Based on statistics from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, as many as 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless yearly. Between 2.5 and 3.5 people in the country sleep in public places which are not favorable for human habitation, traditional housing and shelters. Of the cited population, about one million are estimated to be children and about 300,000 of these children are homeless on any given night. The NLCHP also estimates that about 7.4 million people have lost their homes due to economic problems especially in the housing market.
These statistics do not represent the accurate numbers on the group. Part of the challenge is that homelessness is now being defined using different aspects. The gap between increasing costs of housing and income is constantly widening, which means that some people work part time or full time but still unable to afford to house. Affordable housing in the United States is a struggle especially for people living below the poverty line. Kiwanuka et al., (2019) explain that in the 1970s, communities were able to afford houses.
By mid-80s, the country started experiencing a reduction in low-cost housing. Since the mid-1980s, rents and mortgages have continued to go up and people in the lower-income brackets have experienced challenges getting affordable houses. It is estimated that in the current economic times, about 8 million extremely low-income American households pay at least 50 percent of their income towards housing, which puts them at the risk of homelessness and housing instability.
Effects of Homelessness
Many households in the United States are becoming homeless because they are unable to make adequate money to pay for housing. Households with low income are typically underemployed or unemployed because of many factors like limited education, criminal records, changing labor market, poor health or unreliable transportation. For those people in the low-income bracket but have jobs, salaries or compensation is either stagnant and therefore the expensive housing costs is a challenge.
There some American workers who have not seen increases or movements in their wages for the last three or five years, which means they are unable to cope up with the increasing costs of housing (Dreyer, 2018). Very little income coupled with the reducing availability of low-cost houses in the United States is leaving many people at the risk of ending up in shelter homes or on the street. Homeless people face significant challenges in finding secure and long term jobs. Finding a home is an important and crucial step towards stability in family, work and even health. The government must, therefore, provide tools and opportunities that will help people secure long term profitable employment which can lead to securing homes.
Homelessness is connected to health. O’Flaherty (2011) and Dreyer (2018) explain that acute behavioral and physical health crises or long term disabilities can contribute to homelessness. But again, homelessness as a social problem exacerbate chronic health conditions. Poor health conditions may force people out of work and end up living in shelters or on the streets. The Department of Housing and Urban Development explain that people who live in shelters are more than 200 percent as likely to develop chronic problems or have a disability compared to the general population.
About 20 percent of homeless people have serious mental health issues while another 16 percent have conditions which relate to the chronic abuse of drugs and other substances. Long term conditions like HIV/AIDS, diabetes and heart diseases are prevalent among the homeless, in some cases rising more than five times that of normal general populations. It is estimated that about 10 percent of people seeking mental health treatment or help in dealing with substance abuse in public health systems either live in shelters or on the streets- they are homeless.