“On any given night, there are over 600,000 homeless people in the U. S. ” (Quigley, 2014). Most find themselves sleeping in homeless shelters, short-term transitional housing or someplace uninhabitable. While there are many circumstances that can create homelessness, the major causes are high poverty rates, racial disparities, single parenting, domestic violence, lack of affordable housing, mental illness, and other traumatic experiences. In cases where the homeless person is single, lack of affordable housing, poverty, and unemployment were the leading causes.
In cases where families are homeless, substance abuse, lack of affordable housing and mental illness were the top cause. In this research paper, I will try to unveil the factors that play a role in why such a large sum of the homeless population is made up of children under the age of eighteen, women who have been abused, and veterans of war and the effects it has on them. Homeless Children in America According to Ziv (2014), in 2013, 2. 5 million children in America experienced homelessness.
He also observes that the number of children that are homeless has reached an all time high (Ziv, 2014). While still actively enrolled in school, these children are sleeping in cars, motels, streets, campgrounds, or sharing tight spaces with other families. In 2010, the U. S. Interagency Council on Homelessness came up with “Opening Doors”, a plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness by the year 2015, and homelessness for youth and families by 2020. While numbers have decreased for both goals, homelessness is still an ongoing issue.
The impact homelessness can have on a child can be detrimental. “Children in homeless families also have a high current prevalence of mental health problems, ranging from 12% to 47% depending on the age of the children, assessment measures, and geographic area” (Park, Fertig, & Allison, 2011). Homelessness can interfere with learning, controlling emotions, cognitive skills, and social relationships, especially with younger children. Unfairly, because of their circumstance, homeless children are sometimes invisible and neglected in today’s society.
There are various organizations that implements outreach at risk youth and homeless children. One organization in particular, Stand Up For Kids, provides necessities to homeless children. The organization also offers programs that teach life skills like: anger management, tutoring for GED, financial management, improving communication, study skills, goal setting and behavior management (http://www. standupforkids. org). Homeless Women in America “Feminization of poverty”, is a term coined up to describe the female’s role in homelessness.
There are several main causes of female homelessness including. Some of those causes are related to divorce, family planning and health care, but the biggest attributes to women becoming homeless are domestic violence and poverty. Homeless women are often still the primary caregiver for their children, which explains why the fastest growing group in the homeless population are women and their families (children). Before the modern women’s rights movement in the late 1960’s, women looking to escape their abusers, and seek safety, had limited options.
Through the invention of safe homes, which eventually birthed shelters, along with acts passed by congress to fund and support housing for domestic abuse victims, women were able to flee to a safe haven. Jansinski, Wesely, Wright, & Mustaine’s (as cited in Shinn, 2010) states, “We have seen that homelessness among women is intimately linked to the violence they experience as children and adults, so the path to prevention is to stop the violence perpetrated against them”.
Most women fleeing from these dangerous environments will not leave their children behind, making for an even more traumatic experience when left to fend for food and shelter. Typically, women who became homeless through poverty were typically sole caregivers for their children with inadequate income, resources and little or no health care benefits. Homeless women, in their desperation, sometimes turn to crime. A large percent of women with a homeless background have a history of incarceration. Homeless women resort to prostitution, as a quick way to make money.
Prostitution is not only illegal, but for some women continues the cycle of abuse, as assault is highly common. Homeless women who commit crimes also receive harsher punishments than homeless men who commit them. Unwarranted arrest is more common amongst homeless women than homeless men. There are plenty of programs dedicated to helping and providing resources for homeless women. For example, Women’s Empowerment, a nonprofit organization, has helped women secure employment and safe homes for themselves and their children since its inception in 2001 (http://www. omens-empowerment. org).
Homeless Veterans in America Veteran homelessness is a huge issue that dates back to the early 1930’s. War veterans make up 16% of the homeless adult population. Many vets who are homeless stay in unsheltered places, qualifying them as chronically homeless. HUD (U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) defines chronic homelessness as, “an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition-who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR has had at least four (4) episodes of homelessness in the past three (3) years.
In order to be considered chronically homeless, a person must have been sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e. g. , living on the streets) and/or in an emergency homeless shelter” (http://canatx. org). Many homeless veterans fall into this category. “Unsheltered homelessness is more prevalent among Veterans than among non-Veterans. At one point in time in 2014, 36 % of homeless Veterans were unsheltered compared with 30 % of non-Veterans” (Byrne, Montgomery, & Fargo, 2015).
Some of the common causes of homelessness associated with veterans are drug abuse, disability, unemployment, poverty, government policies and family separation. Veterans dealing with significant stress, stemming from war, sometimes resort to substance abuse, which better allows them to cope with the traumas of war. These traumas include injuries, illnesses, and disorders brought on by their experiences. The epidemic of substance abuse was acknowledged as the largest cause of non-combat related deaths amongst veterans.
Opiod and alcohol abuse versus illegal drugs attributed to most deaths. Homeless veterans who abuse these substances find themselves in trouble with the law. According to Laura Burge, “Veterans are finding themselves in conflict with the criminal justice system. Special Veterans Courts are the appropriate response to these problems. These courts take into consideration a Vet’s military service and the war experiences and lack of readjustment services that cause them to engage in anti-social behaviors.
Veterans’ courts focus on treatment and rehabilitation rather than jail time. ” (Burge, 2011) Roughly 53% of homeless veterans are disabled. With severe disabilities, including deafness, blindness, mental illness and so much more, homeless veterans require much help and assistance. There are many programs dedicated to providing resources for homeless, disabled veterans such as DAV, Disabled American Veterans. The DAV’s mission is “empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity.
We accomplish this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. ” There are many other organizations established for homeless disabled vets. Veterans, who are fighting their own personal battles, are at an even greater disadvantage while homeless. While some choose not to seek help, others have a harder time receiving it, leaving them exposed to chronic homelessness.
The high percentage of homeless veterans resulted in President Obama and Veteran of Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, implementing a plan named “Open Doors”. By focusing on five key areas, this plan was to end chronic homelessness amongst veterans by the year 2015. The first area was affordable housing, the second- permanent supportive housing, the third- sustainable employment, the fourth- reducing financial vulnerability by enhancing information and improving resources, and lastly, transforming the way the U. S. responded to the homeless veteran crisis (Buck, & Leatham, 2014). Because of budget constraints, the goal was pushed back to 2017.
There are plenty of other programs established as a way to support and help and improve the lives of homeless veterans. In addition to nonprofit organizations and government support, charities also provide aid through providing housing resources and advocating the rights of homeless veterans. In conclusion, many people in the homeless population experience a very poor quality of life. Health issues and hunger are two of the most prevalent consequences to homelessness. Unfortunately, there is no clear solution to homelessness and many factors such as socioeconomics and poor behavioral health will continue to keep homelessness alive.