Homelessness in America, Research Paper Example
Words: 2821Research Paper
Individuals who are homeless are faced with physical, emotional, and psychological challenges each day. It is common for people who are homeless to have had a life riddled with traumatic experiences like physical and mental abuse and drug use. It is estimated that 200,000 thousand Americans have lived in or used the services of a homeless shelter. Recent data polls suggest that as many as 1.3 million Americans have experienced homelessness or extremely insecure living conditions. On any given night, as many as 30,000 thousand Americans experience homelessness. Surprisingly, as many as 50,000 thousand Americans may be “hidden homelessness” victims. In other words, these individuals couch surf-living with friends and families from day to day. Youth make up about 20% of the homelessness population. Violence and poverty are the main causes of homelessness in for women and families. Several provincial governments are exploring strategies to respond to increasingly high numbers of homeless in America. Amazingly, Many American cities have made progressing ending homelessness, using strategic community plans, investing in affordable housing and emphasizing Housing First. (Farrell, S. J., T. Aubry, and E. Reissing 2002). Homelessness is a problem that affects every aspect of the victims’ lives, as well as the members of the community and will continue to do so until Homelessness is seen as a world problem.
Measured and Defined
(a). The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) meets yearly to set up policy, work with law makers, and advocate for the homeless. (b).These guidelines are made by analyzing the data from surveys and questionnaires from the homeless population. In the last two years.
Policy and Goals
NCH has chosen three public policies that focus on the homeless: Capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund, Implement the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion, and Oppose the Criminalization of Homeless. (c).The goals are to provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that can be afforded by very low income families; provide homeless with comprehensive health insurance that can stabilize chronic healthcare issues; finally, to revoke unproductive ordinances that criminalize homeless people by arresting them for living, sitting, and sleeping in public places (2013 Annual Homeless Report Assessment to Congress). Homelessness has an effect on every aspect of a child’s life. When a child experiences homelessness it is believed to inhibit the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development. Homelessness can affect the child long before he/she is born. Pregnant women who are homeless face many obstacles to maintain healthy pregnancies. For example, many lack prenatal care, while others are suffering from chronic and acute health problem as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. According to Didenko & Pankratz, 2007 “Service providers report a 40 percent substance use rate among women in their programs, with approximately one-fifth of homeless women disclosing drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy”. Babies born to homeless mothers are more likely to have low birth rates and a greater risk of SIDs (sudden infant death). Children of homeless mothers often are unable to receive essential immunizations. For example, homeless women are less likely to seek prenatal care. Fifty percent of homeless women versus 15 percent of the general population had not had a prenatal visit in the first trimester of pregnancy. Forty-eight percent of homeless women had not received medical assessment of their pregnancy” (Didenko & Pankratz, 2007 ). By the time they are 18 months old, the toddlers often demonstrate significant delays, which could be caused by behavioral and emotional problems that the mothers had. So often, children of homeless mothers are separated from their parents. This alone can cause many long-term negative effects. These children are three times as likely to experience major developmental delays. By the time homeless children reach school age, the effects of social, physical, and academic delays are very obvious. Homeless children have more health problems than non-homeless children. They tend to suffer from asthma and lead poisoning due to dilapidated living conditions and are more prone to contracting infectious diseases. All of these problems can be equated to the lack of access to consistent health care. While homeless, children often experience traumatic events that they are too young to understand; thus, leading to severe emotional distress. Homeless children are stressed from consistent changes. Often homeless families move around from one family member to the next or one shelter to the next and children have very little sense of home. These stressful conditions can lead to high incidence of mental illness. Children of homeless families are more easily made to cry, react with intense rage, overreact to small incidents, and are more easily distressed. Unfortunately, only about one-third of these children ever receive professional help (Didenko & Pankratz, 2007).
Homelessness can break down a community’s structure. (d). To ensure that public policy is working, The National Agency for the Evaluation of Public Policies and Quality of services performs an annual audit. They check for improved public services, decline in repeat homelessness, and increase in healthcare for homeless using local data and statistics. Homelessness also creates a division within the community. People often avoid areas that are largely populated by the homeless. This hurts many businesses. The community seems to help some homeless and not others. On the contrary, Layton discusses how generous people in Toronto were to the homeless. He believes that people in Toronto were less likely to blame others for homeless conditions (Layton, 1999).When a family becomes homeless because of flood, fire, or other natural disaster, the community will rally together to help that family. However, families who are homeless due to drugs or alcohol abuse are met with stigmas and isolation. For example, “The community sees the negative and that’s all they see. They don’t see the human side the fact that they’re still people. Some people do drugs to get rid of the pain.”(Didenko & Pankratz, 2007) According to Allen, there are many factors that lead a family to becoming homeless. Mental illness accounts for between 30 to 50 percent of all homeless cases. When people are experiencing mental illness, they need a good support group. In some cases, people with mental illness are unable to live alone. In other cases, a family may become homeless because one parent fled an abusive spouse (Allen, 2000). A study conducted by the government found that more than 40 percent of homeless families became homeless because they chose to live and abusive situation.
(e), (f). The cost of these services is calculated by the annual spending of each of its constituents. Services provided by NHC are annually estimated at 3.4 billion dollars. Everyone in a community is affected by homelessness because they all share the same public space. Citizens who are living in substandard conditions that affect their physical and mental health affect the spirits of other citizens who see them. Often, one wants to believe it’s nothing that he/she can do because the person brought it on themselves. People try to justify their inaction by telling themselves the person is choosing to be homeless. So many times, that is not the case at all. According to, Nunez and Collignon, “Homelessness affects everybody living in a community. Community residents, business owners, community service workers, and homeless individuals themselves deal on a daily basis with the devastating impacts of homelessness on the health and vitality of individuals and communities” (Nunez & Collignon, 1997 ).
The most significant way to measure these results is by looking at the decline in is homeless children who are able to attend school. The number of homeless children who attend school in on the incline. For example, “Nearly one-quarter (23 percent or 138,149) of all homeless people were children, under the age of 18. Ten percent (or 61,541) were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 67 percent (or 410,352) were 25 years or older” (2013 Annual Homeless Report Assessment to Congress). Today, there are about 1.4 million children who met the school’s criteria for being homeless. These students have a greater need of academic and emotional assistance. Most of these students lack basic skills and often score low on academic achievement tests. Schools are a very important aspect in the lives of homeless children. So often, schools are the only place that provides that homeless child with stability. Teachers help to provide those students with a sense of self-worth. Schools also provide these children with two balanced meals each day. Sadly, these are the only meals most of the homeless children eat each day. Some schools have written grants to help homeless children by providing them with bag meals for the weekends. Students are allowed to pick up these meals on Fridays. The characteristics of homeless children are very similar to other students who are living in poverty. The only difference is that homeless students do not have consistent housing. Homeless students may be living in vehicles, shelters, overcrowded residences with several other families, or in makeshift housing-motel, tent city, etc. About 45 percent of homeless children do not attend school on a regular basis and 12 percent are not enrolled at all (Nunez & Collignon, 1997). These students have difficulty listening and following directions. They will not ask for help if they do not understand out of fear of being singled out. According to Nunez & Collignon,
“Other factors impede academic success as well. Studies have shown that up to half of homeless students show developmental delays and many students have more than one. These students are far more likely to have a learning disability. Homeless youth often do not turn in their homework, and are less likely to be promoted to the next grade. Overall, the academic achievement of homeless students is poor “. (Nunez & Collignon, 1997)
Teachers are well aware of all of these factors, but feel they just don’t have the resources to help these children. For one, it is difficult to teach a child who is worried if he/she will have a place to sleep that night or if the child has not had anything to eat in two days. When faced with obstacles like these, teachers have a daunting task. However, the No Child Left Behind Act addresses homeless children in the school systems. According to this law, every child, even those that are homeless, are entitled to a free appropriate education. The law made schools eliminate the barriers that kept homeless students from enrolling, such as enrollment and attendance prerequisites. Schools are required to appoint someone to work with homeless students and their families and serve as a resource teacher. This person is a liaison between the teacher and the homeless family. Teachers can use this person to attempt to bridge that gap if the homeless child goes to another school. This person can initiate contact with the office staff and the child’s new teacher. They will transfer information in hopes of making the child’s transition easier. This will keep the teachers on track and prevent a loss of precious time in teaching something that was taught by a previous teacher.
Keep the Policy
There is no one path to homelessness. There have been many studies done to change the world’s view of homeless individuals. Becoming homeless is a complex series of events. One must realize that it is not just the events that the individual has encountered, but the affect the events have had on the individual. It is possible for some events to occur in one individual’s life and that person may never become homeless, while the same events in another’s person life may lead to homelessness. Research is forming a link between a person’s childhood and future homelessness. One study showed that the lack of reliable relationships in childhood creates an adult who prefers isolation and insecurity. So, adults who were constantly moved around as children have a greater chance of becoming homeless. These individuals have difficulty forming strong bonds with others and prefer superficial relationships because they are easier to end. These individuals seem to live transient life styles; they are unable to stay in one place for an extended period of time. They have a fear of being judged by society and want to be seen as human being, For example, in the article, Someone to Talk To, Allen says, “The longer one is on the street homeless, the higher the probability of engaging in criminal acts, this reflects the process of survival and adaption”. (Allen, 2000). He goes on to discuss how homeless people must go through a process called disengagement in order to survive on the streets. Homeless people become hardened to violence and learn to turn a blind eye to the things going on around them (Allen, 2000).
Sexual and physical abuse as a child seems to be a common factor among homeless individuals. Being abused has a great effect on an individual’s ability to cope with stress, make wise decisions, and form lasting relationships. (Didenko & Pankratz, 2007) Both violence against and witnessed violence seems to add to the negative effects. The greatest indicator of continued homelessness is the age in which a child becomes homeless. Children who become homeless in their teen years are more likely to remain homeless than those who experienced it at a younger age. Some that do get the chance to leave homelessness often return. They often lack proper social skills. To survive as a homeless person, one must acquire certain cultural and behavioral habits to fit in with homeless communities. As a result, it is very difficult to reestablish themselves into normal society where values are quite different (Didenko & Pankratz, 2007) In other research, it is reported that 25 percent of homeless individuals said that they did not live with their parents and 60 percent of them said that their families received welfare benefits during their childhood (Nunez & Collignon, 1997)
There has been a homeless crisis for decades and it remains an ever growing problem. (g).NCH is considered to be effective: “On a single night in January 2013, 610,042 people were experiencing homelessness. From 2012 to 2013, a period of continued slow recovery from the Great Recession, overall homelessness decreased by 3.7 percent and homelessness decreased among every major subpopulation—families (7 percent), chronically homeless individuals (7.3 percent), and veterans (7.3 percent)” “Thirty-one states saw a decrease in homelessness, while 20 states saw increases in overall homelessness” (2013 Annual Homeless Report Assessment to Congress. (h). The effectiveness of the policy has been measured using data in the three target areas mentioned earlier. (i). This policy has been effective because homeless people have been able to input what they know is best for them. Although “Homelessness declined by nearly 4 percent (or 23,740 people) between 2012 and 2013, and by 9 percent (or 61,846) since 2007”, It is still a major problem throughout the world. “The largest decreases in homelessness since 2012 were seen in Florida (7,308) and Colorado (7,014). Other states with large declines over the past year include: Texas (4,437), Georgia (3,545), and Washington (2,744) (2013 Annual Homeless Report Assessment to Congress)”. Homeless individuals have lower life expectancy than the general population. Their quality of life is dire too. In the article, I’m Tired of Being a Slave to the Church floor, Stackhouse discuses s the isolation and loneliness homeless people face each day. In his experiment, he set out to live as a homeless person n for one week. He explains how the belittlement he encountered made the psychological struggle of being homeless worse than the physical one. He was enlightened by the struggles of homelessness. Homelessness affects people from all walks of life with different stories of how they ended up homeless. He recounts how he felt when he was heading home and conveys that he could not truly explain what it was like to be homeless because he knew he could go home whenever he chose to (Stackhouse, 1999). This alone should cause a moral outcry from society as a whole. Several triggers were identified that can possibly increase one’s likelihood of becoming homeless. The culture of homelessness can be so devastating that it can make it almost impossible for a former homeless person to reenter the general population of society. Homeless communities enhance unhealthy behaviors. Homeless people are still members of society and should not be ostracized and isolated because of their status. Homeless children are affected greatly by the situation.
Allen, T. (2000). Someone to talk to: care and control of the homeless. Fernwood Publishing. Halifax.
Annual Homeless Report Assessment to Congress, 2013
Farrell, S. J., T. Aubry, and E. Reissing (2002). Street needs assessment: An investigation of the characteristics and service needs of persons who are homeless and not currently using emergency shelters in Ottawa. Ottawa: Centre for Community Research.
Layton, J. (1999). The homeless: are we a part of the problem? The globe and mail.
Nunez, R., & Collignon, K. (1997). Creating a community of learning for homeless children. Educational Leadership, 55, 56–60
Stackhouse, J. (1999). I’m tired of being a slave to the church floor. The globe and mail.
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