Poverty and Homelessness

Poverty and Homelessness

Homelessness is a complex social problem in the United States of America and globally with various underlying social and economic factors such as poverty, addictions, lack of affordable housing, family and community breakdown, and uncertain mental and physical health. Fully Homelessness entails living without shelter, whereas partial Homelessness involves sub-standard or temporary shelter. In the United States of America, Homelessness and poverty are inextricably connected, whereby individuals and families from low-income households regularly face difficulties paying for their housing, childcare, food, education, and healthcare. According to the research of the United States Census Bureau, the national poverty rate was approximately 12 percent, with about 40 million individuals living below the poverty line. According to the research, poverty in the United States of America is greatly facilitated by certain factors: unemployment, the decline in public assistance availability, domestic violence, drug addictions, mental illnesses, and lack of affordable health care.

Unemployment in the United States of America is the main cause of poverty and Homelessness. In most cases, employment enables define people’s place in terms of status in their society with a productive work being long understood as one of the major aspects towards a happy and satisfactory living. Persistent lack of  employment opportunities can easily result in one being homeless as well as other negative effects such as depression, marital strife, illness and to some extent suicide. Lack of employment is the main cause of poverty and homelessness in the United States of America and globally at large. With an individual being able to pay for his or her bills, providing for their families and contributing positively towards the society are key factors in upholding communal identity and cultural wellbeing. Therefore, employment defines individuals place in society, and prolific work has long been understood as one of the major aspect towards a happy living.

Lack of affordable health insurance adds to the risk of Homelessness. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, a chronic illness can cause enormous health care bills, loss of job, saving and eventually a home. A large number of people without health insurance have low incomes and lack the resources to cater for healthcare services on their own. As such, a serious illness in the family could result  in huge bills for hospitalization and treatment  whereby, for many, this forces a decision between rent and hospital bills thus some end up homeless.  Homelessness and healthcare are closely interwoven. Poor health is both a cause and an outcome of Homelessness. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (2008), approximately 70 percent of Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) victims do not have health insurance. In addition, approximately 14 percent of individuals treated by homeless health care healthcare programs are children of 15 years and below. Healthcare is even more of a challenge for individuals who are already homeless. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council 2008, homeless people are four to six times more likely to get ill than housed one. Homelessness precludes good personal hygiene, good nutrition and basic first aid in addition to the complex health needs of the homeless. In addition, conditions requiring regular and uninterrupted treatment such as HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis are tremendously hard to control or treat among the homeless.

Domestic violence, mental illness and addiction are other key factors that can contribute towards Homelessness. In regard to domestic violence, battered women living in poverty are frequently forced to choose between Homelessness and abusive relationships. The study shows that domestic violence is a primary cause of Homelessness in approximately 50 percent of the cities in the United States of America. Homelessness caused by domestic violence is closely linked to a victim’s financial independence. In most cases, women are usually more economically worse off than men since they are more likely to take time out of the work to assume on caring responsibilities and to work part-time, thus receiving less salaries than their male counterparts. Groups who are at a higher risk of domestic violence and Homelessness involves women with disabilities, aboriginal, pregnant women, women with financial hardship and Torres Strait Islander women. In addition, social and economic disadvantage threatens women’s access to housing. Women from minority cultures such as the African-Americans, Latinos, Hispanics, and other marginalized groups tend to face financial challenges since they are dependent on their spouses or are not able to work due to their visa restrictions, thus making them more vulnerable to homelessness and poverty. Social isolation and cultural barriers can also limit women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities from accessing legal services and support. Therefore, domestic violence mostly resulting from poverty can contribute towards Homelessness.

Poverty is both a cause and a result of mental problems. Poverty among adults and children can cause poor mental health through stigma, social stress and trauma. According to the research, the relationship between mental illness and Homelessness is two-way. A person with mental illness may facilitate to behavioural and cognitive problems which make it hard to earn a stable income or to undertake daily duties in a manner which can encourage stable housing. Other studies shows that mentally ill individuals usually tend to find themselves homeless mainly due to poverty and lack of low-income housing. The combination of Homelessness and mental illness can contribute to other factors such as addiction to drug abuse, high level use of alcohol and violent victimization that strengthen the relationship between Homelessness and health. In addition, Homelessness among mentally ill individuals can result in more encounters with the police force and other law making bodies in a scenario where they are found guilty of a certain form of criminal activity. Nevertheless, programs offering long-term stable housing for mentally-ill individuals can help to enhance mental health outcomes involving minimizing the number of visits to inpatient psychiatric hospitals.  Therefore, services which offer social skill and cognitive training, especially in developing and upholding relationships would be important in enabling individuals with mental illnesses and Homelessness to regain housing.

Statistics on Homelessness in America

In the United States of America, over approximately half-million individuals are homeless, with some facing fully Homelessness and others are partial homeless living in places such as incomplete or abandoned buildings that are not suitable for habitation. The major cause of Homelessness in America involves poverty resulting from lack of employment and low wages among the majority which makes it difficult for them in return to afford housing. Statistically, approximately 66 percent of the entire homeless population of the United States is single individuals with the remaining 34 percent being families. In current years, Homelessness in America rose nationally by about 1 percent, comprising of young adults and children, single adults suffering from chronic Homelessness and the general public in general experiencing unsheltered Homelessness. 10 states in order of high rates of Homelessness in the United States of America involves; California, New York, Florida, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Ohio.  California has far the highest percentage of homeless people at approximately 27 percent, New York has approximately 16 percent, Florida about 5 percent and Texas about 4 percent.

Nevertheless, today the rate of Homelessness and poverty in the United States of America are lower compared to the data which was gathered in 2007 according to thethe National Alliance to End Homelessness. Regardless of reduction in number of Homelessness, many individuals still are without homes approximately half a million as at January 2019 during the national count. More than a third  were fully homeless sleeping on the streets, sidewalks, parks and other sort of environments which is not safe for humans. According to the 2015 research by The Bassuk Center on Homeless and Vulnerable Children and Youth, America has the highest number of people experiencing Homelessness among the industrialized nations. Therefore, the American government and other bodies concerned with Homelessness has a role to put in place strategies necessary to deal with the issue of homelessness and poverty through employment and affordable housing, for instance.

Negative effects of Homelessness on victims

Homelessness  is often linked to poverty and lack of ability to pay for basic needs such as food, shelter, child care and health care. Housing can be the most expensive of necessities and hence the first to be taken away. The poverty rate was at 10 percent in 2019, marking a decrease from 11 percent in 2018. Historically, poverty and Homelessness in the United States of America has affected more immigrants such as the African-American, the Latinos, the Hispanic and other marginalized groups more than the Whites. The marginalized groups are overrepresented in poverty while the Whites are under-represented. Job availability is a key to minimizing Homelessness according to the National Coalition for the Homelessness. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the rates of joblessness among individuals fell for six months in a row with numerous people losing their jobs which contributed towards high rates of poverty and homelessness in America and globally at large.

Policy Issues

Today, according to the Health Care for the Homeless (HCH), there is a federally funded program structured specifically to offer primary health care to the homeless. Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) projects are needed to offer primary health care, emergency care, substance abuse care, outreach and help in qualifying for housing. In addition, the HCH programs offers mental health treatment, dental care and supportive housing  to the homeless people in the United States of America. According to a 2008 report, HCH programs were estimated to serve approximately 700,000 homeless people annually. Nevertheless, more health care services are clearly required since the Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) programs do not meet the requirements of the majority of the homeless Americans. Lack of affordable housing also obscures efforts to offer health care to the homeless. Housing is the first form of treatment for the homeless with medical challenges, protecting against diseases and making it possible for the sick to recover. Therefore, global access to affordable, comprehensive and high-quality health care is critical in the fight to bring Homelessness to an end. A health insurance system could minimize Homelessness and assist in the prevention of future episodes of Homelessness, as well as minimize the suffering of those people on the streets. In addition, a global health system would lower the social cost and fiscal impact of communicable illnesses and other diseases.



In conclusion, extreme poverty is the strongest predictor of Homelessness for individuals and families at large. The nation’s economic crisis has greatly affected the lives of millions of Americans. Job layoffs have pulled the rug out from under many people especially those with low-incomes. Deepening poverty is inseparably connected with rising levels of homelessness and food insecurity for a large number of the Americans and children are greatly affected by these diverse conditions. Homelessness has adverse effects on people whereby individuals lack stable and safe places to live, including those sheltered and unsheltered as well as those in doubled-up and overcrowded situations. Access to permanent and safe shelter is a basic need for every human being, however, the ongoing economic downturn is likely to increase homelessness levels resulting from; spiking unemployment, foreclosure crisis and inadequate low-cost housing. Although Homelessness and poverty are topics of concern, racism too should be addressed whereby, individuals should have the same privileges regardless of their racial differences. Equality and equity should be the slogan for all in the United States of America whereby the government should give somethe  privileges to the marginalized groups which involve the African-Americans, the Latinos and other minorities just as the Whites. Privileges which all individuals living in America should enjoy involves; quality education, good health care services and better paying employment opportunities. In return, this would make America a racism-free country where every person has freedom and can greatly lead to improved economy thus reducing cases of poverty and Homelessness.



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