Homeless is a social category of people who do not have a place to stay because they may not afford it.Such a category of people are not in a position to maintain a regular and adequate shelter.Surveys indicate that homelessness is worsening in United States of America and Canada.There are between one million and five million homeless people in the United States and the number keep on increasing every year.In Canada a similar scenario exists though in a lesser magnitude,an estimated one hundred people to one milion are homeless at one particular time in this North American country.
In United States the fastest growing homeless people or group comprises of single women who have children who in most cases might be two or three.In the past the largest group of homeless was composed of men who have been abandoned by their families due different reasons.In the last twenty years this trend has been changing where the society has started to acknowledge that the number of children and women who are homeless has been on the increase.
In his introduction to the book “Homelessness in America” Baumohl(1996)notes that the society has always assumed that women are always taken care of both finacially and emotionally by their spouses or their relatives.They are deeply embedded in the family setting.Their situation has been described as hidden homeless since it is assumed that it can only be as a result of extramarital affairs or being a a bad parent.It is almost impossible to see homeless women because they are often likely to get shelter with the friends,relatives or with other homeless people. (Baomohl,J 1996 2)
In Canada homelessness continues to be an issue of concern especially in the major urban centres.History shows that there has been a certain number of homeless at any given time particularly the women and children whom like in United States make up the largest proportion of the homeless people in this country.The population of the hoemeless in this country has been noted to have increased considerably in the early years of the 1970s.This was despite the good performance of the Canadian economy.therefore it can be concluded that this serious problem was caused by other problems at this particular period.In the recent years the problem has escalalted becoming a major political subject in this country. (Brickner,P 1990 56)
What makes women homeless?This is a question that many analyst have tried to answer coming with different reasons, some of which are contentious just like the issue of population of the women who are homeless which has produced different figures due to the lack of a common agreement on whom can be termed as homeless more so the women.Several factors have been pointed out as leading to homelessness for the women in Canada and United States of America. (Burt,M 1980 98)
Domestic violence has been noted as one of the causes of homelessness among women.They are at disadvanteged position and are at an increased risk of being rendered homeless.In such circumstances women are thrown out by their husbands or in some cases they are not in a position to continue being in abusive realtionship therefore they opt out.Some of these women have no steady income or they are uemployed,they will end up putting up with their friends and realtive or find rescue in the streets.This problem has been caused by lack of clear mechanism on how to address the issues of domestic violence.Women have not been adequately empowered to deal with this issue therefore they end up suffering when their marriages become sour.The inequality between the gender has largely contributed to the escalation of this problem in the society where women rights issue has not been given the deserving attention. (Rossi,H 1990 65)
In some cases women have been rendered homeless due to the issue of addiction to alcohol or the drugs.Ralston (1996) observes that some of them are presently homeless or were in the past due to their addictions.They have lost jobs,partners and even evicted due to their eperience with drugs and alcohol.(p47) Ralston explains that women recounted their experiences of this addiction problem which may have emanated from poor parenting and abuse in their families.These women have had a bad experience with their childhood either being neglected or abused at one point in theirlives.This deeply impaired their self esteem resulting to intense feeling of hatred towards the society.Ultimately they ended up in either prostitution or being rendered homeless attributing their fate to the kind of past experiences they have had such as abusive parents.Ralston concludes that explanations given by women who are homeless due to abuse or poor parenting coincide with psychological evidence.For example, the abuse in the family of origin cause a lot of damage to the children and can be attributed to their problems with drugs and alcohol in their adult life.(p47)
Sexism has also been noted to have contributed to homelessness especially for the women.They have been discriminated against as women ,attributing sexism as a cause to their addiction to drugs and alcohol as well as homelessness.When it comes to employment opportunites women have been denied some position due to their perceived inablity to perform on the basis of their gender.This has led to more women relying on welfare and being in a state of desparation.Poverty being a vicious cycle,will be translated even to their own families which they will not be in a position to raise on their own,therfore end up in streets. (Jenecks,C 1994 203)
Another cause which has been identified in both countries is lack of housing for the low income earners.In canada the transformation which was experienced in the 1970s brought several major chnages in Canadian urban centres.Middle class had in the previous twenty year been moving to the suburbs but this trend changed when majority of these people became intersted in living next to the towns.This led to rapid restructuring of once run down urban areas by the middle class something which resulted in the displacement of the poor.Areas which were previously occupied by the poor were now in the hands of the upper middle class.There were no new low income houses which were build in these areas leading to decrease of such houses.As in any other urban setting low income earners resort to living near the towns since they can not afford transportation. (Kusmer,K 2003 145)With loss of houses this population had no alternative,they resorted to living in the streets while other went looking for alternative places to stay meaning they lost their jobs in these towns.The governement and the private sector did not provide new supply of housing.Women were the most affected since majority of them were not working and had to stay with their children as their husbands either abandoned them or went to look for alternative accomodation or work leaving their families behind.Affordable housing has been an issue in the United States too,this has forced many women to stay in shelters. This is because they can not afford to buy or rent decent houses.They depend on the welfare which has been reduced dramatically over the years. (Morton, M. 1995 109)
The decline in value of welfare assistance has been pointed as a cause of poverty and homelessness among women. Welfare assistance has been on the decline meaning that few people are not receiving benefits but they are ending up in jobs where they earn income which can not make the ends meet. In such a case these women will not afford the basic needs and in most cases they will be rendered homeless. Declining incomes have put decent housing out of reach for many workers. For somebody to afford a house he or she requires more than minimum wage. This puts pressure on the workers since they may not be in a position to put up a house. (Bead,R 1987 34)
For the women who are struggling to pay rent serious health issues can arise starting a down ward spiral to the desperate state of homelessness. This begins with a loss of job depleted savings to pay for the health care and eventually facing eviction. Worse still the state of homelessness will continue impacting negatively on the well being of the woman. They experience psychological problems such as anxiety, withdrawal and depression. These mental health problems can have serious consequences if they are not treated at an early stage.
The homeless women experience a lot of problem,they are prone to abuse,poor health condition and further psychological suffering due to their destitution.The problem need to be appraoched with an open mind and given the seriousness it deserves as it is a time bomb waiting to explode.Going by the statistics from the two country,the situation is serious,if not checked it will lead to more social problems.
Baumohl,J.Homelessness in America,Greenwood Publishing Group(1996)
Balston,M.Nobody Wants to Hear the Truth:Homeless women and Theories of Welfare State,Greenwood Press,Westport,CT(1996)
Brickner,P.Under the SafetyNet,WW Norton and Company(1990)
Burt,M.Over the Edge,Rusell Sage(1980)
Jenecks,C.The Homeless,Harvard University Press(1994)
Kusmer,K.Down and Out on the Road,Oxfrod University Press(2003)
Morton,M.The Tunnel:The Underground Homeless of New York City.Yale University(1995)
Rossi,H.Down and Out in America:The Origins of Homelessness,University of Chicago(1990)
Bead,R.On Being Homeless,New York,Yale University Press(1987)
Cite this Homeless Women
Homeless Women. (2016, Oct 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/homeless-women/