The Questionnaire

Posted: October 1, 2007 in Children, Homelessness, Mental Health, Misconceptions

With the Presidential Election campaign in full swing now, and the candidates beginning to push harder to make themselves appear to be the best person for the job while trying to make everyone else look like chopped liver, there are going to be all kinds of polls taking place. All of the polling companies will be asking questions of people from all walks of life – and all in an attempt to predict who the next President of the United States will be.

As the time draws nearer to Election Day 2008, the polling questions will change. Those questions will be based on answers that have been drawn from the previous questions. It will even go on during Election Day itself and for a couple of days afterward.  

Because polling is in the air, I’ve thought that it might be interesting to have a questionnaire put together that would ask "normal everyday" people about homelessness. The questionnaire would ask people what they thought about homelessness, how it happens, do they know any homeless people personally, what they think the solution is, what they think the homeless should do, and similar types of questions.

I’m willing to bet that most people would agree that something needed to be done about homelessness but, for some reason I’m also willing to bet that most people would think that it was up to the homeless themselves to do something: like get a job – which most people tend to think is the cure all for homeless, even though the unemployment rate is currently at 4.8% and is expected to rise to 5.6% by early next year.

The truth is that most people erroneously tend to believe that all homelessness is brought on by the homeless themselves; that the homeless are homeless because they choose to be. This misconception is based on misinformation, Hollywood fantasies, and other media inspired notions of what homelessness is all about. But the portrayal of homelessness in the media is far from actual fact.

Admittedly, there are homeless who are homeless out of choice, or because they’ve messed up their lives by using drugs and getting drunk. And, it’s true that there are people who are homeless because they’re too lazy to do anything with their lives, however, there are numerous people who are homeless because a chain of events have occurred that they had no way of foreseeing and were unable to prevent the fall into homeless.

According to a report published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, there are roughly some 3.5 million homeless persons in the United States – and not all of them are homeless by choice. In fact, about 39% of America’s homeless are so due to circumstances completely out of their control. That 39% are children.

Moreover, among America’s homeless there is a segment of between 20% and 25% who also are homeless due to circumstances that are beyond their ability control. These are those homeless who suffer some form of mental illness. Many of them simply are not capable of caring for themselves or have no one to care for them. The result is that they find themselves homeless.

Then there are those who are senior citizens.

A study done in 2004 by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that 6% of America’s homeless were over the age of 55. These are folks who have worked most of their adult life and are living on a fixed income. But because of the ever increasing price of housing, rising medical costs, and any other number of financial factors, these seniors have found themselves living their lives on the streets.

Hopefully one day soon, as a nation, we will wake up, smell the coffee, take a good swallow of reality and realize that we must take action to correct the situation. If not, we’re going to find homelessness growing to proportions that are beyond our control.

Not a comforting thought, is it?

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