How Homelessness Affects Society
Published June 27, 2021
When you see a homeless person on the street, you’d probably feel pity for a second and then go about your business. As long as you’ve got a stable job and a roof over your head, homelessness is something that doesn’t really concern you.
Or so you thought.
Truth is, homelessness affects us all – whether we experience it or not. It’s a complex social problem that affects our communities in more ways than one. And it concerns you, whether you like it or not.
Here are some of the most significant impacts of homelessness on society:
1. It Costs the Government More Money
Yes, you read it right. Homelessness is costing the government millions of dollars of your tax money. According to a 2017 study in California, a homeless person receives an average of $38,146 worth of public services. Since homelessness often is often rooted in lack of affordable housing, this amount dropped by 60% after the said homeless person received housing. With a house of their own, they’re able to focus on finding work and stop relying on welfare assistance.
This data is confirmed by former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan. He estimated that the government spends about $40,000 per homeless person per year. These expenses usually refer to shelters, emergency rooms, and jails.
Imagine if that amount of money is spent on providing permanent supportive housing for them. The government won’t only be able to save money. It would significantly alter the state of homelessness in the country.
2. It Poses a Threat to Public Health
It’s undeniable that homeless people are more vulnerable to communicable diseases. In 2018, an outbreak of Hepatitis A ravaged California. It particularly hit counties with high populations of unsheltered homeless individuals.
Though unfortunate, this doesn’t come as a shock. Sleeping rough on the streets, exposed to the elements, can compromise one’s physical health. Add to that the often unsanitary living conditions and they don’t stand much chance during outbreaks of diseases.
3. It Can Compromise Public Security
Many homeless people struggle with mental health issues of some sort. Most of the time, their mental illness is brought about by their traumatic upbringing. They have been victims of abuse themselves and many of them find it hard to break the cycle. Whether they’re aware of it or not, they tend to inflict the same suffering on others. As a result, communities with high rates of homelessness also have high crime rates.
4. It Breaks Down Community Life
When a large number of the population are experiencing homelessness, it brings community life to its breaking point. It tests the very being of the community – their shared morals and that sense of belonging. Homelessness brings it all into question.
Before you know it, the very essence of a community has broken down. We can no longer expect sympathy from the people we live in close quarters with. It fosters uncertainty and constant fear of the people we pass by on the streets. In short, it creates an unhealthy community where people generally distrust each other.
5. It Creates Social Barriers
Homelessness brings with it a social stigma. Those who experience it often live in shame and isolation. They’re trying to survive and they are desperate for help. But the fear of condemnation often prevents them from reaching out.
On the flip side of the coin, those who haven’t experienced homelessness will never be able to fully grasp what the homeless are going through. They tend to shrug them off as lazy bums who just can’t be bothered to work.
The lack of empathy from one side and the fear of being judged by the other often lead to a breakdown of communication. This, in turn, drives a thick invisible wall between the two sides. It becomes an “us” versus “them” instead of “we” against poverty.
This social barrier only serves to bring to the fore those deeply rooted biases against the most vulnerable members of society.
6. It Shapes the Next Generation
Children who are born to homeless parents often grow up to become homeless adults themselves. This is how homelessness affects even the next generation. The homelessness cycle will repeat itself for generations unless someone fights to break out of it.
Unfortunately, when all you’ve known your whole life is homelessness, it becomes your norm. That’s what happens with homeless children. The impacts of homelessness begin even before they are born.
Deprived of proper prenatal care, many children born into homelessness often suffer from poor physical health. Being homeless also often prevents them from going to school. Many of them also tend to develop serious mental health issues while growing up. All these can have a negative effect on their ability to live a normal life. As such, only very few manage to break the cycle.
What You Can Do
There are lots of factors that cause homelessness. People end up on the streets due to economic hardships, family issues, domestic violence, mental illness, or just plain lack of affordable housing. This means that most of us are just a divorce or one serious illness away from homelessness. That’s why this is not just something that the government alone can solve. Ending homelessness requires the collective effort of everyone from all members of society. And yes, that includes you.
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.