Brittany is in her senior year of her Human Services degree program. She plans to continue her education with a Master's in Social Work.
Causes of Homelessness
Homelessness is not a simple issue; there are many complexities that aid in the growing issue. The National Alliance to End Homelessness lists several factors that impact homeless populations: housing, income, health, domestic violence, and racial inequality.
All of these issues within themselves are complex. The matters of affordable, available housing and sufficient income relies heavily on the economy. The economy has hit many snags in the recent past. Since 2010, home foreclosures have increased by 30%. Furthermore, federal housing aid has decreased, the average rent cost is on the rise, and the minimum wage has not changed since 2009.
Health (another issue that impacts homeless populations) can encompass issues stemming from a physical disability to mental health problems and addiction. These are issues that many homeless men and women suffer from. Studies have found that 1 in 4 homeless people suffer from a mental health issue while 1 in 3 suffer from an addiction. Considering these statistics, it is easy to see how the negative stereotypes have come to be. But, people with mental illnesses and addictions need treatment and not ridicule. These issues are amplified when you consider the fact that the homeless have little access to healthcare services.
Survivors of Domestic Abuse
Domestic violence contributes to the homelessness issue. Many survivors of domestic abuse may become homeless when they escape their abusers. When we think of domestic abuse victims, we often think of women, but domestic violence leads to child and teen homelessness as well.
Racial Inequalities and the Impact on Homelessness
Finally, we come to racial inequality. Though you may not consider it a catalyst to the homelessness problem, there is a connection. Minority groups in the United States are far more likely to be homeless. African Americans, while only making up 13% of the total population, make up 40% of the homeless population. Other minority groups such as Native Americans and Pacific Islanders are similarly disproportionate. This is due largely to social and economic inequality and the issues that have previously been discussed.
An additional issue concerning racial inequality is the incarceration rate for African Americans. Between 1968 and 2016, the incarceration rate for black citizens has not only tripled but is also 6 times higher than that of the white citizens. Research suggests that though African Americans are no more likely to commit a crime than other races, they are more likely to be apprehended and convicted. Furthermore, they are more likely to be wrongfully convicted. A criminal record can prevent people from gaining employment and from keeping their job if incarcerated.
With all of these issues, it is easy to see why an insipid stereotype or snap judgement of a homeless person is unfair and entirely uncalled for. You may see an old homeless man begging for change. What you don’t see is that he was a poor boy who joined the military in hopes of a better life, but now suffers from severe PTSD and alcoholism. You may see a drug-riddled homeless woman. What you didn’t see was her escaping her abusive father when she was just 16 years old. The scenarios are endless. When you take the time to consider who a person is and where they may have come from, you can find far more empathy and understanding.
Close, L., Thomas, S., Kelley, R., Stein, S., Osbourne, N., & Ackermann, K. (2020, February 26). Addiction Among The Homeless Population. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://sunrisehouse.com/addiction-demographics/homeless-population/
National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2020, June 10). Racial Inequality. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/what-causes-homelessness/inequality/
National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2020, June 03). What Causes Homelessness? Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/what-causes-homelessness/
O’Brien, B., & Parker, K. (2020). African-Americans more likely to be wrongfully convicted. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://research.msu.edu/innocent-african-americans-more-likely-to-be-wrongfully-convicted/