Homelessness, as the federal government defines it, is a situation in which an individual or family lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. It describes those living in cars, emergency shelters, transitional housing, or places not meant for habitation. There is no single cause of homelessness. Many people become homeless after losing a job or income, or because of increased expenses, divorce, mental health crises, domestic violence, eviction, or addiction. It is estimated that in 2021, on a single night, more than half a million Americans went homeless, which represents 0.2% of the U.S. population. Of those homeless people, 65% were sheltered and 35% were living on the streets. With the unforgiving effects of COVID-19, this number may be on the rise in 2022.
Homelessness has a big impact on the economic status of a country. This is because people without proper housing become more dependent on the country rather than being able to play a part in its development.
Some incorrectly associate crime with homelessness. The homeless are often presumed suspects of theft, vandalism, or looting, and other forms of robbery. Many people in America are more likely to feel unsafe while walking along a street that has homeless people, as compared to a street without. This is a notion that we need to get rid of completely. In my experience, most homeless people are friendly and need just a little of your help, no matter how little. Let us all try to embrace the fact that not all homeless people are into crime and we should treat them as friends who need a hand.
As much as we look at the negative impact of the homeless, it is only human to take a moment and think about what they go through. The weather has no pity on them: Cold nights, scorching sun, and heavy rainfall leave them with no place to take shelter. They endure trauma that comes with near-death occurrences, rape, and physical or verbal abuse from other people. Hunger, thirst, and worn-out clothing linger for days, months, or even an entire lifetime. Hygiene products and baby supplies are way out of their reach. This depressing and demoralizing situation makes it so hard to focus, function, and stay healthy. I have been there, and the struggle out there cannot be measured. I have been in a situation of full homelessness with no shelter, food nor clothing. Luckily, a well-wisher found me and held my hand till I was back on my feet again. You don’t know how it feels to be out there till you have been through it. I would like to plead with anyone who is able to assist in any way, however much or little: It’s gonna go a long way.
What measures can be taken to fight this menace? I believe we all have a role to play, whether individually, as a society, as organizations, or as the government. As individuals, we can continue offering assistance to our dear brothers and sisters on the streets, however much or little goes a long way. It’s commendable that organizations work day and night to provide clothing, drinking water, and food pantries that offer at least a single meal a day. The government should come up with better employment structures that ensure a proper and stable source of income for most citizens. Affordable housing programs will improve the situation enormously. All these efforts should also be appreciated by the individuals receiving assistance. They must be willing to work and put an effort into making this country a better place.
I wish all the best to everyone who reads this. No matter your situation, it will get better. Peace.