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TeAira Baldwin

Professor Shannon Smith-Lee

Comp 111p

18 November 2019

Homelessness in America

People holding signs asking for money standing near busy intersections, men, women,

and even their pets sleeping in sleeping bags under bridges. This is what you might be imagining

when you hear the word homeless. Homelessness is a social problem throughout the country.

Many individuals become homeless due to the lack of affordable housing, poverty, addiction,

unemployment, and low wages. Homelessness happens to thousands and thousands of

individuals; one thing people do not understand is, not all individuals have access to resources

like others may. Homelessness is difficult to interpret for many individuals, not every homeless

person has chosen to live in the streets or in shelters, they just do not have a choice.

I personally experienced transitional homelessness at 20 years old I was kicked out of my

home that I shared with my mother since I was 7. When she kicked me out, I thought everything

would be okay because I had relatives I was close with that would take me in. I was in for a rude

awakening when my brother dropped me off at a women’s homeless shelter in downtown

Toledo. That first night was so scary I did not know what to expect I cried myself to sleep. The

nights after that were not that bad. I stayed long enough to become a resident to use their address

so I could try and apply for housing and food assistance. Being in college at the time made it

hard to focus on my school work so I eventually had to drop out of my dental program, that was

the only way I could get assistance because job and family services think if you are a college

student you can afford to live without a job. After about 2 months living in the shelter my cousin
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decided to step up and let me stay with her, I lived with her for 4 months and honestly, I would

have rather been back at the shelter. I worked a temporary job for a temp service until blessed to

get hired at Sears then eventually got my first studio apartment. That entire situation humbled

me, every day I live in constant reminder of how I do not ever want to end up in a position like

that ever again. Had I not had gotten the chance to work at the temp service and eventually Sears

I could have possibly ended up being episodically homeless.

There are three types of homelessness; chronic, transitional, and episodic. Chronic

homelessness is where an individual whom is permanent in the shelter and for them shelters are

long term housing rather than an emergency arrangement. These individuals are more likely to

be older, disabled, or drug addicts. Transitional homeless individuals enter the shelter system for

one stay and for a short time. These individuals are likely to be younger and have become

homeless because of some tragic event and have been forced to stay in a shelter before

transitioning into more stable housing. These individuals will account for the majority of persons

experiencing homelessness given their higher turnover rate. Those who are on and off with being

homeless are known as being episodically homeless. These individuals are more than likely to be

young, unlike those in transitional homelessness individuals who are episodically homeless are

often chronically unemployed and have problems with medical, mental and substance abuse

(“Homelessness in America”).

Homelessness and poverty are deeply connected, according to National Coalition for the

Homeless around 40 million, or 1 in 8 individuals in the United States, live below the level of

poverty. Poor individuals often find themselves unable to pay for housing cover some of these

necessities. The number of individuals living in poverty is increasing day by day. According to

the United States Census Bureau, the official poverty rate in 2018 was 11.8 percent, down 0.5
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percentage points from 12.3 percent in 2017. This is the fourth consecutive annual decline in

poverty. Since 2014, the poverty rate has fallen 3.0 percentage points, from 14.8 percent to 11.8

percent. “Although the number of poor individuals has decreased slightly in recent years, the

number of individuals living in extreme poverty has increased. In 2000, 39 percent of all

individuals living in poverty had incomes of less than half the poverty level, which remains

unchanged from the level of 1999” (“Causes”).

Another cause of rising poverty and homelessness is the diminishing cost and availability

of public assistance. There is a great deal of homelessness because of the failure to pay rent. This

usually occurs when a person works but receives less or is let go from a job that he or she relies

on. Most of the time these individuals are living in cities where the bills are expensive and if

their rent is not paid on time, they face the possibility of being evicted. Although the government

provides shelter for homeless individuals the overcrowding forces so many individuals to live in

the streets. With many families unable to get healthcare, food and homes due to the loss of

benefits, low wages and unstable employment, more and more families are becoming homeless.

Families and individuals struggling to pay rent with illness or disability may begin a downward

spiral into poverty, beginning with job loss, the loss of funds to pay for care, and eventually

eviction. About a quarter of those living in poverty had no health insurance of any kind. As the

unemployment rate remains high, it is difficult to find jobs in the current economy. Even when

individuals are able to find work, this does not necessarily lead to an end to their poverty.

Homeless children with fair or poor health are twice as often than non-homeless kids to

have a higher rate of asthma, ear infections, stomach and speech problems. Additional mental

health problems like anxiety, depression, and withdrawal are also challenges faced by kids in

poverty. Abused women that are living in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive
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relationships and homelessness. Poverty limits some women’s choices and makes it a bit harder

for them to leave their abusive relationship. “A survey was done by the U.S. Conference of

Mayors and 50 percent of the cities and domestic violence was identified as the main cause of

homelessness” (“Homelessness in America”).

The connection between addiction and homelessness is complicated, the rates of alcohol

and drug abuse are high amongst the homeless population but with the increase of homelessness

cannot be explained by addiction all together. There are plenty of individuals are addicted to

drugs and alcohol, but they almost never become homeless. It is an increased chance that poor

individuals who are addicted to drugs risk homelessness. Individuals who are homeless often

take drugs and alcohol to cope with their situations. In an effort to feel temporary relief from

their hardships, they use drugs. Drug dependency only worsens the problem and their ability to

have some sort of stability when it comes to joining the work force and getting them off the

streets. Without help and support some may find it very challenging to recover from substance

abuse.

The United States has made some improvements on the status of homelessness, but I

think that more needs to be done. We have financial planning institutions such as section 8 and

welfare. What these programs do is disburse a small payment so that individuals without jobs can

have some sense of financial security and a place to live. Red Cross, Salvation Army and United

Way 2-1-1 are organizations here in Ohio that help with needs such as clothing, household

goods, and hygiene products. They accept donations such as food, toys, clothes and learning

material. This does not fix being homeless, but it does give them something to get by. What this

country really needs is to offer some sort of long-lasting solution to end homelessness and

poverty.
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Making employment available for the less fortunate and increasing economic growth is

something that could end poverty. The amount of debt that America is in is ridiculously high. If

the cashflow is increased across the nation it would be beneficial to stockholders, investors, and

the nation all together. Americas high poverty rate is a result of our weakened economy, “as of

February 11, 2019, the United States is in debt 22 trillion dollars” (Amadeo). Due to the lack of

financial education the nation is poor because they do not know how to read and understand

rates, mortgages and taxes. The importance of these things should be taught early as middle

school and throughout high school. Education is important in an attempt to solving the

homelessness in America problem, everyone should have a high school diploma. For dropouts

there should be no age limit set on them not being able to get one. For those who dropped out

resources should be made available so they can finish, and also education makes it possible for

individuals to land better jobs.

In Austin Texas a nonprofit by the name of Mobile Loaves & Fishes runs and built

Community First! Village, it was created to get the most critically homeless out of the streets and

into a place they can stay and call home. Community First consist of 100 RV’s and 125 micro

homes arranged on streets. The homes are micro on purpose providing just enough comfort and

privacy. The pathways from the homes lead to community kitchen, laundry and washrooms,

meeting hall, playground, dog park, a barbershop and even an outdoor movie theater, a medical

facility, and a community market. The men and women of this community are introduced to

hobbies and skills so that they can become a source of income. A large community center called

Unity Hall where a host of administrators and staff, and councilors put together daily activities,

counseling services and job placements, and mentoring to help individuals staying along the

way. Mobile Loaves & Fishes are confident that their efforts will launch a movement across the
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United States. In Austin Texas they host a three-day convention that teaches attendees how to

build similar communities in their cities. Tiny homes have been used to tackle homelessness

from Seattle to New York (Dawson).

A Presbyterian night shelter in Fort Worth Texas has a program called “Clean Slate”,

Clean Slate is for-profit and offers jobs to homeless men and women cleaning the streets of Fort

Worth. Clean Slates mission is to raise enough money through the contracts it has with the city

and private business to fund this enterprise to be able to provide benefits. Individuals are paid

between 8 and 10 dollars and hour while they also receive health benefits. With steady income

this could lead to them having permanent housing and a steady job outside the night shelter

(“Forth Worth Weekly”).

Homelessness cannot be fixed overnight but I do believe that if cities adopt these

programs like Fort Worth and Austin Texas it could be an end to homelessness. Not just ending

homelessness but actually helping an individual, a person who is hopeless and needs a way to

bring back their self-esteem, this is a great way to start. Giving individuals who may feel lost and

in need of guidance or purpose to be a part of the community, having a job and being appreciated

for being out there working hard is worth so much. These programs are effective for these two

cities and being that Ohio is not nearly as big as Texas I believe it could be effective here as

well. This is how you cure the problem and not just manage the symptoms.
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Works Cited

Amadeo, Kimberly. “The Real Owner of the U.S. Debt Will Surprise You.” The Balance, The

Balance, 28 Oct. 2019, www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124.

“The Causes of Homelessness.” Camillus House - The, www.camillus.org/aboutus/causes-of-

homelessness/#.XbT1hy2ZNdg.

Dawson, Christopher. “A Suburbia for the Homeless Exists and They Can Live There Forever.”

CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Mar. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/03/26/us/iyw-town-for-

the-homeless-trnd/index.html.

Fort Worth Weekly. “Offering a Clean Slate.” Fort Worth Weekly, 22 Aug. 2018,

www.fwweekly.com/2018/08/22/offering-a-clean-slate/.

“Homelessness in America.” National Coalition for the Homeless, nationalhomeless.org/about-

homelessness/.

US Census Bureau. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018.” Income and Poverty in the

United States: 2018, 17 Sept. 2019,

www.census.gov/library/publications/2019/demo/p60-266.html#.