Homeless Population in the US
Homelessness in the United States is as a revolving-door crisis. This means that a person can be homeless on a given night and not be homeless the following night. One is homeless if he or she spends a night in a shelter for homeless people or a place that is not for human accommodation. Many other definitions exist. However, the main consensus on homelessness is that it is a condition and not an attribute or status. Many also agree that the Federal government should invest now more than ever towards reducing homelessness. One of the hurdles faced by the government is how to determine the portion of the population that is homeless.
In the United States, estimates on the number of homeless people are often inaccurate. One of the reasons for this inaccuracy is because local counts are of homeless people usually rare. The main reason, however, stems from the fluctuation of the number of homeless people. How then can the size of the homeless population be determined?
One of the ways counts can be designed is by establishing the number of homeless people in a given night. The Census Bureau refers to this as a point-in-time (PIT) count. Another complex variation of the PIT method involves determining the number of people homeless for one night or more within a given time. Point-in-time-count methods vary and are not perfect. However, when these counts are compared over a time, the trend in numbers can be used to determine whether the homeless population has decreased or increased. For example, PIT estimated the homeless population in the US at 643,067 and decreased by 1% to 636,017 in 2011. This was as decrease of approximately 7,000 people.
The size of the homeless population in the U.S. as established through PIT counts depends on a number of factors such as the housing market conditions, shelter rules and prevailing weather conditions. However, housing market conditions contribute the biggest percentage to the homeless population. This is because most homeless people are either poor or severely poor. Most homeless people are male. In 2007, 44% of shelter residents were male. A large portion of the homeless population consists of mentally-ill people.
Determining the size of the population that is homeless in the U.S. is a daunting task. This is because homelessness is a condition and not an attribute or status. Additionally, most people are homeless only on some nights. Because of this, most counts of homeless populations involve methods of determining the count number of people homeless on a given night. This is a Point-In-Time count (PIT). Many people agree that the investment of Federal resources will reduce homelessness in the U.S.
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The problem of homelessness in America is growing dramatically. It's a problem that can strike anyone when you least expect it. Therefore you should address this as a major crisis that affects our society. I feel as Americans we should come together to create solutions to end a growing epidemic of homeless people.
Statistics show people living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless. Economically they are at a higher risk of losing what little they already have.
The number of homeless families with children has increased significantly over the past decade. They are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. They are approximently 40% of people who are homeless. In rural areas the largest group of homeless people are families, single mothers, and children.
In a 1998 survey of 30 cities, it was found that the homeless population was 53% African-American, 35% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic, 4% Native-American, and 3% Asian (U.S Conference of Mayors1998). The ethnic makeup of homeless population varies depending upon geographic location.
Homelessness and poverty are closely linked. Poor people commonly are unable to pay for housing, food, child care, health care, and education. Choices must be mad when only their income covers some of these necessities.
Poor employment opportunities for a large number of the work force increases poverty. Falling incomes and less secure jobs which offer fewer benefits leads to additional financial strain on already financially burdened people. The connection between impoverished workers and homelessness can be seen in homeless shelters, many of which house significant numbers of full time wage earners. A survey of 30 U.S cities found that almost one in five homeless people are employed (U.S Conference of Mayors 1998). Thus, for many Americans, work provides no escape from poverty and homelessness.
Fewer public assistance is another reason of increasing poverty and homelessness. Until it's repeal in August 1996 the largest cash assistance program for poor families with children was the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.
The elimination and cut backs of public mental hospitals resulted in the building of Community Mental Health Centers. The serious mentally ill who were supposed to benefit by these developments were replaced by people who were well off and thought they were sick. Making the problem worse the serious mentally ill were unable to re-enter hospitals because of tighter admissions standards ( Contemporary World Issues 1990). Without hospitalization or the ability to support themselves they were forced to the streets.
Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers. In every state, more than minimum wage is needed to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment. A minimum-wage worker would have to work 87 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment (U.S Conference of Mayors 1998). Thus insufficient income leaves many people homeless.
For families and individuals struggling to pay rent, a serious illness or disability can push them over the edge into homelessness. This might begin with a lost job, reduction of savings to pay for care, and eventual eviction.
I feel in writing this essay we should all help the homeless to get back on their feet. They are in desperate need of a helping hand, to get through this. Other reasons for helping the homeless are, they are human beings as well as you and I, it reduces our taxes if there were no homeless, and some crime will be eliminated on the streets.
Homeless people are humans just searching for a way out. They need our help because they can't do it alone. Sometimes they are forced to sleep in freezing cold weather with just a newspaper to keep them somewhat warm. They don't have food to barely feed themselves, never mind if they have children. Also they don't have enough money to pay for medical insurance in case they or a family member gets sick. Without our help these people could die, leaving a lot of guilt.
If we help eliminate homelessness we will also benefit. As mentioned earlier when they don"t have enough money to pay for medical insurance who's pocket do you think it comes out of? Yours and mine. Taxes are taken out every paycheck that is made to help pay for medical insurance for the poor and homeless. Taxes are also taken out to help support the welfare programs, for people in need.
As Americans we owe it to our country. It is estimated 1/3 of the homeless are veterans. They fought and were willing to die for our country, then when it was time to come home they came home to find out they had no money and no place to live, and the government turned their backs on them. Our country spends millions of dollars to help other countries in need. When countries have starving men, women, and children who do they look to, the U.S. If the government is looking to help anyone they should just look in their own back yard and see all the starving homeless people. Our country's homeless people need your help to end homelessness.
No matter what your skills, interests, or resources, there are ways you can help make a difference for some of the many people who are homeless. Volunteer work, aiding efforts, contributions of money, clothes, food, and services are important and needed.
There are a lot of things that can be done at shelters and other service agencies that is greatly appreciated. For instance filing, sorting clothes, cutting vegetables, etc. Let them know how you can help out and for how long.
Some possible tasks are: working at a shelter, helping build or fix up houses or shelters, food drives, reading to the homeless, and just by involving others to help out too.
While the efforts are being made in volunteer work, material help is needed also. The end to homelessness is a long road. In the meantime, homeless people and people running the programs need help every day. Some items that would be great to donate are: clothing, household products, support a homeless person of family, raise funds for a program, give directly, help homeless contact loved ones, and encourage your job to hire homeless people.
Efforts to ensure jobs that pay a living wage and have good benefits, your help and others, affordable housing, and access to health care will bring and end to the problem of homelessness.
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