Homelessness Is A Big Issue In America

There are half of a million people in the United State are homeless. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are 600,000 homeless people in the U.S. Homelessness was a big issue in the state for a long time, and the cause of homelessness could be various reasons, like economic challenges, domestic violence, family issues, health conditions, substance abuse, mental illness, PTSD, and lack of affordable housing. The government have been addressing this issue and come up with ways to solve homelessness in the community, however, despite the efforts of government, the number of homelessness increases instead of decreasing. Washington state has been ranked sixth in “Ten States with Highest Homeless Counts/Rates, 2018” and Seattle ranked third in “Twenty Cities/County with Highest Homeless Counts/Rates, 2018” (Tableau), and currently there are 835 homeless people and 1706 homeless student in Thurston County (2018). To reduce or even eliminate homelessness in the city, the City of Olympia stabilizes people through shelter, moving them to permanent housing, and entrancing programs to help them with physical and mental health.

Have you ever wondered why there is so many homelessness around our community? Before coming up with a solution, we need to know why the problem occurs in the first place. We can divide the cause of homelessness into three categories: Society environment, personal circumstances, and relational problems, domestic violence or abuse. Firstly, society environment, we know that a growing city, the population will increase by time, which caused the affordable housing with the rising rents in the market, and it has not slowed down for the need. As the number of affordable housing units continues to decrease, the cost of housing maintains to climb sharply, therefore, there are 7.8 million extremely low-income households pay at least half of their income toward housing, putting them at risk of homelessness. Not only some of the cities have these crises but the whole nation is currently facing serious affordable housing crises, in addition, recent research, there is a shortage of seven million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income renters. Secondly, personal circumstances and relational problems, that may include traumatic events, mental health and addictions challenges, physical health problems or disabilities, etc. In particular, mental health has been the biggest reason that people end up on the street, and researchers agree that the connection between homelessness and mental illness is complicated, a person’s mental illness could lead to reasoning and behavior problems, which make it difficult to earn a stable income or to carry out daily activities in ways that encourage stable housing.(Tarr) The homeless population with serious mental illness has increased steadily since the 1970s, a study showed that 45 percent of the American homeless people are seriously mentally ill. Without proper treatment, they all end up on the street and garbage can become their main source of food. Following the last but not the least, domestic violence and abuse. Domestic violence is common among youth, single adults, and families, violence in the household could result in homeless. Survivor transfer from shelters to shelters, even there is government program that could provide them a safety place, yet, the place is never enough for everyone, and most of the time, victims don’t have the proper way or full information for them to know where they should go to when they need help. Research points out that in San Diego, 50 percent of homeless women are domestic violence victims, and a survey in 2005, 50 percent of US cities reported that domestic violence was the primary cause of homelessness.

There are various ways to reduce the problem of homelessness, although the most efficient way to do is make our living environment more friendly to the people in needs, however, before solving the problem within society, we should focus on how to reduce or even eliminate the already existed homelessness problem in our community. Currently, the best way to help the homelessness is to provide a place for them to stay. Shelter elements may be a matter of life and death for homeless people. The shelter provides the homeless, families and children with vital legal protection. Without this crucial protection, vulnerable people living on the streets and in other public areas are at serious risk of death or damage. To this end, the City of Olympia provides shelters and funding to the Rosie's Place of Community Youth Services (CYS) to move to 24/7 operations. Besides providing shelter, the city also has a program that they built a tiny house village for people in need to live in. The village has 30 tiny houses for age 40 or above single adults and couples without children. The tiny house has electricity and heat, windows, and a lockable door, and 24/7 staff providing security and management. The program not only giving them a place to stay but also help them to stabilize and work toward self-sufficiency with the goal of placing them in permanent housing. Although the city has many great programs provided for homelessness, the city is still faced with the urgent to respond to the growing number of unmanaged homelessness in the downtown and the associated public health along with safety concerns. So the city come up with a quick plan, which they establish a mitigation site to provide a safer conditions for the community, the city identified the city-owned parking lot at Olympia as the most viable alternatives, the site includes basic hygiene service, on-site host by the Union Gospel Mission, orderly set up (fencing, painted rows with 10x10 spaces, etc.), and a code of conduct and safety protocols. With this program helping the homelessness, the population of homeless people reduces 4 percent compared to the last year 2018 (see fig.1), even though the number seems small, but it could still call as an improvement in reducing homelessness in our community.

Just like mentioned, one of the major causes of homelessness is mental illness, it makes them lose the ability to go through their daily life, People with poor mental health are more vulnerable than others and that can lead to homelessness: poverty, disaffiliation, and personal vulnerability. They also lack the work stability capability, which leads them to have low incomes, also delusional thinking can cause them to withdraw from friends, family, and others. In times of trouble, they lost support then leave them fewer resources to deal with. Mental illness may also affect the capacity of an individual to be strong and resourceful, not to mention it may weaken judgment and cloud their thought. It is safe to say that people with mental illness are at higher risk of experiencing homelessness for all these reasons and to help them get on feet to have the ability to live, the city should make programs that could give them proper treatment on their mental health. For example, there is a government program called “SAMHSA”, this program supports many types of behavioral health treatments and recovery-oriented services. Give the treatment that people need is a win-win solution, you are not only helping them get their life back, but it can reduce lots of homelessness in society. A study showed that in general, 30-35% of those experiencing homelessness, and up to 75% of women experiencing homelessness, have mental illnesses. 20-25% of people experiencing homelessness suffer from concurrent disorders (severe mental illness and addictions). And they are often released from hospitals and jails without proper community supports in place. (Homeless Hub)

Now we talked about the cause of homelessness, and the solution for the issues, we also need to know the consequences of homelessness in our community. Most importantly, how homelessness could affect our life? There is growing evidence that societies in which large inequities exist in the distribution of income and resources are dangerous and unhealthy to all members. Large-scale inequality is associated with a breakdown in the social structure that leads to increased fear and uncertainty for all. Furthermore, why we need to care about the homeless people in our community? You might think that homelessness is none of your business, but it is a problem that we cannot just look away or ignore. With the growing number of homelessness, it created conflicts between the community and homeless people.

Despite the fact there are lots of people in the community are willing to help the homelessness, nonetheless, as soon as their life got affected by homelessness, they demand the government to do something about it. The reason that homelessness cause conflict in the community is because when the government provide homelessness the social programs and shelters to stay, that money is coming from our tax, so there are people who are not happy about how the government been using their money on the “strangers”, besides they often think negatively on the homelessness. They also believe that we shouldn’t help the homelessness because they think that homeless people like being homeless, they don't like working, plus they point out that the government should not support these people's drinking habits with their tax money. Not to mention all homeless people already qualify for food stamps, emergency medic aid, and can get any lifesaving treatment at a hospital without ever paying the bill. However, their arguments are unconvincing, not all the homeless people become homelessness because they want to, they were out of choice and ability to have a job and maintain their life. Most of the homeless people having trouble with their physical and mental health, the government is doing the least for them, like providing a place to stay, offer them food and daily supplies. Complaining about how government dealing with the homelessness is not necessary because the purpose of the government is for the people, not only those who made the best decisions and did not make any mistakes, and I believe that the true measure of the society is how it treats its most vulnerable members in the society. As a result, it is tragic that in a wealthy country like ours, people are still living or even dying on the streets, the government should do as much as they can for their people.

To conclude, the city has the reasonability to provide the least for the homelessness to survive, importantly, to eliminate the tension between the community and the homelessness. Reducing homelessness is not an easy job, as long as the system doesn’t change for good, our environments did not become better, homelessness will always exist, but if we choose to ignore the problem within our community, it will grow to be a bigger issue in society. There are so many misunderstandings about the homelessness, and many people feel apathetic toward them, we were too concerned about our own lives, to pay attention to anyone outside of our world. I believe if we could just pay a little more attention to what’s around us, and supervise the government to continue doing the right thing, we can reduce homelessness efficiently, but it is crucial to know that solely rely on government is not a perfect solution, the community and the government need to work together to help the homelessness. They should work together by stabilizing people through shelter, moving them to a permanent housing, and entrancing programs to help them on physical and mental health, if we persevere on helping them, the world could change, and our world will become better, we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single day, but a simple kindness could go a long way and encourage other people who are trapped in their life.

29 April 2022
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