Why Are People Homeless? A Look Into Homelessness
Published August 16, 2021
In 2017 alone, there were more than half a million people experiencing homelessness in the US. Unfortunately, for a developed country, this is just one too many.
If you look at the numbers, the US is not a stranger to homelessness. Even before the Great Depression, there were a number of Americans who didn’t have permanent housing. But in the past few decades, the numbers have drastically increased.
The country’s homeless problem is more evident in urban centers like New York and Los Angeles. For example, more than 50,000 New Yorkers sleep in shelters, parks, streets, and public places on any given night. At the same time, about 4,000 people sleep in the city’s subways.
With these numbers, we can’t help but wonder what’s causing all this. Why are people homeless?
In this post, we’ll explore the economic, social, and systemic factors that drive people into homelessness.
Common Reasons Why People Become Homeless
There are a lot of reasons why someone ends up without permanent housing. Some of the most common ones are:
1. Lack of Cheap Housing
With many people flocking to the cities for work, many urban areas are experiencing a housing shortage. This, in turn, cause real estate prices to skyrocket. In some places, you need to spend up to $3,500 for a small studio apartment. It’s no wonder then that a lot of people couldn’t afford decent housing.
2. Low Wages
Despite the constant rise in the cost of living, wages have remained stagnant over the years. In Florida, for example, the prevailing minimum wage is $8.65 an hour. In most places, minimum-wage earners have to work more than 50 hours a week just to afford a decent place to stay.
3. Fewer Work Opportunities
Most homeless people also came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. As a result, they didn’t have proper education and some didn’t even finish high school. With no degree or even a high school diploma, their employment opportunities are severely limited.
4. Social Stigma
They say that homelessness is temporary. But people usually have a hard time getting out of it because of social stigma. You see, when people find out you’re homeless, they tend to think that there’s something wrong with you. Not everyone, but many will assume that you’re a bum, a drunkard, or a drug addict. If you’re stigmatized like this, it can be hard to find work.
5. Disease and Disability
Disabilities and illnesses can have a profound effect on people. Aside from the high cost of medical treatments, being disabled also keeps them from working. With this, it’s easy to see why over 40% of homeless people in the US have disabilities.
6. Domestic Abuse
Domestic violence is one of the primary reasons why women and children become homeless. When women want to get out of an abusive relationship, they often have no choice but to leave home. With most of them having no work or any source of income, finding stable housing can be difficult. That’s why they often end up living in their cars, homeless shelters, or in transitional housing services.
7. Mental Health Issues
According to the HUD, about 25% of homeless people in the US have severe mental disorders. While 45% of them have mental health issues. Some may have developed mental health issues as a result of homelessness. But a significant portion became homeless because their mental illness prevents them from holding a job or conforming to social norms.
8. Substance Abuse
It’s not a secret that substance abuse is one of the reasons why people become homeless. But before we judge them, let’s try to ask why they do it.
Certain circumstances like failed relationships, death of a loved one, or a traumatic experience can push people off the deep end. And sometimes, they see no other recourse but to drown their sorrows in drugs and alcohol. Remember that each of us has different coping mechanisms. It’s just unfortunate that theirs is by taking illegal substances.
Myths About Homelessness
In addition to the social stigma, there are also a lot of myths surrounding homelessness, such as:
1. Homeless people are lazy.
Many homeless people have jobs. In fact, it’s estimated that about 25% of America’s homeless are employed. Unfortunately, they’re not making enough to afford a place of their own.
2. It’s their fault they’re homeless.
As mentioned, there are a lot of reasons why someone can end up homeless. Obviously, like you or anyone else, they didn’t want to be homeless. But sometimes, life can be cruel, and you find yourself in situations beyond your control.
3. Homeless people are addicts.
Yes, some homeless people are dealing with substance abuse. But not all homeless people are addicts. Many are actually trying their best to stay sober and work their way out of their unfortunate situation.
4. There’s no way to end homelessness.
As proven by countries like Finland and Japan, homelessness can be eradicated. In the space of a few years, these countries have succeeded where many didn’t. They’ve managed to reduce their homeless population to almost 0% by implementing groundbreaking policies. Finland adopted a Housing First Policy while Japan enacted a law to promote self-sufficiency among the homeless.
Even if you are not in a position to enact public policies, you can still help end homelessness in your own little way. Start by showing empathy and compassion to the homeless. Instead of shaming or condemning them, try to understand their circumstances. Be the first to break the stigma.
Ending homelessness is not just something the government can do. It takes all of us working together to make adequate housing a reality for everyone.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a full time blogger and is devoted to topics about charity, kindness, and Christianity. She is part of Correct Digital, Inc which is paid by private donors to provide website digital marketing services to this non-profit organization.