Homeless is a situation in which people lack a permanent, safe and adequate place to live. People may experience homelessness for a variety of reasons including a loss of employment, eviction from a tenancy or other housing issue. Many people also slip into homelessness as a result of poverty, domestic violence or health issues. In addition, a large number of homeless people are children and youths. It is believed that around 4 million Americans are homeless or living in temporary shelters. While skid rows have been a feature of urban centres for decades, in recent years, homelessness has spread to suburban and rural areas as well.
The definition of homelessness is complex and the numbers are difficult to estimate accurately. Despite this, there is a growing body of academic literature on the subject. The chapter begins by examining the various methods used to count homeless people and discusses the socio-demographic characteristics of this group. It then considers the impact of homelessness on individual and family health. This is followed by an examination of specific subpopulations such as adult individuals, families with children, runaway and throwaway youths and those in rural areas.
A growing body of evidence supports the view that homelessness is a complex phenomenon with many causes. It is therefore important to understand the many factors that can lead to a person becoming homeless. In particular, it is vital to realise that there are multiple causes of homelessness and that the problem can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing.
There are a range of interventions that can be used to help people out of homelessness, but it is important that they are tailored to the needs of the individual. This will ensure that the most effective approach is taken and avoids duplication of effort. It will also be essential to recognise that there are a number of barriers that prevent people from accessing support services and preventing them from being helped out of homelessness.
Providing food, drink and toiletries to homeless people is a popular way of showing your concern and can make a real difference. There are a number of organisations that you can donate to, such as the Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services Corporation which offers housing assistance, treatment referrals and employment services. Alternatively, you could recycle your old clothing and other textiles with GrowNYC who offer a smart alternative to the 46 million pounds of clothes New Yorkers throw away each year by reusing them in the form of new items for the homeless.
It is essential that States use their maximum available resources to eliminate homelessness and that they take measures aimed at protecting the rights of people in this situation. This will enable them to fulfil their obligations under national and international human rights law. This obligation extends to ensuring that every person has access to housing that is fit for purpose and affords protection of their privacy and dignity. In this respect, the chapter reviews the international standards and norms relevant to this issue.