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The homeless population in the United States seems to be growing. In populated
areas of the country you can be confronted by homeless people on the street on a daily
basis. The largest organization that helps the homeless is known as the National Coalition
for the Homeless (NCH). The NCH states that the media has reported a growing
economy and low unemployment which is masking the problem of homelessness in this
country. Why are people homeless? How many people experience homelessness? Are
there many homeless children in this country? Who is homeless? Do they choose to be
homeless? Many people believe that homeless people choose to be homeless. However,
leading research indicates that the assumption many homeless people want to be
homeless is false. In fact, many of the homeless people in this country are children.
The NCH says that in 2000, “11.3% of the U.S. population or 31.1 million people,
lived in poverty (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001).” They NCH also states in a fact sheet
which can be found on their website at http://www.nationalhomeless.org/causes.html that
homelessness and poverty are, “inextricably linked.” When a person must choose
between food and housing they normally choose food. Therefore, poverty can, and often
does, lead to homelessness. Children account for forty percent of the poverty percentage
according to the NCH. The 2000 poverty rate of 16.2% for children is significantly higher
than the poverty rate for any other age group. Other reasons for homelessness can include
lack of affordable health care, mental illness, drug addiction, and domestic
violence. (NCH, 1)
The NCH reports that homelessness in the United States is normally a temporary
circumstance and not a permanent condition. The NCH also explains that the question of
putting a number on the amount of people in this country is difficult because of the length
of time that the person must be homeless to be considered, “homeless,” by the
Government. However, the NCH says that the Urban Institute study has the best
approximation information concerning the number of homeless in the United States.
The Urban Institute study shows that 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children,
are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. (NCH, 2)
The NCH looks to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. $ 11301, et seq.
(1994), which says that a person is considered homeless when they “lack a fixed regular,
and adequate night-time residence and; and… has a primary night time residency that is:
(A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary
(B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or
(C)a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
All of the definitions for homelessness can be found at the NCH website. The NCH says
that most studies show that single men are more likely to be homeless than single women.
The NCH also states that 39% of the homeless population are children or under the age of
18. The largest age group of homeless that the NCH reported was the ages 31 through 50
which accounted for 51% of the homeless population. Families also account for a large
portion of the homeless population. However, some laws do not recognize them as
homeless because they state that homeless people are unaccompanied. (NCH, 3)
The overwhelming majority of homeless persons want to get off the street, and
into a residence. Many people make bad choices at some time in their lives. Among those
on the economic margin, a bad choice can result in homelessness. The alienation and
deprivations accompanying homelessness do not help people learn new and better
choices. Sometimes, the effect is just the opposite. (SDRTH, 1)
It is often disturbing to see homeless people trying to survive on the streets.
But blaming people who do not have the means to solve the problem is not useful.
Helping to do something positive about homelessness is an effective way to deal with the
discomfort of seeing these daily conditions. (SDRTH, 1)
View Full Essay
Homelessness in the United States, Homelessness, Street culture, Economy, Housing, Street children, National Coalition for the Homeless, Homeless shelter
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