Vulnerability suggests that, when associated with the general population, some people are more sensitive to certain risk factors that can negatively impact his or her well-being. Vulnerable people are sensitive to risks that originate from economic, physical, social, biological, and genetic factors along with their lifestyle behaviors. Rarely does one factor act in seclusion, the interaction of various risks effects in increasing vulnerability to other factors, which also can negatively impact and individual’s health.
Violence (abuse), trauma, chronic, terminal, or mental illness, natural disaster, and presently the risk of terrorism can result in increasing vulnerability.
Vulnerable populations may include woman, elderly, refugees, immigrants, chronically mentally ill individuals, victims of abuse, homeless individuals, ECT (Burbank, 2006). This paper will explain how critical thinking is used to identify the causes of the problems for the homeless population, including the nature of the homelessness population, a brief history, the demographics and common clinical issues and intervention strategies, and a discussion of future interventions.
The Nature of the Homelessness Population Homelessness is a social condition that has no universally agreed upon definition therefore there are many meanings of this word (Martin, 2007).
In general, a person is considered to be homeless if he or she lacks a fixed regular address and adequate sleeping arrangements. Homelessness includes people whose primary night-time residence is a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter, an institution that provides a temporarily residence, or a public or private place not designated for sleeping; under a bridge or in a park.
This definition only addresses those people who are literally homeless; it does not include people living with family or friends, in motels, in automobiles, or substandard housing.
According to Martin (2007), “when homelessness is defined using the federal definition there are on average 650,000 individuals who experience homelessness on any given night in the United States” but “when homelessness is defined in a more inclusive manner, homeless estimates jump to about 3. 5 million individuals nationally” (The Nature of Homelessness, para. ). These numbers will continually to change significantly on any given day. Because of this confusion and miscalculations less money is available meaning fewer services provided to the homeless, because government grant money is often directly linked to census numbers, Most individuals who will or have experienced homelessness have done nothing so on an irregular basis where homelessness occurs in an ongoing cycle of temporary or questionable housing leading to ultimate homelessness because of uncertainty.
Determining why an individual becomes homeless in the first place is difficult and most times puzzling. A person can become homeless due to losing job, substance abuse, mental illness, trauma, physical abuse, and many more. These reasons are essential in helping a homeless person get back on his or her feet but how can people help the homeless in a society that is so biased and severely judgmental? This type of bias and judgment influences state support, federal policy makers, and public voting on assistance programs for the homeless.
Martin (2007), states “in general, most people’s attitudes toward the poor and the homeless are negative, and the stigma that has always been associated with poverty seems to increase when the poor become homeless. The reasons for this negative bias are likely related to the public nature of homelessness, where those without permanent homes are forced to live out in the open, such as on the streets, alleyways, parks, or in automobiles where good hygiene is virtually impossible and begging for money and food is often the only means of survival” (The Causes of Homelessness, para. ). This does not include other negative issues associated with being poor; mental illness and substance abuse. It seems that society believes that all homeless people are dirty, crazy, beggars who abuse drugs and alcohol. These people are very dangerous and are unworthy of receiving any kind of help. Society blames the poor for succumbing to poverty having no clue that there could be reasons beyond control, including increase in educational requirements, long-standing institutionalized oppression, discrimination, and a general increase in the complexity of life.
This type of perception on the homeless can be better understood once society understands the homelessness history. History of the Homelessness Population Being poor and homeless has always been; since the beginning of time. It is the type people and the reason they become homeless that has changed and will continue to change. From the 14th to the 17th centuries it was the church who card for the “deserving” poor and homeless; they believed God gave them this responsibility. The middle Ages consisted of the wondering poor; men who moved from one job to the next.
During this time the English Poor Laws were adopted, these laws encompassed of harsh methods for dealing with the poor and contributed to the negative attitude people have toward the poor today. Under these laws numerous poor and homeless people were sent to work at alms houses for long hours and little to no pay. According to Martin (2007), “this practice continued to play into the overall stigma of poverty and homelessness by stripping the poor and destitute of their self-determination, their family, and their freedom.
Even the “deserving poor” who received public assistance were often forced to wear badges or some marking signifying that they were receiving public assistance” (The History of Homelessness, para. 3). The 19th and 20th century’s homeless population still consisted of men, and ,it was not until the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, that a new era of homelessness, including woman, children, adolescents, entire families, the elderly, substance abusers, war veterans, and the chronically and mentally ill.
Finally there was a sense of compassion for the homeless since the homeless were just about everyone. People finally realized that a person cannot control becoming homeless (most of the time). At least until the economy got better than people’s attitudes toward the homeless population went right back to the way they were. During the 70s and 80s the homeless became more visible sleeping and living in public places and the homeless family increased resulting in numerous government policies designed to meet the needs of the homeless population (McNamara, 2006).
Martin (2007), states “the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation passed for those suffering from homelessness or who are at-risk for homelessness, and prior to the passage of this act, the majority of homeless services were facilitated at the grassroots level. This act guaranteed government assistance for the homeless and homeless services. Funding included $180 million in 1987 and increased to 1. 8 billion by 1994” (Current Policies and Legislation, para. 1).
Other legislation including the TANF and The McKinney-Vento Education for the Homeless Children and Youth Program has had an impact on the homeless population even if they were not targeted to prevent homelessness. The homelessness population has come a long way but still society needs to do more! Too many family’s (single-parent) are homeless, too many elderly individuals are homeless, too many men are homeless, and too many individual are suffering from chronic or mental illness are homeless. The Demographics and Common Clinical Issues and Intervention Strategies
Single-Parent Families According to Martin (2007), “a study conducted in 1999 found that of all homeless families, about 80 percent were headed by a single parent, and of these approximately 95 percent were female. Regardless of how these statistics are broken down, it is important to note that estimates now put single mothers with children at anywhere between one-third to three-fourths of the entire U. S. homeless population”, (The Contemporary Picture of Homelessness: The Rise of Single-Parent Families, para. 1). Most homeless single mothers are 25.
Citizens of the United States, speaks English, never been married, bad childhood, have zero work experience (which makes it hard-to-find and keep a job), and have several children between the ages of two and five. Many of these parents’ have astounding determination of directly facing there problems, so that they can keep their child and safe from any harm. The human service professionals who work with these single-parent homeless will need to recognize the strengths these individuals possess and work with the individual to improve and build on these strengths. Homeless Children
Martin (2007), states “Children are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, which creates new challenges for shelters and other social welfare responses, particularly when these children are school-aged. Developing effective programs designed to keep homeless children in school and succeeding academically is essential, otherwise all these homeless children will be at risk for continuing the cycle of homelessness in the next generation, having never experienced physical or emotional security in their own childhoods”, (Homeless Children: School Attendance and Academic Performance, para. ). With homeless families moving around so much (from shelter to shelter) it becomes on the child moving from one school to the next. They have no time to settle in and start retaining any information taught to them. These children feel as if they are outcast and rejected by their peers; this leads to the child becoming emotionally disturbed, being consistently absent, and having very low grades. Single Men, the Mentally Ill, Substance Abuse, and the Elderly
According to Martin (2007), “50 percent of the homeless population consists of men, many of whom are single, some of whom are mentally ill, some of whom have substance abuse issues, and some of whom are veterans”, (Single Men, the Mentally Ill, and Substance Abuse, para. 1). Reasons for these individuals becoming homeless vary; loss of a job, little to no family support, having little to no education, released from prison, having a chronic or mental illness, become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or have post dramatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The human service professional working with these individuals need to have specialized training (especially in PTSD recovery) to help these individuals. Although the elderly homeless rates are low compared to younger adults the numbers are expected to increase in the next couple years. The elderly become homeless for many reasons, including loss of a job, physical and mental health problems, and having no family to move in with. We have funding for elderly services, but the individual must be at least 65. Which does not help individuals who between 50 and 64.
Martin (2007), states “experts suggest responding to the elderly homeless population by developing aid-assisted low-cost housing with social services to assist the elders with financial, physical, and psychological support to deal with the trauma of becoming homeless, (The Elderly Homeless, para. 6). Common Clinical Issues, Practice settings, and discussion of Future Interventions Working with the homeless population varies greatly and is can be challenging no matter what sub-group a human service professional client may belong to.
The human service professional will provide service, including counseling, support groups, supervise shelters, provide case management, and empower their clients. One of the most important jobs of the human service professional working with the homeless is advocating. Martin (2007) states, ‘both on a personal case-by-case basis as well as on a community level by influencing policy and the development of legislation designed to aid the homeless population”, (The Role of the Human Service Professional: Working with the Homeless Population: Common Clinical Issues, para. ) There are three levels of service offered to the homeless population; emergency shelters, and daytime drop-in centers, transitional housing programs, and the provision of low-cost or public housing projects provided by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The first being a short-term solution (30 days or less shelters) that is highly criticized for being unsafe and having more money put in this type of shelters than in long-term solutions. The second offers the homeless temporary (six months to one year housing) solution.
The third provides a lasting solution to the homeless problem is very difficult to provide and does not have good outcomes (Martin, 2007). Too many people are homeless so we must be doing something wrong or missing something. According to Martin (2007), we are missing “programs offering a wide array of social services focusing on the personal root causes of homelessness while at the same time addressing structural causes such as declining incomes and escalating housing costs will have the greatest likelihood of successfully addressing the homeless problem with long-term solutions in mind” (Concluding Thoughts on Homelessness, para. ) and I agree. I also believe that making society more aware of homelessness; doing so will with any luck change their attitudes toward homeless people. I think that this will also help with the hidden homeless, the homeless that are ashamed and hide that they actually are homeless. This will lead to better head counts and more funding from the government for services for the homeless. Each state should come up with a blueprint for reducing the homelessness in there state. It is frustrating, to think of what could be done about this issue and think about what is not being done.