- Politics and Social Issues
The Truth about Homelessness
Homeless people litter the streets; one can see people begging on street corners or sleeping on park benches. A person looks the other way in disgust, when asked, if they could spare some change. Chants of “get a job” echo through the air. A common belief in society today is that homeless people should be able to help themselves; therefore homelessness must be a choice. Sometimes reality is not so black and white. Homelessness has become a major problem in America. In Florida alone, last year, 50,000 people, from different backgrounds were counted, among the homeless (Sheldon2009). Homelessness is a unique problem that needs a different solution what is being done about homelessness today is not enough.
The characteristics of homelessness
In Florida alone last year more than 50,000 people were homeless, and this number is expected to increase. The Interim Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families Gregory Sheldon Stated “The issues of homelessness remain rooted in the problems of poverty and the lack of affordable housing for the low income” (Sheldon, 2009, p.4). The reasons people become homeless are as diverse as the individual who has become homeless. Close to 20% of homeless people live on the streets or in shelters; because they believe this is the only option they have, to protect them from a violent home life.
Moreover, a startling 50% of the homeless populations were just average taxpaying citizens until the economy took a downturn and so many jobs were lost (Sheldon, 2009). Without income many people, who do not have the support of family or friends to rely on, have no other choice but to give up their homes and live on the streets. Because of the lack of jobs and affordable housing the number of homeless people will continue to increase. However, even as the numbers of homeless citizens grow the revenue dedicated to helping Floridians with food and shelter steadily decreases. In his annual report on homeless conditions in Florida Sheldon explains that because the local government has a decreased budget the amount of money for human services has decreased. Also, local homeless programs report a drop in donations (Sheldon, 2009).
Additionally, nearly 45% of the homeless population has debilitating conditions such as drug addiction, alcohol dependency, or mental illness (Sheldon, 2009). Some people become homeless because of these reasons though; some people develop these conditions after becoming homeless. When one is faced with a desperate situation, one sometimes turns to a crutch such as alcohol or drugs to numb them from the pain.
In the same way, the author of; A Comparison of Weight Related Behaviors among High School Students Who are Homeless and Non-Homeless, believed that the homeless population has risky eating habits so; the author conducted a study on high school students. The results of this study are that 95% of homeless students have an eating disorder or poor nutritional habits (Fournier & Austin, 2009). Eating disorders are classified as a mental illness; in this instance a teenager who has no control of anything in their lives may be more apt to crave the control of what goes into their own body. Teenagers are not adults, and as youths they crave a structured living environment. Indeed, being homeless creates problems other than being without a home; those who find themselves homeless are drawn to risky behaviors as a coping mechanism.
Almost half of the homeless population in Florida find there selves homeless for the second, third, or even fourth time. Sixty one percent of homeless people remain homeless for three months or more. Many of the people who find themselves homeless more than one time, suffer from drug addiction, alcohol dependency, mental illness, or an anxiety disorder. If people are not properly rehabilitated, this may lead to a cycle of homelessness. In 2009, the downfall in the economy is dramatically illustrated by the number of people, finding their selves homeless for the first time. However, it is clear the plan in action now to prevent homelessness is not working; this is illustrated by the number of people homeless for at least the fourth time.
The cycle of addiction starts over for many homeless people when they get back in touch with their old friends. When people suffer from debilitating conditions and try to go back to a normal life, they are faced with the very temptations that they are trying so hard to avoid. According to Douglas Polcin if a person who is being treated for drug and alcohol dependency is not going home to a nurturing environment; then they should not go home. He believes that a person who goes home to old friends may be going home to bad habits. According to Polcin “A major challenge facing many individuals attempting to abstain from substances is finding a stable living environment that supports sustained recovery” (Polcin, 2009, p1). This is particularly true for the homeless because their living environment is especially conducive to addiction.
More needs to be done in Florida to address issues of chronic homelessness
More can be done to prevent chronic Homelessness
When a person becomes homeless, they usually find there selves staying with family and friends, or sleeping on the streets, or in a homeless shelter. However, many people who stay with friends during their first or second instance of homelessness find that they have worn out their welcome and are faced with the decision between living on the streets or in a shelter. Most shelters will provide food and lodging but little more in the way of human services. These shelters are designed, for temporarily getting people off the streets, not to help them become self sufficient.
Some shelters, such as the Homeless coalition of Florida, offer more than just a hot meal and cot. They offer help with programs such as childcare, parenting classes, mental health counseling, and housing assistance (Homeless coalition, 2010). These are remarkable programs but, in order for a person to become truly rehabilitated certain steps must be taken. First, a person will need to have a complete evaluation before entering the homeless shelter. This will help determine the resources that will be needed. In- house rehab should be mandated for any resident suffering from an addiction. Psychological evaluations and counseling should be provided.
In fact, Augusto De Venanzi wrote these telling words, “Those individuals or groups who are severely stigmatized suffer the double humiliation in knowing that they carry a discrediting condition and that "normal" people would not be able fully to comprehend the root of their problems” (Venanzi, 2008, P.16). He is saying, when one lives such a life, in which he or she is looked upon as vermin; one is bound to suffer some degree of mental illness. A successful homeless shelter will lead an individual to self-sufficiency. When a person enters a homeless shelter a strict plan should be written up and followed. However, the key to a person becoming truly self-sufficient when left to their own accord is mandatory weekly follow-ups for one- year.
In conclusion, there are many factors in why the number of homeless citizens continues to grow. For example, the economy continues to suffer, and so do the people. Although many people do not have a drug or alcohol problem when they first become homeless, many times people develop these habits as a way of numbing their pain. This is especially true for homeless youth; in need of a structured living environment. Therefore, if the cycle of chronic homelessness is ever going to be eradicated, the system for helping these people must change. If people had access to strict programs, so that they may receive the help that they need; they would have a chance of becoming a success story and not just another statistic. Homelessness is a unique problem that needs a different solution, what is being done about homelessness today is not enough.