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Homelessnes Now

Updated on May 7, 2014
Homeless female Iraq veteran.
Homeless female Iraq veteran. | Source

There are a variety of facts about homelessness that are surprising. Many of us have not thought in depth about homelessness unless it has happened to someone we know or to us. However, homeless people are often closer than many would think. Perhaps your friend, day care provider, or barista has been homeless or is currently.

There could be several families living in a motel near you praying for the day when they earn enough to find a place to live that they can afford on a meager salary or even several meager salaries. Perhaps fellow members of your church are homeless. Many people do not see past common stereotypes of homeless people. It's possible that someone you work with is homeless whether temporarily or long term. Even the happy faces you see when you are out and about could be masking a painful secret.

The most common stereotype is that homeless people are drug addicts, lazy losers who don't wish to work, criminals, or some type of outcast. While there certainly are homeless people who thoroughly fit these descriptions, there is an unfortunate and growing number of those who don't. There are people from all walks of life who are homeless however, a surprisingly large number of homeless people have at least one job if not more. This fact flies in the face of what is commonly assumed about homeless people.

Most often, the working homeless simply do not make enough money to keep a roof over their head. The very idea of working and not being able to keep a roof over your head is very difficult for many millions of Americans to understand. In some metro areas the percentage of working homeless can be as high as 30% of the homeless population who are working but unable to afford a place to live.

Homelessness does not discriminate and children make up a large percentage of the homeless population. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, nearly 25% of homeless people are children. While most are enrolled in school, it is not uncommon for some homeless children to miss school or drop out due to problems related to being homeless. Some homeless children find themselves as subjects of ridicule or bullying and eventually give up going. Others may find odd jobs that pay them small amounts of cash and this leads them to drop out and get locked into living check to check with no resources to get ahead, furthering the likelihood of homelessness in their adult lives.

Some homeless people are lucky enough to have a cell phone in order to be able to respond to any job offers. Others may have some form of transportation that gets them back and forth from jobs or job interviews. Some are forced make their vehicle their home just as William Shatner did after a divorce and the end of the Star Trek series. He was homeless for the same reasons that drive many others without a famous name into homelessness. Job loss and a divorce, how many people do you know that this has happened to? How likely would it be that you could maintain your standard of living if you suffered both of these situations? There are many celebrities who have been homeless including Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Cary Grant, Ella Fitzgerald, David Letterman and Jewel.

Outdoor showers are a luxury that few homeless people have access to.
Outdoor showers are a luxury that few homeless people have access to. | Source

Many working homeless say they didn't have any luxuries prior to becoming homeless and are simply locked into a pattern of low wages and living check to check. This pattern is often repeated from one working poor generation of the family to the next. Other working homeless may have had decent or well paying jobs until a crisis or several crises struck. When these unfortunate situations come to light, the idea that homeless individuals did something to deserve their homelessness is challenged.

This type of homeless persons' journey can serve as a cautionary tale to those of us privileged enough to hear their experiences and take heed. Many lived check to check until an accident, crime, illness, etc., put them out of work. There are some that had financial crises that ran into the four, five, and six figure ranges, typically due to illness or accidents. Many others became homeless due to unexpected events costing $1,000 or less when they simply didn't have the money. You can substitute just about any unplanned expense or lack of work, and soon after comes homelessness. With a huge number of Americans living check to check, perhaps loading up on emergency savings is something that even more Americans should be working on.

It is very logical to think a homeless or working homeless person needs to move to a city with lower priced housing. But where will they get the money to do so? Many shelters had to routinely turn away people before the recession began and the lack of beds has worsened since. Shelters do not allow people to stay indefinitely and this is why some can only hope to move into motels instead of rentals unless they go back to the streets, dangerous living situations, etc.

Transportation is another issue when we suggest that homeless people simply move to another city or state. However, many homeless people, working or not, have no mode of transportation and no money to pay for a bus, plane, or train ticket. Also, would it really be best that they leave the job(s) they have now for a new lower cost of living area where no job has actually been offered? Many homeless people have attempted to move and only transferred their homelessness to a new city if they have not actually made a bad situation worse.

Another factor in homelessness is domestic violence. Whether the entire family is evicted for the behavior of one or if one chooses to remove themselves and any children from the situation, often there is little or no safety net for them. Sometimes the aggressor is put into jail and without their income the family gets evicted. When there is opportunity to stay with friends or family, patience often wears thin and it is possible that from this or the initial situation they may be forced to find a shelter.

Moving in with family is not always an option as many of today's families are broken, live far apart, or simply do not wish to burden their family with the addition of more people into their household. The extended family may also be struggling through their own problems financial or otherwise. The sad irony is that homeless people of all ages and mental abilities are more likely to be victimized by various types of crime whether by strangers, acquaintances, and sometimes even family.

The Star Spangled Banner at the 20th Annual Stand Down for homeless veterans.
The Star Spangled Banner at the 20th Annual Stand Down for homeless veterans. | Source

Across the country there is a large number of homeless veterans. Living in a military area, Hampton Roads, VA, I find this to be disturbing. Honestly, I have never thought the financial compensation (including non-financial compensation) to be good enough for these people who sacrifice so much to become and remain a member of the military. In fact, there are a number of veterans who are clinging onto a thread waiting for their GI Bill monthly stipend that is overdue. Some have already been evicted from their homes or have the threat of it looming since these payments are over 90 days late. There is a history of late payments occurring regularly, on an almost annual basis yet the so called staffing problems have not been corrected. This is intolerable in any other situation, why is it tolerable for our veterans?

However, those with no military friends or family often have no clue what veterans who have earned this privilege are going through when the stipends are overdue or when veterans have no choice but to hit the streets to live. While their college tuitions may be paid for with the GI Bill or the school will wait for the funds, the landlord/mortgage, food, and utilities will not wait and will not be paid unless their monthly stipend comes through.

They should have saved more money you say? Many military members live modestly at best and this brings us back the the reality that it takes time to save an emergency fund and even longer when you're not earning much to begin with, even in cases where you are truly living below your means and sacrificing. This is one of the most common problems for people who become homeless, veterans included. Credit may or may not be an option that is available but utilizing this option is simply deferring the problem and actually making it worse for most.

Currently, there are over 46,500,000 Americans currently receiving food benefits or SNAP. This is about 15% of our population and this number surpasses the entire citizenry of some countries. This high number also shows us that a large number of Americans are living on the edge despite all the rosy economic indicators that the evening news outlets prefer to mention.

Just one unexpected bill could send many of these people free falling into homelessness. There are more single women who live in poverty but there are more single men who are homeless. People living in poverty are just one financial crisis away from homelessness and a large number of people who live in poverty have jobs. However, having a job does not necessarily mean that you have the security of a home or food to eat. Millions have to choose frequently which they will pay for on a daily or monthly basis.

The Homeless World Cup is held annually in various countries.
The Homeless World Cup is held annually in various countries. | Source

Some homeless people are college educated. With many people graduating college this spring and summer to find only low wage jobs or none at all, what happens to those who don't have a home to go back to or friends to live with? Most homeless people find that getting a job is very difficult because they have no home address, phone, or other contact information. These are things many of us take for granted, but a lack of them can become difficult obstacles that many homeless people cannot overcome without help.

Many homeless people get the cold shoulder if they are honest about their living situation or are found to be homeless when going through the process of applying for a job. Those who have a car, motorcycle, or bike will likely need repairs or replacement at some point which could very well be more money than they can pay. Often this happens at the worst possible time for them, putting jobs and the hopes of finding a place to live in jeopardy.

Homelessness does not have to be a situation from which someone cannot escape. In the case of a person seeking a job from you or at your place of work, if they are qualified and if their references/prior jobs check out give them the opportunity. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, offer them assistance if you can. Something as minor listening to them, offering suggestions, helping them locate a safe place to live within their budget, or providing contact information for organizations that can help would likely be appreciated. The mentally ill who are homeless may need medical care if they are a danger to themselves or others. Even worse, the mentally ill who are homeless are easily victimized in a variety of situations and the criminals often get away without reprimand.

The National Coalition for the Homeless can provide your group or organization with speakers that will be able to educate those in your community about issues that affect homeless people and what may be done to help. There are a variety of organizations such as the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans that may be able to help veterans. Most can be found online or in a phone book. The same is the case for places that help those with substance abuse problems. There are private and public organizations, state and local governments whose mission is to help those who are homeless. While there are no quick and easy answers for this problem, it's my hope that I have shared something here that you did not previously know and spur you to help yourself and possibly others, avoid homelessness.

© 2012 Express10

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    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks so much for reading Au Fait. So many people make incorrect assumptions about homeless people such as they all are lazy, they all or uneducated, or they all drink or do drugs. I was shocked to find that there is a surprising number of people who work every single day as employees but they are homeless, sleeping in cars, shelters, or even on the streets. These are people that want to be upstanding citizens that are doing the right things but just not making enough to keep a roof over their heads. This is why so many people are working several jobs as you wrote about in a recent hub.

      Some are well educated, others had accidents, illnesses, or were victims of some crime that negatively affected them causing them to become homeless. Many simply lost their jobs and some were abused. It is true that some are doing things to themselves that only cause harm but not all homeless people are drinkers or drug users. I wrote this hub as a reminder to be grateful for what you have and to be mindful of the fact that life can hand us lemons even when we are doing all the right things. If and when possible, understanding some of the contributing factors can aid those who sincerely wish to help the homeless.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      At least 10% of the children in the school district where I work are homeless. Many people across this country are now living in tents -- including families with children.

      Large numbers of employers refuse to even consider someone who has been unemployed for more than 6 months, and many employers will not consider a person who is unemployed period, whether for 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years.

      People from a particular political Party like to say people who are unemployed are lazy and don't want to work. I would wish for each of these people that they would face the same conditions, that they would be homeless and refused employment for being poor and unemployed, so that they would get a first hand lesson in what lazy means and what mean-spiritedness means. If only these accusers would look in the mirror and shout these same things at themselves with the same expressions on their faces as when they are speaking of the less fortunate, they would see the true face of ugly.

      Many people say they want to help but they're suspicious and afraid they'll get taken. More important to save face and help no one than to give 5 dollars, or even a nickel, to a non-deserving person -- and they're convinced that's practically all of the poor.

      If a person were to give a dollar to a non-deserving person and find out later it was squandered they might never get a decent sleep again. How could a person ever forgive themselves for squandering an entire dollar, or 5 by giving it to a poor person? Money that could be wisely spent on a beer with the boys, or some soda pop while watching soap operas, because soda pop and beer are nutritious and healthful -- or they could buy some plastic garbage from China for their kids.

      I ask you, how could one ever learn to live with the guilt of giving away a dollar to an undeserving poor person when it could have been spent more wisely? Better to hold on tight to that dollar to make sure it remains in deserving hands.

      After all, if there isn't something seriously wrong with a person, why are they poor? God hates poor people don't you know? That's why they're poor! For the simple minded who may read this, I'm being facetious. I'm telling you this because so many people have no idea what sarcasm is and even less than no idea of what is between the covers of the Bible.

      In some places (like here in this city where I live and all over Texas) it's against the law to be poor and a person can be fined and jailed for being poor. Yes, panhandling and loitering is a crime these days. God help you if you ask someone for a dollar because if you are caught you will be fined more than $200! Then you will be jailed because you can't pay the fine -- free room and board and a criminal record that is sure to improve your ability to get a job from one of those holier than thou employers I mentioned earlier -- the employers who don't want imperfect people working for them and who want to make sure you're punished for being poor.

      Isn't it true that the economy has nothing to do with unemployment? People who want to work will find good paying jobs even if they have to create or invent those jobs themselves. It's really as simple as snapping their fingers, but they're too damned lazy to do even that! (More sarcasm for those who don't recognize it.)

      If only everyone could themselves be poor for a while and see if additional punishment is truly necessary . . . lots of people aren't one paycheck away from homelessness. They're working and homeless because the pay is so low and/or the hours so few.

      Express10, you have gotten me started now! I best stop. Excellent article. Voted up!

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 6 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks, so much. The game seems to be a good eye opener.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow! What an awesome hub and interactive game! I was really impressed with that game: Spent. How clever and enlightening. I voted it up and interesting/useful and plan on sharing it.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 6 years ago from East Coast

      Thank you Billybuc. I hope that more people really think about this and endeavor to cushion themselves against financial blows or help those who are suffering. As you may be able to see, it really bothers me when those who are honorable veterans have to go through so much nonsense just to get what's owed to them. Many of them just give up because of all the red tape.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is beautifully written and carries a message that many should read. All too often the homeless walk among us and we have no idea. The numbers of citizens who are only one paycheck away from homelessness is staggering...thank you for bringing this to light in a very compassionate way.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 6 years ago from East Coast

      I have worked at a non-profit that helped hungry people and it really opened my eyes, just hoping to share. Thanks.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 6 years ago from Shelton

      man.. I had to stand then sit then stand again while reading this informational hub.. very well written and presented :)


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