I get it… the want to live without being tied to one place, not having to follow certain rules or pay utilities, etc. The ability to come and go with ease… all very appealing. But at what cost?
There is such a stigma with homelessness. So often I hear people say that homeless folks just want to be homeless or are too lazy to get a job. Well, part of the problem is it’s difficult to get a job without an address. Plus it’s usually not that simple.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness the main reason people are homeless is because they can’t find housing that’s affordable for them. The group provides some statistics including:
- There are 633,782 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the U.S. Of those, 239,403 are people in families and 394,379 are individuals.
- Slightly fewer than 16 percent are considered “chronically homeless.”
- About 13 percent of homeless adults are veterans; this means 62,619.
- These numbers come from point-in-time counts which are conducted, community by community, on a single night in January every other year.
As noted, many veterans end up homeless due to war-related issues such as physical or mental disabilities including post-traumatic stress disorder. Readjusting to civilian life after seeing such horrors is difficult to say the least and it can lead to drug/alcohol abuse which then can lead to violent behavior. Youth often experience temporary homelessness for reasons such as running away from home due to abuse or neglect. LGBT youth tend to be more at risk than heterosexual youth.
“Chronically homeless” is defined as those who experience homelessness either long-term and/or repeated bouts of homelessness coupled with some type of disability, physical or mental. This last group, according to the alliance, tends to be the face of homelessness but makes up less than 16 percent of who’s actually without a home. This group has decreased by 19.3 percent since 2007.
Again, while living “free” could be appealing, there are certainly some major drawbacks. Without an address, a person will have difficulty getting a job. An employer requires an address so they can send tax forms and other needed information, among other possible reasons. How does one deal with the extreme heat in some places, such as Needles, or the extreme cold? What if that individual happens to have a pet? How is that pet cared for? Survival is possible, clearly, and I’ve seen individuals with pets and they seem to manage though I’m guessing it’s not without it’s trials and tribulations.
There’s also law enforcement to contend with. Sure a nice park seems like a good place to sleep but with certain city ordinances and what not in place, homeless get kicked out and have to find somewhere where no one will care they’re present. There’s often those judgements people place, assuming homeless just want to be or can’t handle a job; homeless are just drunks or druggies or mental cases so homelessness is deserved. Those aren’t fair assessments – it may be true for some but not for all.
Those with mental disabilities may not have been able to keep paying for expensive medicines, which in turn means erratic or violent behavior leading to job loss then home loss. They may turn to self-medication to help but again means erratic or violent behavior. I can’t say I have ever been mentally ill or had some disability so I suppose I take much liberty in saying this, but I’m guessing those with a mental illness/disability aren’t having a good time with it. My guess is they would like to be “normal” just like the rest of us. It might make life easier.
As for those who are alcoholics or drug addicted… well… I still say it’s not our place to judge. We don’t know their story or how they ended up in such a bad way. Some say some folks don’t mind living on the street but is it that they don’t mind or are they afraid they couldn’t make it elsewhere? Is it that they don’t mind or they are just used to it so they accept it?
Homelessness is a problem for many and not just the homeless. The cost of running shelters and feeding these folks is costly. This is why Hawaii has decided it’s better to just ship them off to somewhere else. Yep that’s right. Hawaii is now offering homeless one way airplane tickets back to the mainland. Here’s a brief article.
Okay, I get it. It’s expensive and my guess is more so for Hawaii as it’s an island state. That said, this “solution” seems more like just sweeping it under the rug. This simply transports homeless somewhere else for someone else to have to deal with. It says something about sending homeless back to their families but that’s not always as easy as it sounds. Some may not want to be with their families or what if they don’t have families? What if the families don’t want them? Again, all this does is make it someone else’s problem and no one is really helped.
I’m definitely all for finding solutions… one of which means more affordable housing or at least helping some folks get started again. As for those who may have additional difficulties… well… it may mean just getting a bit more creative.
And for good measure, there is always those who are what I’d refer to as “mildly” homeless. By this I mean, they are in constant motion; they manage to save enough money so they can travel the world and perhaps pitstop long enough to work to save more money so they can be on the move again. Now… I’ll admit that is truly free living.
With that… that brings me to a song that I just love that relates to that type of homelessness. Zac Brown Band’s “Free” is an awesome song!
And last but not least… please visit National Alliance to End Homelessness. Remember, it takes a village… for virtually anything.