Who Are The Homeless In America

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The Homeless in America

It is seldom talked about in most circles, but homelessness is a reality faced by countless Americans. The problem has been around for years, but with high unemployment and people losing their homes, the number of homeless around us has grown. I see it on my way to work each day.

I travel along a stretch of road that has a wilderness area on one side. I pass through this area twice a day, just as I have done for years. It used to be rare to see pedestrians along that stretch of road, but these days I often see people walking down the road wearing backpacks. They camp out in the woods until law enforcement forces them to move on. Sadly, this is a scene that plays out everyday across the country.

Who Are The Homeless?

This question is not a simple one to answer and unfortunately too few people are interested in finding out. Homelessness has long been a problem that Americans would rather sweep under the carpet. We have turned a blind eye to the problem, only addressing the issue when it disrupts our daily life. This is unfortunate, because understanding who the homeless are is the first step towards finding the causes and eventually, the solutions.

If you ask the average American, they will often say that the homeless are people who do not want to work. Often they will add that the homeless are alcoholics or addicts and have mental problems. In short, there is an assumption that the homeless created their situation through bad choices and actions. It is this sentiment that prevents workable solutions from going forward.

The reality is that the homeless come from all walks of life. White and black, men and women, elderly and even children, educated and uneducated, they are all represented in America's homeless population. People like you and I, struggling to make it through life when the proverbial curve ball comes their way.

The truth is, nobody ever plans to become homeless. It is not a lifestyle than anyone sets out to live. The days are difficult and the nights are worse, never knowing where you will sleep or how you will keep dry when it rains. Add to this the danger of being beaten or robbed and you have an unpleasant life to lead.

Many of us will know at least one homeless person in our lives, even if we are unaware of their situation at the time. Being homeless is not the sort of thing one likes to share with those around them. There is often a sense of shame felt by those who find themselves homeless and they will do all they can to hide the truth. Imagine yourself losing everything you have and having to look your friends and family in the eye. It is not uncommon for homeless people to distance themselves from those they care about to avoid this feeling, as a result, they further alienate themselves from the life they once knew.

How Normal People End Up Homeless

This is a topic that is not talked about enough in our society. Too many of us fall into the belief that normal people simply do not find themselves homeless. Certainly there is a grain of truth in this, especially in the case of the chronically homeless. These are the people who are homeless for years, even decades at a time. Many of them suffer from mental disorders, which often become more pronounced after spending long periods of time on the streets.

Still, the chronically homeless make up a relatively small percentage of the overall homeless population. Many of the homeless are people like you and I, they had homes a year ago, but fell victim to a series of unfortunate events.

They were struggling week to week, trying to make ends meet and then suddenly found themselves unemployed. With no money saved up, unemployment compensation is not enough to make ends meet and they fall behind in their rent or mortgage. Before long, they are forced to abandon their home, followed by an attempt to stay in hotels and motels. At this point you have a person, or family, halfway to the streets.

The cost of staying at motels often exceeds the cost of the rent or mortgage they were unable to pay, so this desperation move proves to be nothing more than a short term option. Where do they go from here? If they manage to find a job quickly, they might be able to get back on their feet again. Otherwise, they may end up among the homeless of their town.

Have you or someone you know ever been homeless?

  • Yes
  • No
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That Homeless Person Could Be You or Someone You Love

It is important that we remember that the homeless are people. You may not know them, but they are somebody's son or daughter, mother or father. As a society, we need to find ways to help them before they become the chronically homeless. We need to have compassion for them as human beings. We live in America, one of the richest countries in the world and we should not let our own citizens live this way.

© 2012 Christopher J Wood

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Comments 4 comments

mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

With so many people loosing their jobs and their homes, this is an important issue that we need to deal with in a humane way. Voted up, useful and interesting.


Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

I have had some experience with homeless people through such programs as Loaves and Fishes, Mustard Seed School, and Sierra Club while living in Sacramento. For many, or most of the homeless, there is no way out without some help. True, some, but by no means all have alcohol and/or drug problems. Some are women with children and no means of support . A big point you made here is that most people of means, i.e., those with food and shelter, tend to ignore these less fortunate people. Any recognition they give is that these people caused their own homelessness. Maybe some did, but certainly many did not, especially the children and abused women.

For those with mental problems, drug and/or alcohol addiction, society should help. Helping make someone productive will be the payback.


CJWood71 profile image

CJWood71 4 years ago from Florida, USA Author

Thank you for the comments mperrottet! It is a much bigger issue than people think and I do feel we need to look into ways to help them. Many times, just a little helping hand can make a big difference in their lives.


CJWood71 profile image

CJWood71 4 years ago from Florida, USA Author

Thanks for the comments Jackwms! I have had a lot of interactions with the homeless here in Southwest Florida and although there are some who fit the stereotypical homeless person, there are quite a few that do not. Many of them would be happy to work a job and lead a normal life if given the chance. It is difficult to find jobs in this economy, but it is even more difficult for the homeless. Employers do not want to hire someone who has no address or phone.

I do not have all the answers to the problem, but I believe that if we try, we can find better solutions than what we are currently doing.

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