10 CAUSES OF HOMELESSNESS
This week’s big idea: Break the Stereotypes
It is easy to blame people who are un-housed for getting themselves into their predicament. It is convenient to think of them as the stereotype of lazy, dirty and sub-human. A closer look reveals the many facets, causes, and complexities behind homelessness.
1. Job Loss and Underemployment
The current downturn in the economy has many Americans barely getting by financially. Many are underemployed at wages that can't sustain them. Layoffs and job cuts leave individuals and families in desperate circumstances. Unemployment benefits and savings run out, leaving people homeless who never thought it could happen to them. (See: National Coalition for the Homeless - Employment.)
Even people who have jobs are finding themselves upside down with their mortgages. From 2008 to 2009, foreclosures jumped by 32%. A 2009 survey estimates that as many as 10% of people seeking help from homeless organizations do so due to foreclosure.* (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless - Foreclosure.)
3. Domestic Violence
Nationally, 50% of homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.* When a woman is abused, she faces a crisis of safety. If she stays in the home, she'll be beaten again. If she leaves, she'll have little means of support. Either choice is a tremendous risk. Choosing homelessness over abuse is both a brave and frightening decision. (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless - Domestic Violence.)
4. Throw Away Teens
Homeless teens often become so due to family conflicts. They're kicked out or choose to run away over issues of sexual orientation, teen pregnancy, physical abuse or drug addiction. 20% of homeless teens identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) compared to 10% in the general population. Over 58% of these teens have been sexually abused. 62% are likely to commit suicide.* (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless - LGBT.)
What the general public may not understand about veterans is that not every veteran knows what resources they have available to them. Some also have difficulty transitioning back into society because of war trauma and bias against them.
On any given night, as many as 200,000 military veterans sleep on the street.* The percentage of veterans with post-traumatic stress is growing among those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Adapting to "normal life" back in the U.S. is proving to be extremely difficult for the men and women who have served us. (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless - Veterans.)
6. Physical or Mental Disabilities
Among the folks who are un-housed and suffer from disabilities, many of them have terminal cancer; emphysema; heart, kidney or liver disease; diabetic or other amputations; spinal or seizure disorders; brain damage; blindness; and other temporary or permanent disabilities. They cannot work and need shelter 24 hours a day. Persons discharged from hospitals needing bed rest or rest after chemotherapy, need a bed in which to rest.
6% of the American population suffers from mental illness. In the homeless population, that number jumps to 20-25%.* Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self care and household management. Without assistance, these men and women have little chance of gaining stability. (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless - Mental Illness.)
It is not uncommon to discover that many folks are burdened by grief. Unable to deal with the death of a loved one or other significant trauma can lead to apathy which can end in the loss of job and home. They simply stop caring if they live or die. Grief becomes a roadblock to living.
"Once you get down this low, it's hard to get back up," we often hear homeless men and women say. The longer they are homeless, the more difficult it becomes to combat the lies they hear in their heads. They believe there's no way out. They don't deserve another chance. They'll never break free. They'll always be a failure. More than anything, these men and women need hope.
The grief and despair issues listed above can often lead to addiction.
10. Relational Brokenness
A homeless person is most often a deeply hurting person. By the time they come to a homelessness organization for help, they've burned through every supportive relationship possible. Friends and family are no longer able or willing to help, leaving the homeless man or woman very much alone. What relationships they have are usually predatory. In a sense, their situation is less about homelessness and more about unwantedness. A significant barrier to recovery often lies in the ability to restore trust and maintain healthy relationships
(credit: revised from Portland Homeless Rescue Mission, Portland, Oregon USA - http://www.1010pdx.org/search/label/Top%2010 )