Homelessness

Welcome! In this bulletin, we will be discussing the topic of Homelessness. In this bulletin you will find definitions of words relating to this issue, as well as history, videos, articles/handouts, statistics and questions to ponder. When discussing homelessness, it is important to be aware that we have a preconceived notion of what a homeless person is and what do they look like. Think about it; what is the first image that comes to mind when I said homeless?  Is this a white person or a person of color? Is this person old or young? What about your thought about this person as a human being? Are they homeless because a fault of their own? Are they being lazy, or perhaps drug addicts? Are they single or with a family? Consider all of this while you're reading. 


DEFINITIONS

Stereotype: A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Prejudice: A judgment or belief that is formed on insufficient grounds before facts are known or in disregard of facts that contradict it. Prejudices are learned and can be unlearned.

 Discrimination: The unequal allocation of goods, resources, and services, and the limitation of access to full participation in society based on individual membership in a particular social group; reinforced by law, policy, and cultural norms that allow for differential treatment on the basis of identity.

Social Power: Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs in order to lead a comfortable, productive and safe life.


(DISCRIMINATION + SOCIAL POWER = OPPRESSION)


Oppression: When an agent group, whether knowingly or unknowingly, abuses a target group. This pervasive system is rooted historically and maintained through individual and institutional/systematic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice, resulting in a condition of privilege for the agent group at the expense of the target group.  

Privilege: Unearned access to resources (social power) that are only readily available to some people because of their social group membership; an advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by one societal group above and beyond the common advantage of all other groups. Privilege is often invisible to those who have it.

Collusion: Ways that members of agent and target groups think and act, often unconsciously, that support oppressive systems and maintains the status quo.

Internalization: Internalization is a process through which we come to identify parts of our culture as parts of ourselves, especially in relation to norms and values. This is a crucial process in maintaining social systems because it leads people to regulate their own behavior in accordance with accepted forms rather than having to be monitored and corrected by external authorities.

Internalized Domination: When members of the agent group accept their group’s socially superior status as normal and deserved.  Internalized dominance can have very negative results – dehumanization, ignorance, silence, confusion, distancing from others.

Internalized Oppression: When people are targeted, discriminated against, or oppressed over a period of time, they believe and make part of their self-image; their internal view of themselves, the myths and misinformation that society communicates to them about their group. Internalized oppression can have very negative results - self- hatred, depression, confusion of identity, disconnection to your culture, etc.

Homelessness: A homeless individual is defined in section 330(h)(5)(A) as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation. [Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)]


CAUSES

Homelessness is a complex social problem and therefore one cannot attribute the root of the problem to just one issue. The causes for homelessness are as varied as the individual or families experiencing it. 

*According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a family with a full-time worker making minimum wage could not afford fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.

  • The lack of affordable housing is one of the biggest factors behind homelessness.
  • Unemployment or low wages
  • Poverty
  • Sudden sickness
  • Family composition changes (divorce, sudden illness, death of one of the members)

*Veterans often experience homelessness because of disabilities caused by their experience on the battlefield. Physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental suffering are just a few of the wartime after effects that drive the population of homeless veterans.

*According to the Findings from a National Survey of Services Providers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless “Family rejection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was the most frequently cited factor for homelessness. The next most frequently cited reason for LGBTQ youth homelessness was youth being forced out of their family homes as a result of coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”

*For women in particular, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness. 

*Also, mental health problems and substance addictions are contributing factors.

Criminalization of Homelessness in US

Despite the decrease on federal and state funding for organizations and shelters that are trying to improve the quality of life for people who are experiencing homelessness. Many cities have made it a crime to be a homeless person: they are ticketed or process for their need to sleep, eat and cover their basic needs. There are laws that target sleeping on a car, the street or parks, sitting on a sidewalk, to give or share food with a homeless, also prohibiting homeless to ask for money. Moreover, there are laws in place to arrest any person if they are found feeding homeless people. Local police have used ordinances against loitering, vagrancy, and disturbing the peace in order to control the homeless population. One of the biggest issues with being arrested is that you might become unavailable for subsidized housing or other federal or state funding if you have a criminal record or eventually find employment. 

News coverage in the criminalization of homelessness.


VIDEOS

Employed but still homeless, working poor say "Homelessness can happen to anybody"

Hiding The Homeless

The Criminalization of Homelessness

The Criminalization of Homelessness: A Veteran Receives a Citation for Standing Near a I-95 Ramp


STATISTICS

  • In the U.S. 31.1 million people are living in poverty, more than 12 million are children.
  • In the U.S., more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year:
    • 35% of the homeless population are families with children, which is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
    • 23% are U.S. military veterans.
      • The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night 271,000 veterans are homeless in the United States.
      • 57,000 or 9% of all homeless persons are veterans in any given night.
      • While only 8% of Americans can claim veteran status, 17% of our homeless population is made up of veterans. In 2010, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) estimated that on any given night there were 76,000 homeless veterans sleeping on American streets. Today, that number is closer to 50,000.
    • Nationally, about 50 % of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.
    • 25% are children under the age of 18 years. (1.35 million children)
      • The average age of a homeless person is 9 years old.
      • 40% of homeless children identify as LGBTQ
        • 1 in 4 LGBTQ children are kick out after coming out.
    • 16% of adult homeless people suffer from severe and persistent mental illness.
    • 25% of the urban homeless population is employed. (but does not make enough money to pay for a house)
  • Chronic homelessness is the term given to individuals that experience long-term or repeated times of homelessness. The chronic homeless are often the public face of the homelessness issue, however they make up only 18% of the entire homeless population according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
  • A survey of 29 cities in the United States found the homeless population to increase by 6% from the previous year.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • How is homelessness seeing in your family and community? 
  • Why do you think that in the US society homelessness is not often discuss?
  • How does homelessness impact your community? 
  • Are there any laws or policies in your state or community to “deal” with the homeless?
  • Do you know if your state or community have laws against helping a homeless person?
  • How are we socialized to perpetuate homelessness?
  • Why does homelessness still exist in US on the 21st century?
  • What can you or your family do to help people who are homeless?

ARTICLES

What is the official definition of homelessness?

No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities 

Homelessness in America

Serving Our Youth: Findings from a National Survey of Services Providers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless or At Risk of Becoming Homeless  

Instead Of Arresting Panhandlers, Albuquerque’s Giving Them Jobs

Homelessness in America: Overview of Data and Causes   

Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness By 91 Percent; Here's How

National Coalition for the Homeless: HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Homeless Assessment Report 

America’s Shame: 40% of Homeless Youth Are LGBT Kids 


RESOURCES

Building a New Life off the Reservation

Kyle’s Story | Rethink Veterans Homelessness

Teaching about Homelessness in Grades K-12 An Interdisciplinary Activity Guide 

CONNECTICUT HOMELESS SHELTERS AND SOCIAL SERVICES

'Housing first': Dallas's new strategy for the city's most costly homeless people

US Could Eliminate Homelessness Among Veterans With ‘Functional Zero’ Cities