From Academic Kids

Homelessness is a situation in which a person does not have a permanent place of residence. This is distinguished from nomadic cultures in which that condition is considered normal. The problem of homelessness is most prevalent in the poor sections of large cities and suburbs.

Missing image
A homeless man pushes a cart down the street.

There are numerous possible causes of homelessness. Some people claim the problem stems from inadequate social services such as public housing. Some studies suggest rent control and other housing regulations foster homelessness by reducing the supply of housing. Social changes, such as the movement to recognize the rights of those considered mentally ill, could lead to increased homelessness, as such people can no longer be arbitrarily rounded up and committed to mental hospitals. Such a change occurred in the early 1980s in the United States, where it is now estimated that one-third of homeless persons have some form of mental illness. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), there are 50,000 mentally ill homeless people in California alone because of deinstitutionalization between 1957 and 1988 and a lack of adequate local service systems. [1] (http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w5.212/DC1)

Substance abuse may be a cause as well an estimated one-third of America's homeless have substance abuse problems. Debate exists about whether drug use is a cause or consequence of homelessness, but it is generally agreed that the prevalence of alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness in the homeless population makes employment difficult to maintain. Many of these problems could stem from sexual abuse, physical abuse, or some other trauma. A 2005 study of homeless young people published in the Journal of Adolescence found that personal drug use, familial drug use, family conflict, and in some cases family breakdown were contributing factors. [2] (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WH0-4G3CN05-1&_coverDate=04%2F30%2F2005&_alid=277279236&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_qd=1&_cdi=6836&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=cdf479bac371d00c2d9c95253e17d87b)

Single men have traditionally composed the homeless demographic. In the 1980s, there was a sharp rise in the number of homeless families in certain parts of the United States (notably New York City). Most homeless families consist of an unmarried mother and children.

Many long-term homeless people in the United States served in the military. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 299,321 veterans are homeless on any given night. Physical disabilities that make work difficult or impossible are also common among homeless people. Many organization such as the Borgen Projecthave (http://borgenproject.org/) criticized U.S. leaders for not doing enough.

Homelessness can often produce a vicious circle. With no phone number, permanent address, or place to get changed and washed, it can be very hard for the homeless to find or maintain jobs.

While some homeless have paying jobs, some must seek other methods to make money. Begging or panhandling is one option, but it is illegal in many areas. Not all homeless people panhandle, and not all panhandlers are homeless. Another option is busking by performing tricks, playing music, drawing on the sidewalk, or offering some other form of entertainment. In Britain, many sell copies of The Big Issue, a magazine started to offer homeless (and newly homeless) people a way to make legal income. StreetWise and Street Sheet are similar publications in the United States.

In many cities, people who busk, panhandle, or visibly sleep outdoors are harassed by authorities. This trend is referred to as the criminalization of homelessness. It is often motivated by urban development and pushes toward gentrification.

The city of Chicago is noted for its number of homeless people. Many visitors to the city are often accosted by homeless people begging for change every block. Over the years, Chicago has gained a reputation as the town with the most homeless people, rivaling New York and Los Angeles, although no statistical data has backed this up. The reputation stems primarily from the number of beggars found on the streets rather than any sort of census data.

Homeless shelters operated by government, churches, or charities work to provide temporary housing to the homeless. While some shelters also provide food, others must turn to food banks and soup kitchens for nutrition. Other services provided by some shelters include health clinics, clothing and personal items, employment assistance, counseling and other social services. However, there are a number of complaints about the safety and quality of homeless shelters. Subsidized housing is a more expensive solution that some believe might end the cycle of homelessness.


Statistics for developed countries

The following statistics indicate the approximate average number of homeless people at any one time. Each country has a different approach to counting homeless people, so comparisons should be made with caution.

European Union: 3,000,000 (Unicef 1998)
United States: 750,000 (Unicef 1998)
Canada: 200,000 (CBC News December 1998)
Australia: 99, 000 (ABS: Homelessness (http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/DDC8DC3787E2D9FCCA256E9E0028F91E?Open))

The number of homeless people worldwide has grown steadily in recent years. In some Third World nations such as Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa, homelessness is rampant, with millions of children living and working on the streets. Homelessness has become a problem in the cities of China, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines despite their growing prosperity, mainly due to migrant workers who have trouble finding permanent homes and to rising income inequality between social classes.


Homelessness should not be quantified as being without a house, it defines a state in which a person lacks a secure base to establish secure routines of living. The Australian Bureau of Statistics breaks this down into 5 groups: [3] (http://www.abs.gov.au)

  • "rough sleepers" - people who are living outside
  • Emergency shelters
  • Temporarily residing with friends
  • Boarding houses
  • Trailer park residents

Causes of homelessness

In the United Kingdom, the three leading stated reasons homeless people give for losing their previous accommodation, according to government surveys (http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_homelessness/documents/downloadable/odpm_home_028163.pdf), are:

  • Parents, relatives or friends not being able or willing to provide accommodation;
  • Relationship breakdown;
  • End of assured shorthold tenancy.

See also

External links

hu:Hajléktalanság ja:ホームレス fr:Sans_domicile_fixe nl:Dakloze pl:Bezdomność


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