Homelessness and the Lessons I Learned at the Event, One Night Without a Home

Homelessness is a major issue in The United States of America that more Americans should be willing to resolve. The numbers of homeless people in America will be addressed in this essay, along with: causes of homelessness, the dehumanization of homeless individuals, and ways to solve homelessness. From 4:00 P.M. November 12, 2015 to 7:00 A.M. November 13, 2015, I felt what it was like to be homeless. Not necessarily feeling the full experience since I had the luxury of going back to a home and a warm bed the next morning.

The event that I participated in was called “One Night Without a Home”, and it took place at Bergfeld Park in Tyler, Texas.

The main purpose of it was to raise awareness of homelessness in America. It was the seventh consecutive year the event had taken place, and 150 people slept with either a sleeping bag or blanket. Individuals who participated were not allowed to bring electronics or cash while the event was taking place because you were supposed to really try to experience what homeless people do on a daily basis.

It was honestly one of the most uncomfortable things that I have ever experienced. It was when I could not feel my fingers or my toes due to the cold weather when I realized just how privileged I am. I do not have to worry about when the next time I will have a meal will be or when I will be able to sleep in a bed.

So many people take what they have for granted when there is someone out there who does not have a home that would give anything just to take a hot shower or sleep in a cozy bed.

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Homelessness is not taken seriously enough in America. It is an extremely serious issue that should be thoroughly addressed and solved. Although, it can not be solved alone by organizations and shelters, communities must come together and help as well.

Furthermore, the lesson I learned from the event was not the only thing I walked away with. It was a new-found knowledge of the many different age groups that are homeless. Before the event, when I thought of a homeless person, I would think of an older man with some type of addiction. Nevertheless, it was brought to my attention that it is more than just older men that experience homelessness in the U.S. “In the U.S., more than 3.5 million people will experience homelessness each year” (“Overview of Homelessness in America”).

In addition to that, nearly 2.5 million children in America experienced homelessness in 2013: that is one in every thirty children (“Overview of Homelessness in America”). Children should be living their life with no worries. They should be going to school, making friends, and having a good time. That is the age when no one should have to be put through something as awful as being homeless, but no one, regardless of their age, should ever have to experience homelessness.

In Texas alone, “…..there were 29,615 persons homeless in 2013, meaning that approximately 12 out of every 10,000 persons in Texas are homeless (down from 15 out of every 10,000 persons in 2011)” (“The Face of Homelessness”). And in the Houston area, the most recent statistics indicate that more than 6,300 people are without a home on any given night.” (The Face of Homelessness”). According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, thirty-four states had decreases in overall homelessness, while seventeen states saw increases. The chronic homelessness population accounts for 14.5 percent of all individuals who experienced homelessness on a given night in 2014.

A chronically homeless individual is someone who has been homeless for one year or more or who have had four or more episodes of homelessness in the last three years, and has a disability. While people experiencing chronic homelessness make up a small number of the overall homeless population, they are among the most vulnerable. They also tend to have high rates of behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance use disorders, conditions that may be exacerbated by physical illness, injury or trauma. (“Chronic Homelessness”)

Out of all the chronically homeless individuals, 37 percent were unsheltered in 2014 (Chronic Homelessness). The majority of states had decreases in every major subpopulation: family homelessness (32 states), chronically homeless individuals (27 states), and veteran homelessness (28 states) (“The Face of Homelessness”).

In addition, many factors can influence the issue of homelessness; however, the main problem is that people cannot find housing that they can afford (“Homelessness Prevention”). The growing gap between wage earnings and the cost of housing in the United States leaves millions of families and individuals unable to make their house payments (“Overview of Homelessness”). A variety of additional factors can contribute to the problem: chief among these are poverty, a decline in levels of public assistance, lack of affordable health care, mental illness, and addictive disorders (“Homelessness Prevention”).

According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, in the U.S., economic conditions are currently playing a big role: 35 percent of homeless individuals cite job loss as a trigger to their homelessness. Surveys of people experiencing homelessness show that about 25 percent of the homeless population suffers from some form of mental illness, and the high cost of health insurance leaves homeless people without access to proper care to treat mental illness (“Overview of Homelessness”).

Deinstitutionalization was the result of a mental health policy that emphasized community-based care and living situations. It was accompanied by a diversion policy that continues today, which discouraged unduly restrictive admissions to state mental hospitals. However, adequate community-based mental health care and affordable housing are not available in many communities. As a result, individuals with mental illnesses are often at risk of becoming homeless. (“Recent Efforts”)

Drug and alcohol addiction affect about 20 percent of the homeless population who often lack access to proper, affordable care for these illnesses (“Overview of Homelessness”). Cuts in federal assistance for housing programs and social services have coincided with the rise in homelessness in the U.S. During the 1950s and 1960s, federal housing programs and services nearly eradicated homelessness; however, during the 1980s, housing programs were slashed by half and the homeless population in the U.S. began to grow (“Overview of Homelessness”).

Not to mention, there is a vast majority of people who overlook the fact that homeless people are humans too. No one should be degraded or dehumanized the way that homeless people are. There have been numerous accounts where homeless individuals have been beaten up, urinated on, and robbed of all their possessions. How can we as humans just sit back and let this happen without doing more to prevent it from happening? There are too many homeless people dying on the streets from lack of nutrition, or the weather just gets too intense for their weak bodies to handle.

Instead of locking up our windows and completely ignoring homeless people when we come up to intersections, even if you have nothing to give them, simply acknowledging their presence and giving them a friendly smile will make them feel better. Being cut off from human interaction and not being recognized as a human being can be damaging to their mental health, as well as their social skills.

Despite more than $4.2 billion in homeless program appropriations between 1987 and 1993, the problem of homelessness persists. In many American cities and towns, large numbers of men and women still bed down in the streets each night. In some areas their makeshift dwellings have achieved a size and complexity not seen since the “Hoovervilles” of the 1930s (Balmori and Morton, 1993). Municipal coroners continue to log street deaths due to exposure. Street begging has proliferated, with some communities retaliating with a strong police presence and anti-panhandling laws.

Park benches have been “homeless proofed”; public libraries have found ways to exclude homeless people from use of their facilities. Although the general public sometimes construes the actions of street homeless people as a threat, with rare exceptions, their concerns seem to relate more to a sense of decline in quality of life, rather than any actual danger posed. (“Recent Efforts to Address Homelessness”)

Taking individuals who are homeless and turning them into criminals is outrageous and unfair. Criminalization does not help the homeless. They need services and assistance. Instead of humans worrying about their “quality of life”, shouldn’t we be more concerned about the well- being of others? As human beings it should be our first priority to ensure that others are in good condition. It is essential that more people get involved in the issue of homelessness. Many put it to the side and would rather worry about themselves, and that is what is wrong with this country.

According to The Bible, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”” Acts 20:35. We must not worry about ourselves as much as we should worry about those who have less than we do. It should be in our best interest to find a solution to homelessness in our country.

The first steps which need to be taken first are tackling the root causes which include: low wages and a lack of affordable housing, and by improving support services like TANF, housing vouchers, and health care (“Overview of Homelessness”). According to “Recent Efforts to Address Homelessness,” prevention is the most cost-effective way to address homelessness.

There have been various attempts at resolving the issue of homelessness, and in one Texas community, “nearly $103 million is spent annually on chronically homeless individuals in our community” (The Face of Homelessness”). Prevention of homelessness requires teamwork, effort, and time for there to be a significant amount of improvement.

Effective community-wide efforts to prevent homelessness involve partnering among nonprofit organizations and public agencies to address the variety of issues and housing barriers confronted by households facing homelessness and to address the needs of different subpopulations, including families, domestic violence survivors, youth, and individuals exiting institutions. Collaborating across sectors is critical to creating a network of resources that work together to achieve the goal of preventing homelessness. (“Homelessness Prevention”)

Collaborating across sectors is critical to creating a network of resources that work together to achieve the goal of preventing homelessness (“Homelessness Prevention”). The development of a seamless system of services and housing must be the goal. A stable household is crucial to repairing someone’s broken life. Going from sleeping on the streets every night to finally sleeping in a bed is a lot to take in. There is quite a bit of work to do with the issue of homelessness, but I believe if more people take the issue seriously enough, it can be resolved, and America will be a much better place.

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Homelessness and the Lessons I Learned at the Event, One Night Without a Home. (2023, Feb 14). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/homelessness-and-the-lessons-i-learned-at-the-event-one-night-without-a-home/

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