that these problems will be fixed. Ellen Bassuk also mentions in her article “Ending Child Homelessness in America” that, “The Corporation for Supportive Housing documented that more than 80% of supportive housing tenants maintain their housing for at least 12 months and tend to engage in services even when it is not a condition of tenancy (Barrow, Soto, & Cordova, 2004). Use of more costly services, such as emergency health care, hospitalizations, and criminal justice services decreases as well (Corporation for Supportive Housing, 2006.”(Bassuk, 500). By focusing on the current homeless population these people have a much better chance at succeeding later on in their lives, and after these people are helped they can focus their funding elsewhere.

    There is another potential problem that the funding could also be focused on as well and that is mental health. As previously mentioned, there is a considerable population of homeless people with mental illnesses living in the United States.Some of these people are just ordinary citizens but some are also veterans too. For the veterans, most struggle with mental issues such as PTSD and depression, and it is believed that these might have been a factor leading them towards homelessness. It then goes to say that if we were able to provide more support programs for people struggling with mental illnesses that it could essentially reduce the amount of newly homeless people per year. If we help these people early on, hopefully, their wounds will mend and they will be able to remain alongside their peers.

    Now one must think about the benefits and drawbacks of this plan. In one case we are helping lower the current homeless population and then preventing further people from becoming homeless. Thus, also helping prevent these people from developing mental and physical illnesses. On the other hand however, certain government programs might go unfunded for a period of time which could lead to more problems in those fields. This means, the best solution to this would be taking from programs that are either obsolete or overfunded. There are tons of different programs out there so there must be some money that could be used more efficiently towards helping the homeless. Now some people might still argue that instead of focusing on the current homeless people, we should focus on supporting people before they become homeless. While this is a good idea, is it really fair to just ignore the current people struggling from homelessness? The United States is supposed to be land of equality where all people are to have equal opportunities, and by ignoring these people, that is ignoring this belief.

    People are too idle when it comes to dealing with homelessness. It is fair to say that if a homeless person would come up to a person begging for some money, the majority of people would either just ignore them or maybe say some explicit words back at them. People have developed this false notion that homeless people are dangerous and are only trying to manipulate people’s feelings for some cash. The truth is that most of these homeless people are just truly desperate, it is very likely that they have not had a full meal in days if not weeks and they have been exposed to cold and rain. Hopefully, if people learn to ignore this stereotype, they might actually realize that these homeless people are the same as them and might feel more sympathetic for them.

    One should try and imagine what it might be like if they were homeless. Being unsheltered and malnourished would be miserable for any person. You would not be able to access basic hygienic equipment and you would not know for certain whether or not you were going to be able to eat that night. You would have to be outside no matter whether it was sunny or in the middle of a blizzard. You would be exposed to facing assault and be more at risk of abusing substances. The American dream is that every citizen of the United States would have an equal opportunity in achieving a successful career and could live a fulfilling life, but it is obvious these people are not experiencing that. Every year a larger group of people become homeless, thus meaning this problem requires immediate attention; no one deserves to suffer like this.

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