The Modern Era Of Homelessness
The early 1980s marked the emergence of what now may be considered the modern era of homelessness. Major forces that changed the complexion of homelessness in the modern era include gentrification of the inner city, deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, high unemployment rate, the emergence of HIV/AIDS, an inadequate supply of affordable housing options, and deep budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and social service agencies in response to what was then the country’s worst recession since the Great Depression . In some cities, property values increased dramatically in the areas near downtown, and Skid Row areas disappeared as the SROs and rooming houses that were home to thousands of transients were razed or converted into apartments and condominiums. Since the 1980s, rents in metro areas across the country have been increasing while wages have stagnated . Recent research indicates that families experiencing homelessness are more likely to continue to face poverty and homelessness in the future .
Drug And Substance Abuse
Drug abuse is widespread in the US. Drug addicts often face expulsion from their homes. Their problems with addiction make them unbearable for their family members. These individuals spend a lot on drugs, which leaves little behind for rent or mortgage. They will usually refuse to seek help with housing, despite their homelessness. Thus, their addiction problems continue without a roof over their heads.
Barriers To Affordable And Supportive Housing
7. Even when housing providers acquire, improve, or re-use existing housing stock and agree to payment in lieu of taxes to support local infrastructure, they typically encounter intense neighborhood opposition. Opposition to supportive housing in particular tends to be protracted, resulting in increased development costs for projects that already have extremely low margins of economic viability.
8. Spacing requirements for group homes can present barriers to the development of new permanent supportive housing for the homeless.22
9. Development regulations, which impose unrealistic parking requirements and unnecessary transportation impact fees, may create financial burdens for developers of supportive housing when they are not reflective of the actual impact of the facility.
10. Despite evidence from numerous studies over the past 20 years, neighborhoods continue to vigorously fight supportive housing arrangements for the homeless on the basis of property values and/or a fear of crime. An Urban Land Institute Report prepared for HUD in 1999 examined the impact of supportive housing on neighborhoods and neighbors in Denver . The report showed that supportive housing does not decrease property values nor increase criminal activity.23
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Us Mayors Say Homelessness Crisis Falls To Them But They Lack Support And Funding
InlatestInitiative on Cities Menino Survey of Mayors, leaders cite limited funding as major barrier to addressing the issue
- 73 percent of US mayors see themselves as highly accountable for addressing homelessness in their cities.
- Only 19 percent of mayors feel they had a lot or a great deal of influence to address homelessness.
- More than 60 percent of mayors say lack of resources hindered their ability to address homelessness and more than half say public opposition to new housing and shelters was an additional obstacle.
The majority of US mayors believe that the public holds them accountable for addressing homelessness in their communities, but say they dont have the power to address the problem in the face of political opposition and lack of funding to build new shelters. And only 40 percent of them say they have a clear policy goal tied to reducing or eliminating homelessness. These are among the top findings in a report just released by Boston Universitys Initiative on Cities , titled Mayors and Americas Homelessness Crisis, which asked elected city leaders about their views on the challenges they face in dealing with homelessness and their approaches to confronting the issue.
Prior to this survey, we actually had very little understanding of how local governments were approaching homelessness. And this is a huge problem, because cities are some of the most important actors when it comes to addressing homelessness. Katherine Levine Einstein
Ways You Can Work Toward Ending Homelessness
Give money to programs that work. Sounds simple, right? But these arent always easy to spot. One place to start is the Youth Homeless Fund, a Houston-based community impact fund that aims to address the problem of homelessness among young people through leadership, advocacy work, education and collaborative grantmaking.
Set bold goals. When organizations and communities set a target to reduce street homelessness, they usually succeed. Dont just think about housing a few hundred people in a shelter think about how thousands can get permanent supportive housing within a year.
Dont get bogged down in politics. As we recently saw in Seattle with the proposed head tax, policies often come with a lot of complications. Rather than worry about whether government subsidies will be approved or not by a council, make sure that local initiatives on the ground get the support they need and find ways to bring people together in private-public partnerships . It sometimes takes a village.
Know your numbers. Support research such as Voices of Youth Count , which delivers concrete, reliable data on subgroups, while also delving into the details on which interventions have found success and which havent.
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How Bad Is The Homelessness Problem
FICTION: The homeless rate has gone down, so therefore were making great progress.
FACT: While there are some positive trends, the numbers are still alarming. Since 2007, the overall rate in homelessness has declined . But from 2016 to 2017 , unaccompanied children and young adults who were homeless increased by 14.3 percent, individuals experiencing chronic homelessness increased by 12.2 percent, and people living on the streets without access to any shelter increased by 9.4 percent. Meanwhile, cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York have all seen spikes in their homeless populations over the past few years.
Its a good sign that most areas have reported decreases in the number of homeless veterans , but we have a long way to go before we can declare any mission accomplished.
FICTION: Homelessness affects everybody equally.
FACT: Unstable housing affects minorities the most. African Americans occupy 40 percent of the homeless population and LGBT+ youth experience double the risk of homelessness compared to their peers.
FICTION: Homelessness are mostly in cities and in low-income areas.
FACT: The high cost of living puts many more at risk, no matter where they are. Since 2007, there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of poor households that face a demanding home price burden . And in that same time period, all but three states saw an increase in low-income adults living with family or friends, which could be a step away from homelessness.
How Expensive Is Homelessness
Calculating the total economic and individual costs of homelessness is a complicated process. For example, you cant put a number to return on investment on the feeling of safety, relief, and comfort of a person spending their first night in their new apartment after a long period of homelessness.
However, you can contrast the cost of their new apartment, the subsidies they are receiving to pay the rent, and the ongoing support services that will help them maintain their housing, with the emergency, health care, and justice system costs that often go hand-in-hand with chronic homelessness.
This is typically how social scientists calculate the cost of homelessness.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a person experiencing chronic homelessness costs the taxpayer an average of $35,000 a year . In another study of 5,000 people experiencing Severe Mental Illness and homelessness in New York City, the average annual cost of service use was calculated to be around $40,500 per person.
Father Joes Villages piloted a program called Project 25 that provided housing and intensive services to San Diegos top 25-40 most frequent users of public services.We found that before individuals started the program, the average annual cost of public services per person was nearly $111,000.
The 2019 Regional Taskforce on the Homeless Point-in-Time Count found that 1,664 individuals in San Diego were experiencing chronic homelessness, around 21% of the total homeless population.
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I Statement Of Issues
What Is Homelessness? Federal law3 defines a homeless person as one who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence … and has a primary night residency that is: a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations… an institution that provides temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.” Also included are persons being discharged from institutions that do not have an identified residence to go to within a week, and persons fleeing domestic violence. The definition excludes those who are in the corrections system or detained pursuant to law. Various federal agencies other than HUD have interpreted the law in light of their specific programs as reflected in program regulations.
This definition works well in large urban communities, where tens of thousands of persons are literally homeless, on the streets, or in shelters. It has proven problematic in assessing the status of homeless persons in rural areas where there are few shelters. In rural areas, homeless persons are more likely to live with relatives or friends in overcrowded or substandard housing, or in less-than-habitable outbuildings.4 Frequently these stays are sequential, that is, floating from one home to another until a permanent situation is found, these are the “Hidden Homeless.”
What Measures The Us Government Can Implement To End Homelessness
The US government must invest in more affordable units for the homeless. This can be challenging, mainly because of high land costs. But, over the long term, the focus needs to be on increasing the number of housing options for the masses.
This will also help in making Housing First a reality across the country. The only way people can get unconditional housing is if there are enough buildings to choose from.
Over the short term, the government can open up more public spaces for the homeless. Public libraries, for instance, can serve as excellent hubs for the homeless. These places offer free computer and internet services that can help the homeless connect with the world. They can also avail a library to socialize with people and look for jobs. By opening up more libraries to the homeless, the government can make life easier for them.
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Grant Programs And Services
SAMHSAs formula and discretionary grant programs support many types of behavioral health treatments and recovery-oriented services. SAMHSAs services increase access to disability income benefits for eligible adults who are experiencing or at risk for homelessness. Learn more about grant programs and services:
If I Am Homeless In The Us Who Can Help Me
Social workers and NGOs can help you. They can guide you to drop-in centers, soup kitchens, and other helpful places. If you struggle with addiction, they may also help you avail with rehab. They can even help you find a decent place to live for the long term. It is easy to find them via the Internet or by asking around.
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In Latest Initiative On Cities Menino Survey Of Mayors Leaders Cite Limited Funding As Major Barrier To Addressing The Issue
While nearly three-quarters of US mayors feel voters hold them accountable for addressing homelessness a great deal or a lot, only 19 percent believe they have either a great deal or a lot of control over addressing the issue, according to a new report from BUs Initiative on Cities 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors. Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP Photo
Current State Of Homelessness In The United States: Data And Trends
While the numbers have generally been decreasing since 2010, in 2017, more than 550,000 people in the United States were staying in shelters or in places not intended for human habitation on a single night . Many more people experience homelessness over longer periods, such as 1 year or more. In 2016, 1.42 million people at some point stayed in a homeless shelter or a transitional housing program . How homelessness is defined, as described below, impacts how these data are collected, and what we know about who is experiencing homelessness, and informs what services are needed.
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The Homeless Prevention Program
The Homeless Prevention Programprovides people in identified at-risk groups facing homelessness with portable rent supplements to help them access rental housing in the private market. The program assists:
- youth transitioning out of foster care
- women who have experienced violence or are at risk of violence
- people leaving the correctional and hospital systems
- Indigenous people who are at risk of homelessness
Learn more at BC Housing about the Homeless Prevention Program.
Health And The Experience Of Homelessness
Several studies have examined the prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors and adverse outcomes among persons experiencing homelessness compared to the general population. In 2002, Szerlip and Szerlip compared the medical charts of 100 patients in a homeless clinic in New Orleans, Louisiana, to those of 200 nonhomeless patients who attended another inner-city primary care clinic. They found that individuals experiencing homelessness had a higher prevalence of hypertension and smoking, but there was no difference in diabetes and total cholesterol compared to the general population. Other studies have confirmed the higher prevalence of smoking among homeless populations, but have not found a higher prevalence of hypertension or a difference in diabetes and total cholesterol . It has been suggested that for many risk factors, it is not their prevalence but the treatment and management of these conditions that is worse among those individuals experiencing homelessness .
Individuals experiencing homelessness have higher rates of cancer risk factors , but are less likely to undergo cancer screenings. A study of homeless adults in Los Angeles investigated cancer knowledge and screening. Although most of the study population demonstrated understanding of cancer screening, their actual screening rates were lower than for Californians broadly.
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Homelessness: What To Know And How To Help
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
More than half a million people in the U.S. experience homelessness on any given night: a humanitarian crisis in this country that demands our attention. But while many nonprofits, foundations and policymakers are working hard to address the issue, sustainable solutions have been a challenge to develop. That shouldnt discourage us from trying: We can end homelessness by separating fact from fiction and examining the methods that work.
Housing Costs & Supply
14. Families and individuals at the lowest end of the wage scale have the greatest difficulty in finding and paying for decent housing. These same households are important to community stability and economic growth, as they are typically headed by workers in the service and retail sectors with earnings at or just above minimum wage. Other at-risk households in many communities include entry-level police officers and teachers, as well as low-skilled manufacturing workers.27
15. The inventory of affordable housing units keeps shrinking. The absence of a range of viable rental housing options creates a truncated housing continuum. This affordable rental housing crisis is not new however, the plight of homeless and poor households has intensified as the gap between minimum wage and the wage a full-time worker must earn an hour to afford adequate housing has increased sharply. The national median housing wage for 2002 was $14.66 for a two-bedroom apartment or almost three times the Federal minimum wage, which has remained at $5.15 since 1997. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in no jurisdiction in the United States does a minimum wage job provide enough income for a household to afford the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom home.
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Why Is Homelessness Expensive
The term chronic homelessness refers to individuals who have experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or who have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years and also have a diagnosed disability that prevents them from maintaining work or housing .
Whether a person is chronically homeless or not, studies consistently show that people experiencing homelessness are associated with greater emergency room use, greater inpatient admissions, and longer hospital stays than their housed counterparts.
However, due to the toll of ongoing homelessness on their bodies, minds, and spirits, people experiencing chronic homelessness are often considered super-users of emergency departments, inpatient hospital stays, psychiatric centers, detoxification programs, and jails. Without stable housing or the funds to pay for emergency services, tickets, or other costs, these costs often fall to the City and, by extension, taxpayers.
Typically, people experiencing chronic homelessness need a higher level of care because they have histories of severe mental illness, substance use, or physical disability. Studies have found that these super-users typically make up around 10% of the population of those experiencing homelessness and are the most expensive of all.
What Citizens Can Do To Help End Homelessness In The United States
As a citizen, you may be unable to improve homeless lives overnight. But, you can change your attitudes for the better.
For starters, every citizen must make it a point to empathize with homeless people. We must not be wary of greeting them or engaging with them. We must acknowledge their existence as worthy human beings.
It is also possible to prepare special care packages for the homeless. These could include food, water, and clothes that will help them get through another day. Volunteering at drop-in centers, food banks, or local shelters will also have an impact. Not only will it allow you to help the homeless, but it will also make it easier for you to empathize with them.
You can make donations to charities or programs geared towards ending homelessness. Such programs need all the funds they can get to have a positive impact on the lives of the homeless. Even a paltry amount donated by you can go a long way in helping the needy.
You could also consider becoming an advocate for the homeless. This can include educating people about the plight of the homeless. You can also fight for the rights of those who face constant harassment. By raising awareness like this, you can improve the lives of the homeless.
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