Look around your house or your room. Now imagine packing everything you need for daily life into a single backpack that you can carry around with you. This is what people who are homeless must do everyday. They must be able to carry everything they own around with them. You must now rely on the charity of others and the donations that shelters receive and thus can pass out to you. Homelessness affects people of all ages, races, languages and education levels. It makes it difficult not just to find shelter, but to eat, dress and exercise properly, keep in touch with family and friends, and find a decent job. Learn more; help build the structure for moving beyond homelessness.
Homelessness occurs when people lack a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residency” (according to the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act). Poverty is one of the root causes of homelessness. When the poor can’t afford basic necessities like housing, food and health care, housing often gets sacrificed because it takes up most of a person’s income. In the most recent 2010 Connecticut Point-In-Time survey ‘rent problems’ was the most common reason provided for homelessness among both single adults and adults in families.
Factors that contribute to homelessness include decreasing employment opportunities and public assistance, limited health care access, domestic violence, mental illness, and substance abuse. Regardless of the causes, people who become homeless may face mental and emotional problems like anxiety and depression, behavioral problems like aggression and hostility, educational and learning difficulties, and injuries or illnesses related to hunger and lack of health care. On a social level, homeless individuals are often living without any support from family members or friends. They lack the resources we have in times of hardship (like a family member to turn to for emotional support or financial assistance) and are ostracized from society as a whole due to stereotypes and prejudices against them. These facts often perpetuate the problem of homelessness.
Exploring Homelessness on the Local Scene
Locally, there are over 700 individuals who sleep in homeless shelters or outdoors each night. In 2007, the Hartford Commission to End Homelessness implemented the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in the Capitol Region. This plan aims to create new partnerships between government agencies, non-profit, faith-based groups, property managers, and social service providers and ultimately bring permanent and supportive housing to the city’s homeless population.
Hartford also has a new initiative: a Street Newspaper called Beat of the Street. If you work around Hartford you may be approached to buy a Beat of the Street newspaper. Buy one! You can feel good about the expense. The newspapers are typically a dollar. However, the sellers buy the newspapers for a reduced price and they get to keep the profit.
From Local to Global
On local, national, and global levels, the issue of homelessness is directly related to poverty and the inability to afford secure housing. It is difficult to determine the number of homeless people in the U.S. because homelessness is sometimes temporary and studies do not always account for everyone living in shelters, the streets or from “house to house” or in other temporary arrangements.
According to estimates by the National Coalition for the Homeless, about 3.5 million people are homeless in the United States. Both the causes of homelessness and the resulting problems that occur on local and national levels occur on a global level as well. On a global level, homelessness and refugee situations are often the results of areas that are violence-stricken or prone to draught and food shortages. Homelessness is often concentrated in urban centers, in part because people may leave their rural homes seeking job opportunities in cities, but then are unable to find the supportive resources they seek.
There are many opportunities to get involved working to end homelessness on a local level. Getting informed about the issue (like you’re doing right now!) is a great start.
Hands On Hartford offers many ways to get involved with the issue of homelessness. Check the project calendar or search for opportunities that serve the homeless to find a service opportunity that fits your schedule and interest.
The above information was taken from the following sources. Click on the links to learn more: Sources: Hartford’s Journey Home: 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, 2007 Fact Sheet on Homelessness in Connecticut, National Coalition for the Homeless, Ct Reaching Home, CCEH