5 August 2014
Causes of homelessness in the United States
Homelessness is a concerning problem with global proportions. A report to the United
Nations stated, “There were 1.6 billion inadequately housed people across the world and an estimated 100 million who were completely homeless” (2005, para. 1) Despite some people's belief that homelessness is just an issue for developing countries, it is in fact a huge problem for developed countries as well. According to recent research of The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD], in the United States, one of the most powerful country in the world, “In January 2013, 610,042 people were homeless on a given night. Most 65 percent were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs and 35 percent were living in unsheltered locations” (Henry, Cortes, & Morris, 2013, p. 1). Although homelessness is a mix of diverse and complex factors, there are two critical causes for that, which are intense poverty and health issues.
The first major reason for homelessness among the poor is lack of affordable housing.
The human right to a decent housing should be a right to everyone living in a safe, healthy and friendly place. In fact, according to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1948), “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and of his family, including…housing”. However, the real situation is extremely different of the theory. Indeed, there are many people and families living in unsafe and unhealthy
conditions because they cannot afford the rising housing prices. Due to the increasing price of housing in the United States, the demand for rental properties increased. Unfortunately, instead of rental creating a solution for the problem of housing, it made it worst due to the rising price of these units; consequently, poor people also cannot afford for leasing a place. To clarify, one parameter used to relate wage with rental home is "the housing wage", which the National Low
Income Housing Coalition [NLIHC] defines as “the wage one must earn in order to afford a modest rental home in communities across the country” (2014, para. 1). According to a report from NLIHC, “In the United States, the 2014 two-bedroom Housing Wage is $18.92. This national average is more than two-and-a-half times the federal minimum wage, and 52% higher than it was in 2000. In no state can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental unit at Fair Market Rent” (2014, p.4). Hence, many families live on the streets under deplorable situations.
The second critical reason for homelessness among poor people is the shortage of employment opportunities. Many people agree that the opportunity for a stable and decent work is certainly one of the most assured ways to take people out of the homelessness. Anthony Love,
Deputy Director of United States Interagency Council on Homelessness states, “The best defense against homelessness is a job that pays enough to afford a place to live. Unemployment, underemployment, and low wage employment are frequent causes of homelessness” (Love, 2013, para. 1). Nevertheless, since many poor people have no chance to attend good schools, their low educational attainment levels become a considerable barrier to find a good job. Thus, the jobs that poor people can find are dangerous, stressful and with low wages.
Although intense poverty is a major cause of homelessness, there are also specific health problems which place people in this state of being. In fact, many homeless people suffer from
some kind of health problems, and in countless cases this is the origin of the homelessness among them.
One of the most common health problems that can lead people to homelessness is mental illness. According to a report of U.S. Conference of Mayors, “Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form