The Causes and Effects of Homelessness

Kristi Harris, Hard News Editor

A well-known issue in today’s society is homelessness. You can see it anywhere you go and hear about it through conversations, T.V, radio, etc. There are several causes to homelessness and separate difficulties that they face daily. There are also amazing organizations out there to help people in need. In my opinion, as a society, we take the things we have for granted. We don’t realize that someday, if we aren’t careful, it could all be gone in the blink of an eye. After learning more about what the homeless go through, I think we will be more thankful and less quick to judge.

The causes of homelessness are; poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, poor physical or mental health, addiction, family and relationship breakdown, and violence or abuse. Even though a big majority of homeless people are chronic or episodic, many of them are simply families that have gone through various trials in life, struggling to get back on their feet. It is impossible to know the exact number of homeless people, but research completed by National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) shows that in 2016 there were at least 500,000 individuals in the U.S without a home. However, due to the organizations available, this number has dramatically decreased.

According to HUD’s 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, the population of the chronic homeless, 83,170 individuals, accounted for 15% of all homelessness in 2015. An essential component of successful recovery for them is permanent supportive housing, which is housing coupled with supportive services. With this type of care, they are less likely to end up in a homeless shelter, hospital, or jail cell.

The Road Home is one of the main institutions in Utah that provides an emergency shelter along with case managers who help people overcome the obstacles that led them to living on the street. NAEH is another one that aims to end homelessness and plans to improve the policy that regards homelessness.

The Rescue Mission is a Christian community that also helps the homeless. It runs completely off of volunteer work and donations. Along with providing a place to sleep; they have free clothing, three meals per day, food boxes that are specifically given out to homeless families, and a recovery program to help those with addictions. I had the opportunity to volunteer there myself. As I was serving lunch, I was able to better understand what these people go through.

From my observations, I could tell that many of the individuals receiving help from the mission suffered from a variety of different disabilities. Some of them were picky about what they ate and others chowed down their food like they hadn’t eaten in days. This made me realize how fortunate I am and I was glad that I could be there helping these people. I noticed a man who seemed to go often because the guy in charge knew him by name. His name was Chris and he was an enthusiastically grateful person. Multiple times, he thanked us for serving him and before he left he told us a story about living in the woods for three weeks, almost starving to death. He said, “If it wasn’t for my grandfather teaching me how to make soup, I wouldn’t have survived that. Its days like this where I’m so grateful to have this place and that I’m not back in those woods.”

The Soup Kitchen is a place that serves food for the homeless and others who can’t afford their own. Beverlee Simpson, a volunteer and East High Language Arts teacher, has seen a lot in her 16 years there. She started out going with her daughter to get service hours, but afterwards, continued to go with her husband. There are some people that she sees regularly. One is a man named Daryl who is there almost every month. “He is very friendly and outgoing,” she says, “but also has some emotional problems.” She notices many other people there suffering from substance abuse, health issues, poverty, and being social outcasts. She has also known some families that have made their way to a better place. Once they got into housing it was easier to find a job and from there, they were able to get off the street.

Homelessness is usually the result of the cumulative impact of a number of factors, not just one. There are three different factors, structural factors includes economic and societal issues, individual and relational factors include personal circumstances, and systems failures includes the failure of systems of care and support.

A couple examples of structural factors include, lack of adequate income and access to affordable housing.  As the economy changes, it becomes more challenging for people to earn adequate income and pay for food and housing. Poverty is linked to homelessness and often times, someone who is having severe money issues is just one big impact away from losing their home. Discrimination can also affect access to employment, housing, justice, and help services.

There are some cases where a system failure occurs, causing people in need to be forced onto the streets when they could have been helped. Examples of what happens is, difficult transitions from child welfare, inadequate discharge from the hospital, corrections and mental health and addictions facilities, and lack of support for immigrants and refugees.

Individual and relational factors is particularly a problem for youth and women. They include; traumatic events, personal crisis, and mental health and addiction problems. A big consequence of these is homelessness and possibly suffering from physical or mental health problems. The reason that women are more affected by this specific factor is because if a woman is experiencing violence, she has to choose between being in an abusive relationship or homelessness. Generally she chooses to leave the man, but then, ultimately has nowhere else to go.

Along with the reasons why people ended up on the street, they have many difficulties that they go through every day. A big amount of the challenges they face come from specifically not having a roof over their head. These include; having to carry their belongings wherever they go, not having a place to protect themselves from the weather, and causing them to be a bigger target to violence. Also, due to being in unhygienic conditions, they are more susceptible to diseases. If they catch a more serious illness, there is a higher chance of it being fatal because they don’t have access to the necessary care they need. A more emotional challenge for them is feeling unwanted because of the way they get treated by society.

If more people would take the time to learn about this and understand what they go through, there would be a bigger chance of getting it under control. A big help is volunteering or making donations. Then, there would be further opportunities for the homeless to get help. This could result in abolishing the homeless problem that we have.




Salvation Army

Future in Humanity

End Homelessness