Homeless Families Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1743 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sociology

Homeless Families

Homelessness is a condition where an individual lacks fixed housing, typically because they cannot afford adequately stable and safe housing. Often times individuals whose primary residence is a homeless shelter, a place where homeless people can spend the night, are included in the definition of being homeless. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development defines the term as "an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is either 1) supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill; 2) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or 3) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodations for human beings.

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Typically homeless individuals and families seek refuge in certain areas. These areas include, in general, the outdoors where they can sleep in a bag, tent, cardboard box or other makeshift sleeping quarters. Derelict structures, such as abandoned and condemned buildings, are often places of choice for the homeless. Other areas include vehicles, public places, shelters, boarding houses or with family and friends. The use of public places by the homeless is often the place where the general public is exposed to the homeless epidemic. Whether it is in a park, train station, airport, college campuses or other 24-hour businesses, this is where the problem of homelessness is given public exposure. It is also these places that, because of the public exposure, that businesses and governments most focus their effort on limiting the homeless' use of the areas.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Homeless Families Assignment

One of the most significant impacts the homeless have on society is in healthcare, or the challenge of providing healthcare to the homeless. As a rule, homeless people are more likely to suffer medical problems or injuries due to their unique lifestyle of having to live on the streets. From this, such issues as poor nutrition, substance abuse, exposure to extreme levels of weather and more propensity to violence and other crimes, evolves.

The homeless are also exposed to unique and specialized illnesses and diseases. For example, sink diseases and conditions are rampant due to the constant exposure to extreme cold and lack of proper measures for cleanliness and hygiene. The homeless also lack proper dental care, which leads to various oral problems. Turberculosis is also an issue in homeless populations as it spreads easily throughout crowded homeless shelers and other high density environments. Because these specific diseases and conditions often require specialist, the homeless' have few options, if any, to obtain the treatment they need.

Despite this increase in medical and other health-related risks, as a group the homeless have a significantly limited access to public medical and health care services and clinics. The main reason for this lack of access is that, because they are homeless and without employment, they do not have health care insurance or the proper documents for identification required by most medical service providers. Although free medical-clinics for the homeless do exists, because of the vast number of homeless and the vast amount of care they need, coupled with the general lack of resources these facilities have, equate to the free-clinics being extremely over-burdened and ill-equipped to meet the demand.

In order to assist with the homeless epidemic, many non-profit and other charitable organizations have been set up. For example, Goodwill Industries provides both "skill development and work opportunities to people with barriers to employment." Many major metropolitan areas produce "street newspapers" or magazines that tell about tourist information or entertainment news and are given to homeless individuals to sell on the street and earn an income.

Because when one is homeless they lack a permanent street address, phone number, proper clothing and hygiene and often times a basic education, their employment opportunities are extremely limited. Thus, the vast majority turn towards other methods of earning some money. For example, begging and panhandling are popular activities. However, many cities are making such activities illegal, thus taking away one of the only means of income for this population. Other options are busking, or the performance of tricks, playing music, or other forms of art and entertainment done in exchange for a nominal donation. Donating blood and plasma are other options available for income.

Without real employment activities, the homeless have remarkably limited options. For this reason, many turn towards crime, either as a means of making an income or, as is being seen more and more often, to be sent to jail or prison for its stable form of shelter, food and cleanliness.

There are many causes for homelessness, many not attributable, or not the fault of, the individual homeless person. For example, such factors as a combination of low paying jobs and a general lack of affordable housing force many people into homelessness. This is one of the main causes of homelessness for families. Despite being employed, the wages and benefits are too low to allow for adequate housing to be secured. Other factors include substance abuse problems and the general lack of needed services. The mental health epidemic, coupled with the lack of public healthcare, has created a large fraction of the total homeless population. Domestic violence, unemployment, irresponsible life-style choices, poverty and natural disasters are all also contributing factors to being homeless. Also, the role of being released from prison and into society without any pre-planning often places one directly into homelessness (and thus, all to often, back into crime and into prison). Even when people are employed or are on public assistance, legislative changes to and cuts in such programs can lead to homelessness.

The cost of living and housing has been one of the most significant factors to causing homelessness, especially as wealth and income inequality has increased, causing distortions in the housing market. This leads to increases in rental rates and thus a decrease in available housing options for low-income individuals. Substance abuse is also one of the leading causes of homelessness. Many substance abusers are unable to maintain employment or manage a responsible lifestyle.

Researchers who investigate the causes of homelessness tend to focus their studies on why homelessness exists and who is most-at risk of homelessness. Their findings have led to the establishment of numerous, pre-disposing factors to becoming homeless. For example, such factors as poverty, drug or alcohol misuse, mental illness and disability, foster care background, domestic abuse, prison discharge or being a civilian during a war have been found as being the most significant factors in placing an individual at high-risk for homelessness.

For example, in terms of substance abuse, there is a debate as to whether substance abuse causes homelessness or whether homelessness causes substance abuse issues. Despite whether substance abuse causes homelessness, it is clear that a substance abuse problem makes it extremely difficult to move beyond homelessness, as evidenced by the fact that substance abuse is prevalent among the homeless population. Likewise, a similar argument is made as to mental illness and homelessness. It is estimated that approximately one-third of all adult homeless individuals suffer from some form of mental health illness or disability.

Interestingly, such public assistance programs as the foster care program, designed to prevent children from being in unhealthy, unsafe home environments and to give the child opportunities beyond poverty and homelessness, is one of the leading indicators of being homeless. The population with a foster care background experience rates of homelessness at nearly eight times greater than the non-foster care population. Along similar lines, those who escape domestic abuse often end up homeless and back into abusive relationships. In a recent study, over half of all homeless women and children were found to be fleeing from an abusive environment or relationship. Likewise, when one is released from prison, they find themselves socially isolated and having access to limited resources. Further more, it is difficult for a former inmate to find employment. All these factors lead to homelessness.

Although homelessness has always existed, in the 1980s there was a dramatic increase in family homelessness, including an alarmingly increasing number of impoverished and runaway children, teenagers and young adults. Taken together, these individuals created a new category of the homeless population. By 2002, statistics showed that children and families were the fastest and largest growing segment of the American homeless population. This change in homeless demographics has led to a new need for services and agencies.

With this increase in family homelessness comes an increase concern about the future of homelessness. If an individual grows up homeless, the opportunities available to them to become productive adults are virtually non-existence. Thus, as they grow up they will most likely continue to be homeless and have families that are also homeless, and so on. Further, when a family is homeless, the resources needed to bring the family out of poverty are also more limited. For example, a homeless mother can… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Homeless Families.  (2007, June 11).  Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/homeless-families/3477479

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"Homeless Families."  11 June 2007.  Web.  17 September 2021. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/homeless-families/3477479>.

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"Homeless Families."  Essaytown.com.  June 11, 2007.  Accessed September 17, 2021.