Homelessness is among the most significant social issues affecting individuals globally. Nearly half of the population in the world today faces homelessness at some point in life. Homelessness affects individuals and societies locally and internationally, which causes suffering and feeling of isolation among communities. Sociologists need to address the issue of homelessness and work with communities and governmental organizations to prevent the homeless pandemic.
However, finding solutions requires careful research into the causes, effects, and demographics of homelessness to obtain a clear picture of the situation to formulate effective prevention measures. Apart from the causes and effects, society also needs a clear definition of homelessness and belonging to the homeless community. This essay discusses the categories of homelessness and factors that contribute to homeless individuals in America to identify the affected populations and causative factors that will help formulate effective preventive measures.
Types of Homelessness
Many people regard homeless people as individuals without homes who live outside on the streets and parks. However, homelessness is a broad term that refers to many forms of people living without shelter and those living in temporary homes (Pearsall and Trumble). Some homeless cases are not seen and require a more profound understanding to determine the homeless condition. According to the National Coalition for The Homeless, homelessness exists in three categories: transitional, chronic, and episodic homelessness (Nationalhomeless.org). Chronic homelessness refers to individuals without shelters or permanent housing for long periods, such as one year (Ponio).
The chronically homeless individuals usually have health disabilities such as mental disorders, physical incapacitations, and drug addiction problems (Fusaro et al. 2119). People with mental disabilities or drug addiction problems experience homelessness due to isolation from society or estrangement, forcing them out of homes and communities to become homeless.
Episodic homelessness consists of people who have had an on-and-off experience of homelessness for at least three years in a row. Individuals with episodic homelessness are usually the young generation who have trouble with addiction and mental disorders (Fusaro et al. 2119). As a result, they move into the streets and public shelters when mental illness or addiction becomes hard to contain, leading to homelessness (Nationalhomeless.org). Finally, transitional homelessness refers to individuals who seek temporary shelters due to unavoidable circumstances such as catastrophes or sudden unemployment (DW Documentary). This form of homelessness is the most common and also entails individuals living temporarily with relatives and friends due to unexpected changes in lifestyles.
Factors That Contribute to Homelessness
Poverty is the major cause of homelessness among populations in America. Poor people account for more than half the homeless individuals in communities due to low income and high living expenses in the country (Ponio). Individuals need financial resources for housing, rent, food, education, healthcare, general welfare, and personal needs. Thus, most individuals have insufficient funds to cater for housing and other essential resources due to low income. Consequently, the global rise in living expenses also contributes to most homeless conditions since many people cannot adapt to the harsh economic conditions, leading to insufficient resources for housing. High living expenses also lead to high living costs and housing where most individuals cannot afford suitable housing arrangements (DW Documentary).
Poor people also lack resources for adequate housing and end up in government shelters and temporary housing structures such as street carts. The temporary shelters are bound to destruction at any moment due to insecurity and private land restrictions leading to chronic and episodic homelessness. Unemployment is also a significant cause of homelessness in America (DW Documentary). Unemployment leads to high poverty levels and inadequate resources for housing which increases the risk of homelessness among populations.
Other factors include inadequate public support, domestic violence, mental illnesses, and addiction problems. Poor communities and individuals with financial constraints require institutional support to cater to livelihoods (Fowler et al. 470). When governmental or charity support systems fail to meet the individual’s needs such as healthcare, food, and housing, they become homeless because of the high dependence on charity.
Domestic violence causes homelessness to children and women in particular (Ponio). Women living in abusive relationships usually run away with their children. Still, they lack the resources to afford a house, ending up on the streets or in temporary shelters (Fowler et al. 472). Persons with mental illnesses get out of control sometimes and leave home. The mental disability may cause the individuals to get lost, leading to homelessness. According to (Nationalhomeless.org), mental illness accounts for more than 15% of homeless populations. Addiction problems also cause homelessness among most youths due to societal estrangement or poverty as a result of using financial resources on drugs.
Homelessness consists of their categories, namely episodic, chronic and transitional homelessness. Episodic homelessness involves individuals who have on-and-off shelters. Chronic harmlessness includes individuals who experience frequent conditions of being homeless, while transitional homelessness refers to individuals seeking temporary shelters due to sudden tragic events in life. The leading cause of homelessness is poverty, which comes from low income, a high unemployment rate, and the rising cost of living. Other factors are domestic violence, drug addiction, and inadequate support from the government and other charitable institutions.
Older people become homeless due to insufficient and depletion of retirement benefits, while young people become homeless due to addiction and poverty. Middle-income people experience homelessness due to low income and high living costs. In summary, the most causative factor of homelessness is financial resources since people require funds to pay for adequate housing and other necessities.
DW Documentary. How Poor People Survive in The USA | DW Documentary. 2019. Web.
Fowler, Patric J., et al. “Solving Homelessness from a Complex Systems Perspective: Insights for Prevention Responses.” Annual Review of Public Health, vol. 40, 2019, pp. 465–486. Web.
Fusaro, Vincent A., et al. “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Lifetime Prevalence of Homelessness in the United States.” Demography, vol. 55, no. 6, 2018, p. 2119. Web.
Nationalhomeless.org. “Who We Are – National Coalition for The Homeless”. National Coalition for The Homeless, 2021. Web.
Pearsall, Judith, and Bill Trumble, (eds). by. The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary. 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2021.
Ponio, Judy. “Understanding Homelessness: Causes and Effects.” Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen. 2021. Web.