Homelessness results from the downward spiral of extreme poverty. Poverty is defined as, ‘being an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets’ (Camillius House). Close to 1. 5 million people are currently homeless in the United States and that number is expected to jump by 866,000 people experiencing homelessness during the next two years as a result of the recession (National Alliance). There are a number of causes for homelessness such as, poverty, lack of jobs, decline in public assistance and affordable healthcare, abuse, mental illness and drugs or alcohol.
When forced to choose between food, medical care, child care and housing, most often housing is the thing to go because it is the most expensive and the least necessary to immediate survival needs. What happens in the case of homelessness, however, is that once you become homeless it can be a long road to get back on your feet. It is difficult to get a job without a residence.
It is also difficult to get a job without proper hygiene and without easy access to bathrooms or laundry it is hard to maintain appearance.
Without adequate shelter a person is also more susceptible to disease and prone to becoming ill because their bodies are run down from exposure to the elements. When they get ill they need to seek medical care because they can’t work if they are sick. The cost of healthcare furthers their struggle to find shelter. If mental illness is a reason for homelessness, the experience of being without a home can create stress that makes dealing with an illness more difficult.
Also if a mentally ill individual doesn’t have access to medication or therapy when needed then their hopes or chances of getting off of the street become very small.
Decline in public assistance also becomes an issue once homeless because the system is so overrun with people that it often takes weeks just to be seen by a doctor or to get treatment for mental health or even to get through a waiting list for temporary shelter. The issue of homelessness is so challenging because the resources aren’t readily available to assist those in need and the obstacles are so challenging that people often just get stuck in a cycle unable to ever get back out.
The current recession is going to make it much worse because the numbers of people in extreme poverty will increase making it more likely to add to the homeless count and once these people become homeless there will be less and less resources available to assist them in their time of need.
Camillus House. Causes of Homelessness. 24 March 2009 <http://www. camillushouse. org>
National Alliance to End Homelessness. 12 Jan 2009. Homelessness Counts: Changes in Homelessness from 2005 to 2007. 24 March 2009 <http://www. endhomelessness. org>.