A way of determining the economic success of a nation is by its Gross National Product. GPD, usually measured by year, it is the value of all the goods and services that are produced in a country. It is a satisfactory way to quantify and measure a country’s economic state and is useful in many aspects of the economy, but it does not take into account everything the economy is all about.
However, aside from the total amount of product produced, there is another measure that is closer to the people. This measure is called equity. In terms of the economy, it is called wealth distribution or disparity. In these terms, the lesser the disparity, the better the economy. GDP cannot be an accurate measure of the economy if it only measures the wealth of those who are on top of society.
The problem of wealth disparity is evident in society.
How much of the GDP belongs to the rich?
How many belong to the middle class, and how many are considered in poverty?
How much is the difference between each class of society?
Are people happy where they are in their life now?
One indicator of disparity and poverty in a society is homelessness. Owning a home is supposed to be a human right. The fact that there are homeless shows that there are problems in society that have contributed to such results.
Facts About Homelessness In The United States
Every night, while those of us who have the comfort of a warm bed prepare to drift off to sleep, there are about 500,000 people who are homeless. Around 65% of these people spend the night in a homeless shelter. On the other hand, 35% are in the streets or other places that are not intended for human habitation like parking lots, parks, sidewalks, metro stations, or even under bridges. Anywhere they can find temporary shelter from the harsh environments is better than anywhere out in the open.
These people are not homeless by choice. Most of them are in very dire situations, and others are in cases wherein they are forced to be homeless by other people or through substance abuse and mental illness.
- 35 % of the homeless population are families that have lost their homes
- 22 % of the homeless population are under-aged (below 18)
- 10 % are veterans who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America
- There is a constant rise in the number of seniors among the homeless
- Almost half of the population (47 %) of the homeless community is accounted for by five states,
- namely: California (22 %), New York (16 %), Florida (six %), Texas (4 %), and Washington (4 %).
- New York City is the city with the highest homeless population.
The Different Causes of Homelessness in the United States
Different factors among communities in the United States have caused homelessness. However, researchers observed some patterns that may have created the majority of this problem.
1. Overregulation of Housing Markets Causing High Prices & Lack of Rental Assistance
Prices of homes become steep due to overregulation. These are codes of regulations in housing that dictate what needs to be done and how. This isn’t just a list of a hundred things that you are supposed to do when you build a house, but it is this mind-blowing 24,000 restrictions in the housing subsection for the state of California alone. Similarly, most metropolitan communities with serious homelessness problems have such stringent and unnecessary housing restrictions.
Government researchers suggest that if housing markets were deregulated in significantly housing supply-constrained metropolitan areas, it would, in turn, decrease the overall homelessness in the whole United States of America by 13%. This means that around 65,000 people will have a home due to deregulations on the housing market.
Aside from the problem of expensive housing, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty says that there is a lack of rental assistance available. Affordable housing is lost every year due to budget cuts. There is only enough money on rental assistance for 25 % of those who need it. The rest of the people just stay on the waiting list for years until more budget is appropriated. Over five million homes have been foreclosed due to the lack of government assistance in housing. This has increased homelessness around the country.
2. Sleeping Conditions on the Street
One of the factors that contribute to homelessness is the sleeping conditions of the street. Most of this depends on weather and temperature conditions. This means that warmer areas are the best places to be homeless, and they tend to have higher numbers of unsheltered homeless people compared to those in colder places.
However, there are other warm places that have low numbers of vulnerable homeless people. The reason for this is that these areas have efficient policing for street activities minimizing such cases. Policing efforts are part of the conditions on the street, which becomes a part of the factors.
The policing efforts that lower the number of homeless in an area are part of the criminalization of homelessness. These are laws that criminalize actions and behavior that are related to being homeless.
Depending on the state and city, such activities are illegal:
- Sitting down or lying on public areas
- Sleeping in the car
- Sleeping in public
Making these activities illegal help curb the number of homeless in the streets. However, it puts these people in a hard place of having to face the hard consequences of their being homeless. Being homeless can land a person in jail if they fail to find a space in shelters.
3. Supply of Homeless Shelters
In the states of homeless in America, researchers found a correlation between the supply of homeless shelters and the number of homeless individuals. An increase in the supply of homeless shelters decreases the demand for a home. This leads to an increase in homelessness.
Bigger shelters mean that their quality is also better. This gives people the impression that they are better off in a homeless shelter than living on their own in the cheapest home they could find. In some shelters, they provide food, clothing, a warm bed, and even toiletries. While having your own home requires you to spend on all of your needs.
4. Demographics & An Individual’s Characteristics That Indicate The Likelihood of Becoming Homeless
Some factors cause people to become homeless that are connected to their individual characteristics. Some of these characteristics include:
- low income
- history of incarceration
- mental illness, substance abuse
- domestic abuse, and weak social connections
Each of these issues can cause a person to live on the streets.
25 % of the total population of the homeless have a severe mental illness. A majority of them suffer from schizophrenia, making it very difficult for them to stay in a home. Unless they become institutionalized, they are most likely to remain on the streets because of their illness.
Another majority of these people have post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of them are women who have suffered domestic abuse or sexual assault, while others are veterans who have been traumatized by the wars that they have been. Without proper help, some of them find it hard to re-enter society or enter rehabilitation without the proper state identification. A majority of them fall into substance abuse and alcoholism that increase their likelihood of becoming homeless.
5. Living In The Streets
There are two types of homeless in the United States The first are those who sleep in the streets while the second are those who sleep in shelters. Not everyone has access to shelters. If a person is new to being homeless, then they are most likely to sleep on the streets at the start. Some may choose to sleep in their cars if they have one while others try to find whatever shelter they can. Finding shelter can also become a problem. Their addresses are not common knowledge, and they have limits to their capacities on the number of individuals they can take in.
Living on the streets can be very harsh. You are open to the dangers of the environment, most especially during winter. This is the worse time to become homeless. If you are ill-prepared, you can die from the cold. Aside from having to protect yourself from nature, you will have to protect yourself from other people. Living out on the streets will put you at risk of getting mugged or abused. Women especially are more prone to abuse out in the streets. They are at a lot of risk for sexual abuse and violence. Homelessness can be extra challenging for a woman.
6. Living In Homeless Shelters
Homeless shelters are both government and non-government funded programs to house the homeless for a night. They are designed to provide shelter from the harsh environment and protection from vermin. Most shelters are shared for both men and women.
These shelters give people a place to stay for the night and give them a little sense of security from harsh environments, but they are far from safe. There is little security inside these shelters, and women are still prone to abuse since most spaces are shared for all genders. Stealing is still common as these places are open to everyone, including thugs and different kinds of delinquents.
However, some shelters require their guests to be sober or pass some kind of screening before they are admitted. There are also homeless shelters for women to protect them further from abuse. They are not everywhere, but you can find them in some locations like the women’s shelter in Dallas and the women’s shelter in Charlotte, NC.
An individual will have a bed to sleep in, but they will most likely still not have a good night’s sleep. There are only limited spaces of these shelters. Everyone will be sleeping close to each other to fit as many people as possible. The stench of all the homeless in that space can be overwhelming; something that will be difficult to get used to. You will also hear every other person snoring next to you, which will add to the annoying sound all through-out the night. However, it is still better than sleeping out on the streets.
7. What The Government Is Doing To Address This Issue
Aside from providing shelter for the homeless, the government is trying to address the issue by its roots. Through research, they have distinguished the leading causes of the rising homelessness cases in the United States and are planning to take action by resolving the issues that cause this problem.
The government is seeking to remove over regulatory practices on housing. This would reduce the prices of homes, which will also reduce homelessness. Aside from lowering the costs of housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is improving its assistance programs for the homeless.
The government’s renewed efforts in tackling the drug problem in the country addressed the individual risk factors. The federal government is also improving their responses to mental health. Moreover, increasing the income of those at the bottom.
Non-profit Organization Doing Their Part To Help The Homeless
The non-profit organizations, aside from the government, have always been helping the poor and the needy in all communities. Churches and many different charitable organizations have run countless homeless shelters all over the country. Others provide food, while others offer other necessities like clothes and grooming services.
Some of these non-profit organizations not only offer necessities but also help by giving the homeless a chance in life. They help by equipping these people with the right tools to get a stable job or help them find an affordable home. Some even provide training and education so that they can apply for jobs. The private sector has worked together with the government to help all those who are in need.
Homeless Shelter Accommodation Directory (Quick Link)
Homeless shelters, regardless of their shortcomings, are a blessing to the homeless.
If you know someone who needs the help of shelter, you can help them by looking through this accommodation directory that lists all the locations and contact information for available shelters in each state. The contacts in this directory will help point homeless people to the nearest homeless shelter.
Click the link below to check the accommodation directory:
Being homeless is very challenging. Having to struggle finding your basic needs can exhaust anyone physically and mentally. With the pandemic going on, it has become more difficult to be a homeless person now. If you are out on the streets, it means that you are more prone to getting the disease as you have nowhere to hide. People who are becoming homeless or are already homeless need all the help that they can get. Food, security, and a shelter over the head aren’t just the prime needs, they are also basic human rights.