Addressing the Problem of Homelessness

Having a home is a basic necessity. However, buying a house is out of reach for most Americans, and renting a small room is costly. Many define homelessness as living on the street for 12 or more consecutive months. If individuals face chronic homelessness, nearly 60% develop lifetime mental health conditions. In addition, another 80% suffer from lifetime alcohol and drug dependence.

By adopting the right strategy, your community can influence what you can do to end homelessness. One approach calls for rapid relocation to give people a permanent and stable place to live immediately. In the US, specific programs have significantly dealt with chronic homelessness. Below is a guide that will talk about the existing programs and how the community can get involved.

Homeless man

Homelessness in America

In 2010, the US federal government launched the Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Opening Doors project. It aimed to end all kinds of homelessness by 2020. It also includes preventing and ending veteran and chronic homelessness in five years and youth and families in ten years. It might be difficult to get accurate data on individuals suffering from homelessness.

But the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) constantly releases a point-in-time report of those present during street counts, who have used transitional housing, and shelters. In 2010, they counted 649,879 people, and that population went down to 567,715 people in 2019.

HUD still doesn’t have a report for the estimated homeless people in 2020, but a study reveals that the population has skyrocketed by 40%-50% due to the pandemic.

Extreme Homelessness

Individuals suffering from chronic homelessness refer to those living wandering around for 12 or more months. Many often suffer from developmental and physical disabilities, mental illness, or substance abuse. Most programs focus on four objectives to end this problem. It includes outreach to talk to those suffering or at risk of homelessness.

Its second aspect entails prevention to reduce the overall population of people without homes, and the third includes offering immediate support through emergency services and temporary housing. Its last objective includes finding permanent housing to support reintegration into the community, independence, and stability.

Homelessness and Mental Health

Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are mental issues homeless people experience. Most researchers determined that mental stability paired with homelessness is a vicious cycle instead of an effect. Mental conditions can make it more challenging to live in stable environments, causing homelessness. In other cases, people develop these conditions after self-medicating and living on the streets.

It became their coping mechanism, frequently involving alcohol and drugs. On top of providing quality care, programs that offer permanent housing can help improve treatment for mental health conditions. Offering street psychiatry proved to lower the number of homeless people visiting federally-funded psychiatric hospitals or jails.

Homelessness and Substance Abuse

Drugs and substance abuse are problems resulting from wandering the streets, like mental health. Treating homeless people suffering from substance abuse can be challenging because there are limited options. Most federally-funded programs will require victims to be sober before getting treated. Many treatments also refuse mental health patients.

Hence, many homeless people turn to drugs to deal with their situation. Based on a Yale School of Medicine study, half of the 14,086 participants suffering from substance abuse disorders had positive responses to permanent housing after six months in the facility. However, they might need treatment once housed.

Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT) refers to the program that treats homeless people suffering from substance abuse to facilitate longer periods of sobriety when paired with primary care and prevent relapse.

6 Tips to Resolve This Issue

Homeless people need access to services like employment, education, and healthcare solutions to reenter society and gain independence successfully. Using efficient crisis response solutions will provide necessary services and shelter as quickly as possible, prevent at-risk cases, and identify those suffering from homelessness.

  • Rapid Rehousing. It aims to reduce the time a person wanders the street. By reducing the time they experience homelessness, the program also lessens the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to living without a home.
  • Shared Housing. It comprises multiple people living under the same roof and sharing the costs. It’s a solution for people moving out of shelters. Offering flexible and affordable housing reduces isolation with aid from others who also experienced homelessness. It also offers widespread housing solutions.
  • More Career Opportunities. Housing instability often results from financial insecurity. By stabilizing the income of a homeless person, they can qualify for additional home loans, giving them a chance to live independently.
  • Offering Better Healthcare. Homelessness can affect overall well-being and lower lifespans, so housing is healthcare. Housing lowers dependence on emergency services, lowering the state’s expenses.
  • Educating the Youth. Federal and state programs will evaluate students’ needs and provide them with proper enrollment, immunization, transportation, and education, aiding them with proper guardianship, residency, and attendance.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing. It offers long-term rental assistance in tailored case management, supportive services, and affordable housing.

Maintaining a response system for homeless people will help end the problem efficiently instead of containing it.