There are numerous reasons why a person finds themselves becoming homeless.

To be sure, there are those individuals who deliberately choose to become homeless. And there are even those individuals who choose to remain homeless. But they represent only a small minority of the homeless.

For the most part, the majority of people who find themselves without a place to live didn’t choose to be homeless. It isn’t as though they woke up one morning and said to themselves: "Today, I’m going to become homeless."  

That’s just not the way it works.

Homelessness is actually a "reverse" progression.

The absolute baseline reason that a person becomes homeless is about money.

Some "turning point" occurs in their lives and eventually they find themselves without the financial means to maintain housing for themselves – and as is becoming more and more common, their families.

These turning points most certainly can be at their own hands – as is the case with persons who abuse alcohol and drugs, or who have gambling problems, or even by getting too far into debt.

However, more and more folks are finding themselves becoming homeless due to circumstances they cannot control: job loss, medical emergencies and so on.

When this type of situation occurs, a person may realize that they are "headed for the skids" and will try to do whatever they can to prevent it. Some are fortunate enough to forestall becoming homeless long enough to regain a foot hold back into the community. Others discover that homelessness is an inevitability they cannot prevent.

For those who do find themselves homeless, the length of time they remain so will be dependant on numerous factors: availability of employment in their local job markets; the types of assistance that they can receive from city, county and other local government agencies, as well as assistance they can obtain through private organizations that provide services to the homeless.

It’s easy to believe that if a homeless person really wanted to get out of being homeless all they would have to do is get a job, save money and find another place to live. It’s a simple thing to say it from the comfort of your own home. But that’s akin to "armchair quarterbacking." In real life situations, theory doesn’t come close to reality.

Additionally, many people think that if a homeless person isn’t able to find a job locally that they might have better luck if they went elsewhere. Again, theory doesn’t fit in with reality.

Roughly 3 in 4 of all persons who become homeless remain in the general area where they became homeless. This is because human beings prefer the familiar. When a person becomes homeless they are facing an unknown: homelessness. Although they would rather not face it at all, they definitely do not want to have to deal with homelessness in unknown territory.

For those homeless who are able to find employment, getting out of homelessness is still a difficult chore.

On page three of The National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Employment and Homelessness it states,

"As bad as it is for the 15% of homeless people who have jobs and can’t escape homelessness, climbing out of homelessness is virtually impossible for those without a job. For those with limited skills or experience, opportunities for jobs that pay a living wage are very limited. In such a competitive environment, the difficulties of job seeking as a homeless person can be almost insurmountable barriers to employment."

With numbers of jobs that have been lost due to outsourcing, corporate downsizing and the like, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more homeless on the streets of our nation’s cities. Admittedly, there have been new jobs created, but these positions do not pay as much as those which have been lost. Subsequently, earning potential has decreased.

Then of course, there is the belief that if a homeless person needs help they should just go to the local homeless shelters or other homeless support services providers. And, once again, theory doesn’t work in actual practice.

Currently, the way most homeless shelters operate is to offer only the most basic of needs: a meal and a bed. In many instances, due to lack of available beds, the majority of requests for shelter go unmet. Also, most shelters are still operating as "emergency shelters" and are ill equipped for long term housing of the homeless.

The irony is that the reason for a person becoming homeless and the difficultly for a person finding a way out of homelessness is one in the same: a lack of money.

It seems peculiar to me that politicians can find ingenious ways of spending our tax dollars on all manner of nonsensical "pet projects" but can’t seem to find a way of spending those same tax dollars on things that really matter. Yet, that’s what they’re supposed to be doing: using those tax dollars to make things better for all of us – not just a chosen few. At least, in theory that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Perhaps if the money were coming out of their pockets instead of ours they’d be better stewards of what they’ve been entrusted with.

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Comments
  1. The government will never solve this problem.

    It’s going to take ‘regular folks’ to hit the streets and start adopting
    one or more homeless people to mentor and/or assist.

    We can do it if that happens. And that’s the only realistic solution I see.

    Katia,

    It will most definitely take us “regular folks’ to bring about a solution to homelessness. But it will take so much more than just “hitting the streets” reaching out to the homeless. That’s only one facet of the “cure.”

    An additional step will be to hold our elected leaders accountable for not doing what they should be doing to help solve homelessness. And the way to do that is to use our ultimate power as private citizens: at the ballot box.

    – m –

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