Homelessness is a growing problem and effects all of us. Homeless people can come from all walks of life. Some have good families that worry about them. Others may not. We find mentally ill people walking the streets, runaways, and children whose families are still intact. We find homeless people living in the streets, in bathrooms, on downtown benches, in tents close to busy traffic lights, with friends, and in temporary shelters. Most homeless people are men and a large number of them are under the age of 25.
Homelessness affects everyone. Homeless people do not have access to medical care and experience higher rates of adverse physical and mental health conditions, suicides, substance abuse, and respiratory diseases. One in two homeless people are without shelter making them susceptible to extreme weather conditions. Homeless youth, especially runaway children are most likely living in uninhabitable dwelling places.
Many homeless people face depression because of the stigmas that people have about them. Socially, people may be afraid of the homeless population. There are many people that believe that there is something severely psychologically wrong with homeless people. Some cities even criminalize homelessness.
Many people and businesses want to close non-profits that feed the homeless people to get them off the streets and out of sight. People can be mean, and others not so much. On the other side, there are people that want to feed the homeless population, give them clothes, and offer resources. Some people want to clean the homeless up a little by offering washing machines, public computers with wifi, clothes, and food so they can look for jobs. And others want to address medical issues such as Covid, HIV, tuberculosis, alcohol and drug use, and other medical and mental health conditions.
Places such as the Salvation Army, Randy’s House, and shelters in my area offer Christian church services to the people that come to them wanting help. However, Covid has shut many churches down.
Homeless people are seen as outsiders by many, and they can think of themselves that way too. There are homeless people that want help and there are homeless people that want to be left alone to live however they want to. Homelessness usually starts out with economic stresses and not being able to afford housing, but sometimes it can start out with someone separating themselves from family and society.
The rising cost of living is making it so that people living on minimum wage cannot afford housing. Reporters often report the number of vacancies at shelters and ask the community to make monetary or food donations.
The Covid pandemic raised awareness that homelessness can happen to anyone. Americans lost their jobs and many still are not working and wonder if they will find jobs before the Covid Relief packages end. Some say that real estate will soon be so high that the average single person cannot afford to buy a house.
Homeless people often have problems maintaining stable employment and experience difficulties finding a job or keeping a job because they do not know where their next meal is coming from and they may not know where they will sleep. Many do not have clean clothes and cannot take a shower to prepare for employment. Many will become depressed.
Homelessness is not a new problem. If we think about it, even Jesus family was at the time of his birth homeless and wandering through the desert looking for shelter. The Peasants Revolt in 1583 led to beggars being branded with a “V” in 1547. During the 17th and 18th-century people began to think this was cruel and in 1872 the New York City Rescue Mission was opened. The Great Depression of the 1930s created awareness and brought about more changes and in 1979 a New York City lawyer, Robert Hayes, brought a class-action suit, Callahan v. Carey, against the City and State, arguing for a person’s constitutional “right to shelter”. It was settled as a consent decree in August 1981. The City and State agreed to provide board and shelter to all homeless men who met the need standard for welfare or who were homeless by certain other standards. By 1983 this right was extended to homeless women. The Housing First Bill in 1988 began moving homeless people into their own house or apartment to get them off the streets.
Homelessness is not something that is easy to fix though. Beth Sandor from Community Solutions may have explained how hard it is to address homelessness best when she said, “when we throw a bird, we don’t know where it will go. It may fly off”. It is hard to solve problems that we can’t identify. Each individual is different and with each individual difference there are individual circumstances that brought them to become homeless. I try to think about what Jesus wants me to do. I think that God has a plan for everyone and that someday we will all have to address homelessness in some way.
Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state. The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We cannot give legal advice, but we can try and direct you in the right direction with your case. Links to legal services are listed with their states. Please share and let’s grow our groups. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.
CDC, (2020), Homelessness as a Public Health Law Issue, Center for Disease Control, Retrieved From, https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/resources/resources-homelessness.html
Community Solutions, (2021), The Challenge, Homelessness is a problem that’s more costly to ignore than to solve. Homelessness is a complex, life-threatening problem. It can be solved — but only if systems are built to get to zero. Retrieved From, https://community.solutions/the-challenge/
State of Homelessness: 2020 Edition, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Retrieved From, https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-2020/