Housing and Homelessness

A very persistent and troubling issue that Human Services workers must attempt to mitigate is issues vulnerable clients will have in regards to consistent stable housing and/or homelessness. For many people in the US exposure to the elements is a dangerous and even deadly problem that they must deal with on a daily basis. Whether the people being discussed live in temporary shelters, on the streets, in tents in the woods, boxcars, abandoned buildings or their car, homelessness is a very serious problem that affects a surprising number of Americans every year. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty has stated that roughly three and a half million Americans will experience some form of homelessness each year. Of this 3.5 million a staggering 1.35 million are children. Homelessness has a devastating effect on the lives of all it touches and particularly our vulnerable populations such as children and the mentally ill.

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Unfortunately, the problem of homelessness is one that has a number of eye-opening statistics. Some of the more sobering statistics include the following1:

  • Up to twenty-six percent of America’s homeless are also mentally ill
  • 19% of homeless persons suffer from domestic violence which either drove them to the streets or is something they experience while homeless.
  • As many as 13% of homeless people are physically disabled
  • An additionally 13% of our homeless population are veterans of US military service
  • A study of the homeless in 50 US cities showed that in almost all cases the number of homeless people exceeded the capacity of all emergency shelter and transitional housing available.
  • Perhaps the most shocking statistic of all is that 19% of homeless people are actually employed!

There are many factors that can contribute to and prolong homelessness. Things such as sudden unexpected job loss when the household budget was already tight can cause a family that has otherwise never experienced homelessness to find themselves on the street. Mental illness, drug addiction and domestic violence are all factors that contribute greatly to reasons why we have such a large homeless population. Expensive housing with little or no affordable housing in some areas also has been cited as a reason some people who have jobs actually cannot afford to put a roof over their heads. For those homeless people who have the additional burden of substance abuse issues and mental or physical illnesses, escaping from the cycle of homelessness can be exceptionally difficult.

The good news is that dedicated Human Services professionals can make a lasting and positive impact on the lives of the homeless and help to break the cycle of poverty that creates homelessness. Whether you choose to work as an eligibility worker that provides Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or work as a Rehabilitation Case Worker there are ways you can make an immediate impact on the lives of homeless people. Some ways you can contribute to positive change are also less obvious, such as seeking a leadership role in your city as a Public Administrator working to enact affordable housing initiatives, there are many ways you can work to mitigate the effects of homelessness. There are a wide variety of ways that you can as a Human Services professional help our country to slowly roll back and eventually end the scourge of Homelessness.

1 http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/How_Many.html