“I was born and raised in the ghetto, on welfare, two minutes from homeless.”
Homelessness: Causes, Effects & Solutions
Homelessness can be defined as living in housing that is below minimum standards or even lack secure and adequate shelter at all.
The most prominent example is people living on the streets, however, there are several other forms of homelessness.
Homelessness is a big problem since it has significant adverse effects for the homeless people themselves but also imposes large social costs.
In this article, the extent, causes, effects and solutions regarding homelessness are examined.
Extent of Homelessness
According to recent studies, it is estimated that around 150 million people worldwide are homeless. Another 1.6 billion are estimated to live under inadequate housing conditions.
This means that around 20% of the worldwide population suffers from adverse housing conditions, homelessness or from the danger of becoming homeless.
Causes for Homelessness
- Lack of education
- Natural disasters
- Substance use
- Mental conditions
- Unaffordable housing
- Rental housing discrimination
- Lack of social security
- System failures
- Personal issues
- Problems at home
Poverty is a big cause when it comes to homelessness. If people are in debt and do not have adequate jobs to pay it back, they might lose their homes since they will not be able to pay their monthly credit rate. This may also hit many college students.
They often have quite high levels of college debt once they graduate. This college debt often implies quite high interest rates. If those graduates will not be able to find well-paid jobs, they might end up homeless even though they have a high level of education.
If you lose your parents and have no one who cares about you, you are at greater risk to end up homeless compared to a child that grows up under normal conditions. This is due to the fact that orphans often do not have anyone who looks after them and provides them a secure home.
Moreover, orphans often have low levels of education since they often drop out of school and start to work in order to make enough money for their daily living expenses.
If they lose their job, they may not be able to find a job that pays sufficient money to afford housing due to their low level of education. Thus, orphanism increases the probability to become homeless.
Lack of education
A lack of education increases the probability of homelessness in general. People how only have low levels of education have lower chances to find a well-paid job.
This can result in homelessness since in some regions, housing is quite expensive and if you only have a low-paid job, you are likely not able to afford housing.
One example of this is the Silicon Valley boom. Housing became unaffordable for people with jobs that pay an average income and therefore the number of homeless people increased dramatically over the last decade.
Unemployment can be another cause of homelessness. Imagine you work at a job and at one day, your boss just terminates your working contract without prior notice.
Thus, you will have to find a new job quite soon in order to be able to pay your bills. If you are not able to find a new job, you will likely end up homeless since you will not be able to afford your rent.
Homelessness can also be caused by natural disasters. Regions that get hit by natural disasters will often lose important parts of their infrastructure. This will lead to a loss of livelihood for many people.
Moreover, these regions will often suffer from a vast decline in tourism, since tourists usually want to spend their vacations in nice areas and not in areas that had been destroyed.
However, since many poor countries rely on tourists as their single source of income, many people may become unemployed due to natural disasters and will therefore also not be able to afford housing anymore.
The use of substances like drugs or also alcohol can contribute to an increased probability of homelessness. There are certain substances that are extremely addictive.
People who consume those substances may only care about their substance supply and will not care too much about paying their rent.
This behavior will often result in homelessness since after refraining from paying their rent a few times, landlords will terminate your rental agreement.
Mental health conditions may also lead to homelessness. People with mental health issues often feel lonely and not as a valuable part of our society.
Since they may not feel comfortable and see no prospects for a better future, they may just give up and may not care about the adverse future consequences.
Therefore, they may eventually end up homeless since they will not be able to pay their rent anymore.
In some regions, housing is quite expensive compared to the average income. This is especially true in areas where some big companies pay quite high wages. People working in these companies can afford high housing prices.
However, people who just earn an average income will greatly suffer from the situation since they will often not be able to afford housing anymore and thus may end up homeless.
Rental housing discrimination
In some areas, discrimination is still prevalent when it comes to renting a house. White people often have an advantage when it comes to renting a house compared to other minorities.
This may lead to homelessness for minorities since it is harder and sometimes impossible for them to rent a home, especially if they only have a low income.
Lack of social security
A lack of social security schemes can also contribute to the homelessness issue. In areas with good social security, people just get government support if they become unemployed. Therefore, they do not have to fear homelessness.
However, in areas where there is low or even no social security, the chances for homelessness are much higher since in case of unemployment, they will get no or just insufficient financial support from authorities and therefore may not be able to pay their rent anymore.
System failures may be another cause of homelessness. For instance, if young people drop out of school due to family problems or other kinds of issues, they may end up on the streets since they may not find a job and will not be able to pay rent. If these kids have no one how takes care of them, they will have a hard time getting out of homelessness.
Many children grow up under difficult conditions. Their parents may be addicted to alcohol or other substances and children may suffer from violence or other severe adverse conditions.
These children are more likely to develop mental problems in the future since they are often not able to process their horrible experiences. In turn, mental problems may increase the probability to become homeless.
If people become unemployed or cannot pay their monthly payments for their houses due to several other reasons anymore, they may be in danger that their home becomes subject to foreclosure. In this case, these people may end up homeless since their home has been sold to another family.
Thus, if they are not able to find a new home, they may end up in the streets which will make it even more difficult to find a new home due to the vicious circle that is in place once you are homeless.
Problems at home
Family problems may be another cause of homelessness. Many women suffer from problems at home during their marriage. If they want to escape these circumstances, they will often have to move out and find a new home. However, if these women are not able to find a new home due to financial distress or other reasons, they may end up homeless.
Effects of Homelessness
- Lack of social security
- Lack of health insurance
- Social isolation
- Mental conditions
- Health issues
- Lower life expectancy
- Drug use
- Loss of self-esteem
- Economic effects
Lack of social security
One effect of homelessness can be a lack of social security. Imagine you are homeless and sleep on the street. There is no way to get letters since you do not have a permanent address. This in turn means that you are not able to communicate with authorities who may be responsible for social security.
Therefore, you often lose your claims regarding social security. This may cause severe issues since you will not be able to receive financial aid in order to buy foods or other things for daily life.
Lack of health insurance
Homelessness also often leads to a lack of health insurance. If you are homeless, you often do not have money to afford health insurance.
Even in case you would have enough money, since you do not have a permanent housing address, you will often not be regarded as eligible for health insurance in the eyes of insurance companies.
A lack of health insurance could lead to severe issues since in case of serious health conditions, you may not be able to get proper treatment and may suffer from severe pain or even death.
Social isolation may be another effect of homelessness. In our current society, homeless people are often treated quite badly and are often not treated as human beings.
People usually avoid talking to homeless people and do not want to spend time with them. This may lead to social isolation for homeless people since they do not feel valued by our society and may end up in a mental state where they are quite lonely.
Homelessness can also cause severe mental health conditions. Homeless people often are not able to mentally deal with their situation, especially if they had quite good jobs and a pretty lifestyle in the past.
The gap between their former lifestyle and their current lifestyle may often be too big and these people are likely to suffer from depression and other mental issues.
Homeless people often also suffer from severe physical health issues. If you are living on the streets, the chance for getting severe diseases increases significantly. This can be due to unhygienic living conditions or also to drug abuse.
Moreover, in case you get a serious disease, you will often not be able to afford medical treatment and may suffer from severe consequential damage in the future.
Due to financial distress and other factors, homeless people often suffer from malnutrition since they simply are not able to afford basic things like food on a constant basis. Therefore, homeless persons often suffer from malnutrition and also from diseases related to insufficient amounts of nutrients.
Lower life expectancy
Due to malnutrition, drug use or other issues related to homelessness, street persons will usually have a significantly lower life expectancy than people who live in a regular home. This may also be due to the fact that homeless people may lose their will to live since they do not see a purpose in their life anymore.
It is quite hard for homeless persons to find a job since they are socially stigmatized and companies often refrain from employing homeless persons. This may be due to the fact that companies regard homeless people as not responsible and reliable enough to employ them.
Thus, homelessness can be a cause of unemployment. However, there is also a reverse connection. Unemployment can also lead to homelessness.
Homeless people are also more likely to consume legal and illegal substances. Many people become addicted since they do not want to feel their pain and want to escape their life with the help of drugs. However, this can lead to several problems, including health issues like HIV or hepatitis.
Loss of self-esteem
Homeless persons also often just lose all of their self-esteem. They often feel like losers and may lose their will to change their behavior to achieve a better future. This may also lead these kinds of people to use drugs or to commit suicide at an early age.
Apart from the issues mentioned before, there are also significant social costs associated with homelessness. Homelessness implies that the economy loses large amounts of working power.
Moreover, in order to lower the level of homelessness, states have to provide significant financial support. Hence, the social costs of homelessness can amount to large sums of money, especially in regions with a high concentration of homelessness.
Solutions to Homelessness
- Easy access to social security
- Easy access to health insurance
- Fight poverty
- Support for orphans
- Subsidies for housing
- Create jobs
- Shelters for homeless people
- Women’s shelter
- Homelessness exit programs
- Raise minimum wages
- Partnerships between politics and industries
Education is key to avoid homelessness. If you have a high level of education, even if you get fired, you may easily find a new job in a short period of time. On the flip side, if your education level is low, it will be hard for you to find a job that pays enough money to pay your rent.
Therefore, the probability of homelessness decreases significantly with the level of education. It is therefore crucial to provide people with good primary education but also provide them with a path to college so that they can get a degree and increase their employment chances.
Easy access to social security
Since a lack of social security can lead to homelessness, we have to assure that everyone has easy access to social security, independent of where on earth you are living.
Governments have to set a framework where it is a human right to have social security, at least to a level that is enough to provide housing, food and things for your daily life.
Easy access to health insurance
Similar to social security, governments also have to assure easy access to health insurance. If people do not have proper health insurance and get sick, chances are that they have to borrow money in order to afford expensive medical treatment. However, they have to pay the borrowed money back somehow.
If they are not able to do so, their houses may become subject to foreclosure and these people may end up homeless on the streets. Thus, it is crucial to provide sufficient health insurance for everyone.
Since poverty and the related adverse effects are significant causes for homelessness, we have to fight poverty on a global scale in order to mitigate the homelessness issue.
This could come in the form of better education in order to improve the probability of getting well-paying jobs. It may also come in the form of government subsidies for the poorest among us.
Support for orphans
Orphans are often at great danger to become homeless since they usually do not have persons who take care of them and show them a path to a brighter future.
They often also lack the money to get a good education and rather work in low-paid jobs in order to survive. Therefore, governments and local municipalities should set up programs for orphans where they can get help and also financial support to avoid homelessness for orphans.
Subsidies for housing
In areas where housing is unaffordable for people with jobs tht average salaries, governments should support those hard-working people so that they will be able to afford appropriate housing. By doing so, the level of homelessness could be lowered to a certain degree.
An effective way to mitigate the homelessness issue is to create jobs in the affected regions. This could come in the form that municipalities give tax advantages to firms so that companies have a higher incentive to relocate or open branches in those regions. With a higher number of jobs, unemployment rates usually decline since people are able to earn enough money to afford housing.
Shelters for homeless people
It is also in the governments’ responsibility to provide shelter for homeless people where they can spend the night if they do not have a permanent housing opportunity.
By doing so, people may be at least protected against death from cold, even if these shelters usually do not help in reducing the number of homeless persons.
For women who suffer from violence in their marriage, women shelters should be provided where women can escape to. By providing these kinds of shelters, women could escape domestic violence easier since they know they can get shelter and will not end up homeless in the streets.
Homelessness exit programs
There should be some programs that aim to reintegrate homeless persons in our society so they can get a head start for a better future. It is often hard for homeless people to see positive prospects since they are often just overwhelmed by their problems.
Thus, by showing these people ways to get out of homelessness, chances increase that some of them will successfully manage to get housing.
Raise minimum wages
In areas where minimum wages are not enough to afford housing, governments should raise the minimum wage up to a level where people are able to afford housing. By doing so, the number of homeless people could be decreased.
Partnerships between politics and industries
There should also be a close collaboration between politicians and companies in order to mitigate the problem of homelessness. For instance, this could mean that companies oblige to employ some homeless people.
In turn, these companies may get tax advantages or other financial subsidies from the states. By having those partnerships, it is more likely to get some homeless people back in our society.
Homelessness is a serious worldwide problem. Many people suffer from severe adverse effects related to homelessness. Governments and other authorities are in charge to set up programs that aim to integrate these homeless people back into our society.
Only then will it be possible to give homeless people an incentive to work hard in order to escape homelessness and to accomplish a better future for themselves.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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