Homelessness within the United States Essay

In the United States, homelessness continues to be the centre of distress for providers of social service, government officials, along with policy professionals given that its resurgence amongst the majority of individuals, as well as families (Cater, 2011). Research shows that the rate of people who are homeless is continuously increasing due to the augmentation in the cut of housing and social service, in addition to the deterioration of, the economy.

There are some arising arguments as to whether the problem of homelessness got initiated by those experiencing these problems (Mayock & Carr, 2008). Given the current economic constraints, some people argue that the homeless people are freeloaders, who are unwilling to work extra hard so as they can afford to live in a place, which is not only safe, but also healthy for themselves, as well as their families. Therefore, this essay tends to clarify this issue by examining the main causes of homelessness within the United States, its effects, while at the same time giving a recommendation on what has to be done in tackling this problem.


There are various reasons leading to people becoming homeless, as well as the combination of causes leading to homelessness within the United States, which tend to vary from different individuals. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (2011) notes these causes including high cost and scarcity of housing; it is hard, according to Mayock and Carr (2008), if not impractical, for individuals with low-income, together with families to get affordable housing within the US. The majority of the houses available in the United States are extremely expensive; therefore, it is easy for low income earners to acquire them (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011).

Secondly, poverty, literacy, joblessness and education happen to be another significant cause of homelessness within the United States. Poverty has a close connection with homelessness. When people do not have income for meeting all their needs, they get compelled to make a choice between housing, childcare, utilities, food, transportation and healthcare (Carter, 2011). Mayock and Carr (2008) claim that, even though a high percentage of homeless individuals has employment, their incomes are in most cases not enough to make certain that housing stability while the majority of people lack jobs, which living wages, high job security, as well as health insurance. Additionally, a lack of educational opportunities restricts accessibility to living-wage jobs (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011).

The third leading cause of homelessness within the United States happens to be domestic violence: This is a factor in homelessness especially for women with children. Research shows that up to half of homeless women along with children might have gone through domestic violence before becoming homeless (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). The majority of homeless youth and young adults have experienced violence within their homes.

Fourthly, effects of mental illness and drug addiction also play a key role in the problem of homelessness within the United States. Most people with complex life issues connected to mental illness as well as substance use are amongst homeless persons compared to the general population (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). In the United States, about 25 percent of homeless people are living with acute mental illness with alcohol and drug use being noteworthy amongst a huge group of homeless persons (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). Apparently, issues related to untreated mental illness, together with substance abuse affect housing stability, as well as success (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011).

Institutional release to homelessness happens to another major cause of homelessness in the United States. Most of the time, people get released from hospitals or prisons with no sufficient re-entry planning of ensuring housing stability, along with success following their discharge (Carter, 2011). On the other hand, those people who had been homeless before institutionalization, they face an enormous challenge in achieving housing stability (Mayock & Carr, 2008).

Legal issues also play a key role when it comes to the problem of homelessness within the United States. Legal obstacles are capable of leading to homelessness or even the inability of securing permanent housing (Carter, 2011). Previous felony convictions, unpaid warrants, and lack of appropriate documentation are some of barriers in accessing the majority of subsidized housing programs that are main aids for low income persons (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). Additionally, land use, zoning regulations along with community opposition turn out to be a significant obstacle to affordable as well as supportive housing development.

Finally, accessibility to healthcare is also responsible for homelessness within the United States. The majority of low-income earners and disabled persons perceive the cost of healthcare as a substantial economic obstacle to housing. According to Mayock and Carr (2008), though some homeless people having disabilities qualify for health coverage by means of Medicaid or Medicare, the period of application might vary from a month up to a few years while the system tend to confuse the homeless persons and providers when navigating the system (Carter 2011). In most cases, low-income people have trouble affording the co-pays needed by care providers. Furthermore, the majority of homeless individuals use emergency rooms when addressing health issues, which have resulted in seriousness owing to lack of preventative care with homeless persons having high rates of not only chronic, but also acute health problems (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011).


Homelessness tends to have an enormous impact on an individual’s physical as well as emotional health (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). Most of the homeless people suffer from diseases such as cold injury, cardio-respiratory diseases, tuberculosis and skin diseases due to malnourishment, poor circulation, unfitting shoes, cuts and dirty clothing (Mayock & Carr, 2008). Other problems associated with homelessness comprise nutrition deficiencies owing to poor nutrition and deficiency of care; additionally, a high rate of homeless persons suffers from malnourishment, which heightens the risk of infectious diseases, as well as gastrointestinal disorders (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). Unfortunately, according to National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (2011), it is impossible to get rid of these diseases since they have no accessibility to medicine, food along with warm housing.

According to the USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness (2011), other health problems commonly experienced by homeless people comprise of sleep deprivation; most of the homeless people find it difficult to sleep in the noisy atmosphere of shelters. These sleeping disorders lead to irritability, apathy, as well as behavioural impairment with children being the most especially affected (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011).

Health difficulty of children and youths is also another problem experienced by homeless people in the United States. Children living in emergency shelters encounter emotional, as well as developmental difficulties thereby being unable to perform well in school (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). Apparently, these children end up having a rate of chronic diseases that are twice as high compared to their more stable peers.
There are numerous cases of physical and sexual assault experienced by homeless people. Unfortunately, life on the streets tends to be extremely violent with physical assaults, along with muggings being common while this attacks precipitating health problems (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). In this case, the most vulnerable are women and children with the rate of sexual assaults to homeless women being twenty times higher than that for women in general (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011).
As a result of homelessness within the United States, there are a number of incidents of drug dependency. The majority of homeless persons abuse drugs, and amongst them there are high incidences of diseases like HIV/AIDS, skin ailments, bruises, venereal disease, lacerations, as well as injuries ensuing from violence (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011).

Finally, there are high reports regarding mortality amongst homeless people as compared to common population. The mortality rate for homeless people is almost four times higher compared to the rate for the common population, and amongst young, homeless men; this rate tends to be even higher (Mayock & Carr, 2008). Averagely, homeless adults die just about twenty years earlier compared to their non-homeless counterparts with more than half of homeless adults dying violently and a quarter of them getting murdered (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011).


It is obvious that the issue of homelessness within the United States continues to be a colossal problem; therefore, there is a need for coming up with solutions that will counteract these problems. Apparently, the solutions required in eliminating the problem of homelessness are similar to those needed in preventing its occurrence (Mayock & Carr, 2008). Prevention happens to be a present day requirement with the majority of people in the society currently sitting at the brink of desolation. An increase in inexpensive housing, job opportunities, as well as affordable health care tends to be some ways of preventing people from turning out to be homeless (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011). The existing gap between income and the cost of housing must be lessened thereby enabling people to keep their homes (Carter, 2011). People are in need of more quality jobs, along with benefits which tend to offer a living wage instead of a lot of dead-end jobs, which pay minimum wage.

There is a need to set up minimum wages that are realistic hence a minimum wage, which has its basis on realistic minimum living expenses will go a long way in solving this problem the problem of homelessness within the United States (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011). Most employers are incapable of affording insurance benefits, which they have to offer for their full time employees; therefore, there is a need for healthcare reform, if possible a single payer scheme (Mayock & Carr, 2008). This will go a long way in significantly reducing employer costs.
On the other hand, on the problem of unemployment, the economy would gradually but surely gain from greater health care accessibility which will result in new employment opportunities (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). The exercise of credit checks with the aim of hiring unrelated to the handling of cash or finance positions happens to be the recent problem. These practices prohibit someone with outstanding bills from getting hired; ironically these bills accumulate due to unemployment! Therefore, it is necessary to make these practices illegal, this way; unemployed people will have few barriers to employment (Carter, 2011).


Homelessness happens to be an extraordinarily massive problem in the United States, with there being different forms of homelessness; however, every instance of homelessness happens to be a tragedy that nobody has to suffer through. Although there are several causes of this problem, which lead to undesired outcomes as discussed in this essay, it is clear that none of the homeless people desires to be homeless. It is noteworthy, however, that there are several solutions that are capable of preventing this problem (USA Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, 2011); apparently, prevention efforts tend to cost less when compared to the costs of imprisonment, shelters’ maintenance, and distribution of food to an increasing population. Homelessness needs more than just a single solution since it is far more than just one problem. Conversely, it would be yet another tragedy if an enormous solution got missed since it had never been perceived of (Mayock & Carr, 2008). Although various organizations, both governmental and non-governmental institutions, have come up with ideas of dealing with this problem, it is essential to incorporate the homeless people in finding solutions to this problem since they are capable of offering an in depth into this problem (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2011). This way, the problem of would be dealt with effectively since there would be first hand information from those going through the problem rather than second guessing what the solution might be appropriate. Unfortunately, financial support for these requirements continues to diminish on federal, as well as state levels (Carter, 2011).


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  • Beyond chronic homelessness: a review of statewide plans. A National Survey Policy Report. Retrieved from http://www.icphusa.org/reports/ICPH_PolicyReport_BeyondChronicHomelessness_AReviewofStatewidePlans.pdf