Homelessness is an umbrella term that refers to people who lack a fixed, permanent place to live and who are unable or unwilling to secure adequate housing. It includes both short-term and long-term housing inequities, as well as other factors such as poor health and a lack of social and economic resources to help individuals find suitable homes.
A broad range of definitions are used for homeless populations, but most generally define homelessness as the absence of stable, safe and adequate housing. This does not capture the full experience of homelessness, however, as it fails to account for the many other factors that make individuals vulnerable to becoming homeless in the first place, such as a lack of resources and the absence of assistance.
One common approach is to categorize all persons who are homeless into three groups: the chronically homeless, the episodically homeless and the formerly homeless. The chronically homeless are those who have had more than four periods of being unhoused in a calendar year. The episodically homeless are those who have experienced at least three periods of being without a place to call home in the last 12 months.
The number of homeless people has risen considerably in the United States over the past decade. This rise in the number of homeless people has been driven by a rise in the cost of housing. In many cities, the demand for affordable housing has increased so much that the average family must spend more than a third of its income on rent. This has created a cycle that makes it increasingly difficult for low-income households to find housing at prices they can afford.
In addition to the rising demand for housing, other causes of homelessness have also become more prominent in recent years. These include:
Speculation, privatization of civic services and urban “gentrification.”
Another significant cause of homelessness is the loss of employment. Often, a person’s ability to obtain a job is tied directly to their ability to pay the rent.
This is especially true for people who have been displaced due to natural disasters or conflict.
As a result, a number of studies have been conducted to examine the effects of these events on families and children. These studies have uncovered that a growing number of young people are being forced to live in unstable housing, which they cannot afford.
These studies have found that children are more likely to become homeless than adults. This is because they have a smaller household size and fewer financial resources to support themselves.
A related study found that youth who become homeless are more likely to be incarcerated and suffer from mental illness.
While the causes of youth homelessness are varied, they are most likely to be the result of a catastrophic life event or trauma, such as losing a loved one, a job or a domestic violence incident.
While the occurrence of homelessness in some communities is a matter of public concern, it remains a complex issue that requires attention by multiple stakeholders to address. The most effective solutions are ones that involve a combination of community-wide support, housing interventions and individual case management for those who are most at risk of experiencing homelessness.