No one chooses to be homeless, yet the reality is there are many people who are experiencing homeless every night. In America alone, it is estimated that more than 3.5 million people are homeless each yoear, 1.5 million being children. Close to 800,000 Americans are homeless on any given night.
People become homeless for a variety of reasons. Homelessness is primarily caused by lack of affordable housing, unemployment, substance abuse and mental illness.
ECONOMIC VS CHRONIC
There are two types of homelessness. Economic Vs. Chronic
Many individuals and families experience economic homelessness due to job loss, health issues, or other hardships.
Chronic homelessness on the other hand, is defined by HUD as an individual who is “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”
There is currently no state in the USA where a minimum wage job will pay for the rent of an apartment at fair market value. This has caused many families to double up with friends or relatives or to stay in hotels that are paid for by the week or by the month. And housing market trends indicate that the situation is getting worse rather than better. Current levels of housing costs, coupled with low-wage jobs and economic contraction, could push even the working poor out of their homes. If housing were inexpensive, or people could earn enough to afford housing, very few individuals would face homelessness. But housing costs have risen steadily across the country, and they have skyrocketed in many areas.
Many homeless adults have physical and other types of disabilities. Almost half (46 %) reported chronic physical conditions. Problems with alcohol, drugs, and mental health among homeless people are well documented and often occur together. Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness
UNEMPLOYMENT & POVERTY
Homelessness and poverty are inextricably 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. 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.
POLICIES & POLITICS
Structural, personal, and political factors influence the level of homelessness and determine where it will occur most often. Structural factors in the United States that have fueled the problem include (A) Changing housing markets for extremely low-income families and single adults are pricing more and more people with below-poverty incomes out of the market; (B) Dwindling employment opportunities for people with a high school education or less are contributing to the widening gap between rich and poor; (C) The removal of institutional supports for people with severe mental illness, epitomized by drastic reductions in the use of long-term hospitalization for the mentally ill, are leaving many individuals with few housing options; (D) Racial, ethnic, and class discrimination in housing, along with local zoning restrictions that exclude affordable housing alternatives, persists in many areas.
EFFECT ON CHILDREN
Lack of education and job opportunities is also a major cause for individuals who are homeless. Many of these individuals’ children miss out on schooling due to not being in the same place every night. Homeless children’s academic performance is hampered both by their poor cognitive development and by the circumstances of their homelessness, such as constant mobility. Homeless children are more likely to score poorly on math, reading, spelling, and vocabulary tests and are more likely to drop out due to not being in school enough to graduate.