Homelessness in the United States is a widespread problem that is estimated to affect at least 3.5 million people on an annual basis (Farrugia &Gerrard, 2015). As of 2013, data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development suggests that 610, 047 people were homeless (Meier, 2016). Of these people, a significant number, almost half, are children and women. Homelessness has a significant impact on the country. The homeless are prone to illness and injury that is offset by taxpayers due to their inability to pay their health bills. The homeless are also prone to social problems and psychological trauma. To the economy, they also bear a cost on the government with funds spent such as the $1.5 billion spent in the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program of 2009 as a proactive measure to beat homelessness (Meier, 2016). Despite the many possible causes, poverty is the main cause of homelessness ion America and community development is the best solution to fix this problem.
The public is generally not at ease with the situation of the homeless people. The politicians are therefore under pressure to take care of the problem of homelessness to appease the public. Subsequently, they take measures such as the August 2013 law in Columbia, South Carolina, that illegalized homelessness. Such measures only add despair to the already dire situation of the homeless (Meier, 2016). However, avoiding political perspectives and taking humane and economic approaches, the problem of homelessness can be solved in a manner that benefits the economy and society simultaneously.
Homelessness can mainly be attributed to poverty. Despite the possibility of major negative incidents in lives of individuals leading to homelessness, poverty has the biggest impact in leading to homelessness. Natural disasters, divorce, political unrest and mental illness can all lead to homelessness (Dreier, 1992). However, poverty is the largest risk factor in leading to homelessness.
The economic crisis has deeply affected the United States. Foreclosures and lack of employment coupled with layoffs have hit families hard; especially those in the low income group (Toro & McDonell, 1992). Poverty has been linked to food insecurity and inevitably homelessness. Data from the United States census Bureau indicates that in 2010, poverty rates rose from 14.3% the previous year to 15.1% (American Psychological Association, 2016). Data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness indicates that an estimated 2 3.5 million people in the United Sates experience homelessness at least once a year (American Psychological Association, 2016). The rates of poverty and homelessness are directly proportional annually implying that a rise in homelessness is an indication of a similar rise in poverty. Subsequently, to address homelessness, it would be vital to tackle poverty and minimize it to significantly reduce homelessness.
Research carried out to determine the characteristics of homeless people and the neighborhoods they were most frequent in established these areas had high level of poverty, low income and high unemployment levels (Alexander-Eitzman, Pollio & North, 2013). The homeless according to the study were mostly concentrated in areas with little opportunity and housing distress was common. Based on these findings, to combat homelessness, reducing poverty would be an influential move. By increasing economic opportunities, more individuals would be lifted above the poverty level enough to afford housing for them. economic opportunities can be created by both the private and the public sector in collaboration or under joint ventures.
Economic opportunities can be created from various perspectives. One way to empowered people economically is to provide them with knowledge that can be exploited for commercial use. Education especially for children is an important tool in reducing the risk of poverty leading to homelessness in future generations. For adults, the education can be applied to income generating opportunities created in an accommodative economic environment that allows for entrance of new players.
Economic opportunities can be created by developing industries and infrastructure in various fields. Increasing available income generating projects automatically reduces the employment level and contributes to moving more people above the poverty level. However, given the economic crisis, poverty is enjoying a vicious cycle. Without proper finances, it is not possible to attain an education and proper healthcare. Employers on their part do not prefer uneducated and unhealthy workforces. Subsequently, priorities have to be made to improve programs that combat poverty. A multidimensional approach that improves poverty eradication efforts and the labor market would be best suited to tackle the problems that lead up to homelessness. The private and public sector can carry out these initiatives with input from both sectors, for the greater good.
Conclusions and Proposed Solutions
Homelessness is a serious problem afflicting a significant portion of the population in the United States. Homeless has great impact on the homeless people and society in general. Homeless people are vulnerable to illness, injury and psychological hurt. Homelessness is caused by among other things, natural calamities, domestic violence, poverty and political crisis. The greatest contributor to homelessness in the United States is poverty. Poverty created by unemployment, lay-offs and lack of knowledge to take advantage of economic opportunities. A multidimensional approach has been cited as the best to reduce poverty and in turn homelessness. This can be done by improving poverty reducing programs and the labor market.
American Psychological Association. (2016). Effects of Poverty, Hunger, Homelessness on Children and Youth. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/families/poverty.aspxAlexander-Eitzman, B., Pollio, D. E., & North, C. S. (2013). The neighborhood context of
homelessness. American journal of public health,103(4), 679-685.
Dreier, P. (1992). America's Urban Crisis: Symptoms, Causes, Solutions.NCL Rev., 71, 1351.Farrugia, D., & Gerrard, J. (2015). Academic knowledge and contemporary poverty: the politics
of homelessness research. Sociology, 0038038514564436.Meier, K. (2016). Political Effects of Homelessness in the USA | The Classroom | Synonym. Retrieved from http://classroom.synonym.com/political-effects-homelessness-usa-16958.html
Toro, P. A., & McDonell, D. M. (1992). Beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge about homelessness:
A survey of the general public. American Journal of Community Psychology, 20(1), 53-80.
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