564,708 people in the United States are considered homeless (“2016’s Shocking Homelessness Statistic”). Some unrealistic expectations for a growing homeless population are that it will go away on its own or the homeless will soon get the memo and magically rejoin us as contributing members of society. The problem with these expectations is that the only way the homeless population will decrease is by either dying off or receiving the needed resources to get back on their feet. Instead of creating unethical expectations for the homeless we, as a society, need to come up with solutions that will help decrease he homeless population.
Solutions that work for the homeless population in the United States are needed so that we can begin to redirect funding and resources to where they are needed most. The solutions to homelessness are providing better services in homeless shelters, reconstructing programs to fit the needs of homeless LGBT youth, and working with the homeless to help them reach a point of stability. Reevaluation of services homeless shelters provide is required to improve the living conditions of the homeless because frankly, the current system is not enough to successfully keep people off the streets.
Services that are common in homeless shelters are housing, job training assistance, and medical attention. The problem with housing is that the number of people shelters can take in does not nearly equate to the number of people in need. An example of a possible outcome of this is the “thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces” every night (“New York City Homelessness”).
The majority of housing services want people that are “housing ready” meaning that, to an extent, the person has ridden themselves of drugs and found a job that can otentially keep them on their feet. The problem with these requirements is that the individuals that are going to them, for help to quit their bad habits and are in search of a place to stay while looking for a job, are not “housing ready”. This being said the homeless shelters are not actively helping the homeless, they are helping the people that have already helped themselves. Granted, the requirements do help uphold the establishment to a certain merit (Kryda).
The standards are created in efforts to keep shelters clean and free of temptations such as drugs and alcohol. Although, at the same time shelters re turning people away that are in serious need of their help. Instead of the housing ready system, shelters should adopt the housing first approach. Utah has already begun to instate this new system and studies have found,”the average homeless person cost the state forty-three thousand dollars a year, while housing that person would cost just seventeen thousand dollars” thus saving the government roughly twenty-six thousand dollars per person (Surowiecki).
Within the homeless community, there are large groups of homeless LGBT youth. This specific subtype of homeless individuals is growing due to a ack of programs sensitive to their needs and hardships. The most sustainable reason as to why this group has grown at such a high rate is due to a number of people that have run away or have been kicked out because of abuse, homophobia, and/or their families unable to accept their way of life pertaining to their sexual orientation. Surprisingly, nothing has been done to specifically decrease the amount of LGBT youth on the streets.
A survey conducted in 2004 concluded that different measures should be taken when dealing with subcommunities within the larger categorization of homeless, “In addition to exhibiting high ates of substance abuse, homeless youth reported experiencing high levels of physical and sexual abuse, pervasive mental illness, and high rates of engaging in risky sexual behavior” (Van Leeuwen et al. 152). Since a significantly higher amount of LGBT homeless youth face these problems, new programs and resources should be made available and easily accessible.
Without resources that are designed respectively for this community the amount of homeless LGBT youth will continue to rise and remain the most likely to be HIV-positive, to be in custody of social services, to commit suicide, and to artake in survival sex (Van Leeuwen et al. 160). Understanding the difficulties members of the homeless population has gone through is essential to aiding them in becoming fully functioning members of society once again. This involves understanding the reason(s) as to why individuals may have become homeless in the first place.
Older adults tend to be homeless veterans – 8% of the homeless population (“2016’s Shocking Homelessness Statistics”), people that lost their houses or jobs, alcoholics, drug abusers, or foreigners that have come to the U. S. without a reliable source of income. The majority of homeless youth are ormer foster kids, runaways, victims of abuse, or foreigners. A great amount of youth goes unnoticed because of their youthful appearance and determination to not draw attention to themselves.
An article written by Nikita Stewart titled “City’s Homeless Young People: Overlooked and Underserved” talks about the living conditions of New York’s homeless youth population and how this community can not be helped to the necessary extent due to the undercounting of a number of homeless people in the community. She explains that the services this group is missing out on would potentially help them get out of the path towards long-term homelessness Stewart). Understanding the necessities of the homeless population would help mold the services offered to focus more on aspects that are most beneficial.
Understanding the reasons for homelessness would give and insight to the solutions and how these problems can be properly contained. For example, if there was a peak in the number of teens that were running away due to unsafe living conditions, programs in shelters can be added to assist the growing amount of homeless youth. In other words services in shelters should have the capability to be altered to keep up with the needs of a community. The olutions to minimizing a growing homeless population are rough around the edges.
Every community has a specific area(s) where it needs the most help and therefore requires resources that are customized to fulfill the needs of the surrounding homeless population. Given that placing the necessary programs into place may sound like a tedious process, it should not discourage and effect the amount of help the homeless community receives. There are many ways in which the homeless population could be helped but to begin rebuilding the current system in place is the key to keeping up with the continuous increase in the homeless population.
The homeless population needs better functioning shelters, specialized programs that can help specific groups of the homeless community, and members of society to understand what they have gone through and how their hardships have affected what they need from programs and resources shelters provide. Understanding the reasons as to why homelessness is a problem in order to produce solutions is an effective tactic but given that homelessness has consistently been a problem I think the appropriate step to take would be to look at the current system and understand what can be improved and what is no longer working.