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Homelessness: Causes and Solutions

Introduction

Contemporary social problems are not only a consequence of individual factors that do not depend on people, for instance, political fluctuations in the international arena but also the outcome of unreasonable and ineffective government practices. One of these issues is homelessness a phenomenon that is acutely felt in the modern United States. People who do not have a permanent place of residence and are forced to live on the street fall into the spectrum of the authorities’ attention, but a comprehensive solution to this problem, nevertheless, has not yet been found. As a result, concomitant issues are manifested in the community of those who have to survive in the absence of housing, for example, drug addiction and alcoholism. Addressing homelessness in America today is an important and responsible step to take. This problem should be resolved by influencing its causes and removing those constraints that impede the improvement of the situation. Educational programs and coping with the country’s opioid crisis are seen as potentially effective objectives to overcome homelessness, but creating affordable housing is the best solution to help people in need return to normal life.

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Homelessness and Its Causes

The problem of homelessness is acutely felt where, along with rich housing and developed infrastructure, some people have to live on the street. There are several reasons for this contrast across the country. According to Hobbes, housing that low-income families could afford has become unaffordable over the years due to the constant price rise. Rufo notes that, in Los Angeles, since 2011, the number of homeless citizens has increased by 15%, and in some regions, this figure reaches 25%. The real estate market, as dynamic and adaptive industry, responds to demand. As a consequence, with the emergence of widespread interest from high-income citizens, it becomes unprofitable to sell affordable housing, which, in turn, leads to the inability of many people to pay their rent. Individual districts and neighborhoods are becoming elite, properties are being bought out to accumulate profits in the long term, and not everyone can withstand this competition. As a result, under the influence of the trend of gentrification, when urban areas are ennobled and become elite, several citizens cannot afford housing, which forces them to lead a wandering lifestyle.

The issue of homelessness concerns not only those who live on the street but also those who have a permanent place of residence. According to the study conducted by Glynn and Fox, in such metros as Los Angeles, New York, Washington, and Seattle, “there exists a strong relationship between housing costs and homelessness” (575). No one is immune from the fact that, in conditions of a constant rise in the price of living standards, paying for utilities may become unavailable. Despite policymakers’ attempts to create conditions in which citizens can count on employment and stable earnings, the proceeds may not be enough to pay for housing, and the measures taken are ineffective. Therefore, although democratic values ​​and freedoms are promoted, class inequality can be a significant driver of homelessness that can affect almost everyone.

At the same time, despite the aforementioned statistics, one can note that the problem of homelessness is less widespread than it is perceived to be and can be overcome with effective measures. For instance, as Hobbes argues, “between 2012 and 2018, the number of people living on the streets declined by 11 percent nationwide,” which indicates positive shifts. Moreover, Khurshid and Gadnis provide an example of blockchain technology as a tool to track non-residents and provide them with timely assistance, including healthcare services (e10654). As a result, one of the positions is that homelessness can be overcome through constant supervision and increased social responsibility.

Nevertheless, even while taking into account the national statistics and potential decisions to implement digital control methods, the real facts about homelessness in large cities indicate a much more difficult situation. Homeless people often suffer from alcohol and drug addiction, which complicates their socialization. Another critical constraint is the predisposition to mental illnesses that progress in homeless people and maybe the cause of their poor living conditions. According to Rufo, about three-quarters of the homeless have mental health problems and at least one form of substance addiction. These statistics mean that this is crucial to address the issue in question not only through surveillance. The authorities should take urgent measures aimed to help the homeless to get an opportunity to pay for affordable housing and receive qualified help in dealing with mental health problems.

Potential Solutions

To solve the problem under consideration, the choice of the best working methods is an important task that can be implemented at different levels. As an alternative method for overcoming homelessness in the United States, discussing the issue within the current educational program can be potentially valuable. In addition, overcoming the existing opioid crisis caused by active pharmaceutical companies is an urgent step. The analysis of these solutions may help identify the specifics of the target work in these areas.

Education

The popularization of the problem of homelessness in the educational environment can be an effective solution to create an understanding of the issue in the young audience. In addition, this step may contribute to promoting the importance of helping those who find themselves in difficult life situations. Hallett et al. consider cooperation with homeless liaisons as a mechanism for involving students in targeted social work and participation in projects and programs dedicated to public awareness (90). Moreover, the discussion of the issue with primary school students is also seen as an efficient solution contributing to the popularization of the problem and the formation of social responsibility among young citizens. According to Kim, “over 25% of families experiencing homelessness have children” (820). This means that understanding peer problems can raise awareness of the challenges of homelessness among young pupils. As Cronley et al. state, promoting this knowledge in education can help educate future social workers and practitioners who will understand the range of difficulties and gaps and make efforts to address them (S16). Therefore, such initiatives can be seen as potentially viable solutions to address.

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However, to provide a worthy resistance to the trend of homelessness, many years need to pass before children can grow up and help in fighting against this issue. In addition, modern curricula are coordinated at different levels, and the inclusion of additional subjects and courses in the learning process may not be approved by the Ministry of Education. As a result, the popularization of the problem among students has relevance as a factor in the dissemination of knowledge about homelessness, but from the standpoint of efficiency, few real outcomes can be achieved.

Coping with the Opioid Crisis

From the standpoint of efficiency, the fight against the opioid crisis is a more valuable solution to implement than popularizing the problem of homelessness in the educational process. Moreover, not only in the United States but also in other countries, people feel the relevance of this issue that has more severe implications on human health. According to Mendez, substance overdose is the most common cause of death in homeless people. Controlling the release and distribution of opioid-based drugs may help reduce the influence of pharmaceutical companies. In pursuit of profit, they supply the market with a wide range of hazardous substances, and Daniulaityte et al. compare the current situation with the epidemic (1785). Moreover, Boyajyan argues that “about 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from a severe mental illness,” and one of the reasons for this is drug addiction (8). Pharmaceutical companies need to be held accountable and restrict the distribution of readily available opioid-based drugs to ensure that they do not enter the market freely. This can be done through class action lawsuits, attracting the authorities’ attention, and other measures involving massive interference.

At the same time, even with potential constraints, a decision to curb the activities of pharmaceutical companies may not have the intended effect on homelessness. Many corporations are accountable to the government and contribute greatly to the treasury through tax payments. The loss of a significant market share is fraught with losses, which is unacceptable in conditions of economic competition. In terms of the impact on mental health, not all homeless people are ready to accept their problem, and even if the sale of opioid drugs is limited, many of these citizens will be able to find access to them in the illegal market. Moreover, as Boyajyan remarks, few people without a permanent place of residence can afford comprehensive and effective drug addiction treatment due to financial challenges (10). These restraints are objective reasons for finding a more effective solution to the problem of homelessness.

Creating Affordable Housing: The Best Solution

Creating affordable housing is a key objective that the authorities need to strive for to overcome the problem of homelessness and provide people in need with an opportunity to count on permanent residence. This decision can have different forms of implementation and should not be associated with colossal spending from the federal budget. For instance, Jackson et al. suggest paying attention to tiny homes that, despite their size, can be an alternative to housing lost due to financial hardship and debts (661). In modern metros, this is possible to realize such an idea, and today, there are examples of special camps in which formerly homeless people have a chance to count on a roof over their heads and minimal amenities. Olson notes that in Los Angeles, in 2019, more than $538 million was spent on solving the issue of homelessness, which, however, did not bring the desired result due to mainly legislative rather than practical solutions. Therefore, the construction of special residential complexes is one of the forms of the program aimed to create affordable housing.

The provision of assistance to the target population in the form of subsidies and vouchers should be expanded at the legislative level. According to Elder and King, today, the bulk of the funds goes to people with disabilities, veterans, older adults, and large families (402). Nonetheless, to address the problem of homelessness, more funds need to be channeled, taking into account individual cases. As Olson highlights, “homelessness is not an illness that can be cured, rather a symptom of gentrification, different physical and mental ailments, inefficiencies of governance, or sheer bad luck.” People who have lost their permanent place of residence for reasons beyond their control, for instance, the unfortunate coincidence of circumstances or fraudsters’ actions, have the right to count on the support of the state. Caring for the population involves not only the provision of healthcare, legal, and other services but also the protection of life. Therefore, subsidizing and providing housing choice vouchers are crucial initiatives to maintain a sustainable system of helping special cases, which, in turn, can support people with limited incomes in difficult life situations.

Leveraging the maximum available resources to reduce the cost of creating affordable housing is one of the opportunities to realize to combat homelessness successfully. Katz notes that gentrification causing people to lose their homes in large cities reflects economic hardships that citizens cannot overcome (2293). In this regard, the author proposes to use those resources that do not require great financial investments, for instance, to promote “scattered-site programs” and use already available land instead of full-scale construction (Katz 2293). As a result, homeless people can count on housing at significantly lower prices than those in the market, which have risen significantly due to gentrification.

Affordable housing programs can be challenged based on both economic and social constraints. For instance, Olson notes that in the media, homeless people are often portrayed as morally devastated people with persistent addictions and criminal inclinations. However, the lifestyle they lead is rarely voluntary, and the aforementioned reasons are the drivers of both behavioral and mental problems. Another potential counterargument is the fact that measures to create affordable housing are being taken regularly, and both legislative and practical activities are underway. However, according to Olson, in Los Angeles Country, about 45,000 people remain homeless, while in 2019, the figure was approximately 59,000. This means that, despite the authorities’ activities, the issue cannot be eliminated shortly. Therefore, the more actively affordable housing is built and offered, the higher the chances of overcoming homelessness and helping people in need.

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Conclusion

To overcome such an acute social problem as homelessness, relevant solutions can be implemented, but the most effective of them is creating affordable housing. This measure aims to help homeless people with buying or renting housing through subsidies, vouchers, and engagement programs. The issue of homelessness is dangerous because almost no one is immune from it, and the trend of gentrification exacerbates the situation by creating a tense situation in the real estate market and affecting prices. Moreover, such severe factors as mental illnesses and alcohol and drug addictions are concomitant challenges. As alternative solutions, the discussion of the problem at the educational level and the fight against the opioid crisis may be proposed. However, both of them can be ineffective and do not have the desired effect on the situation. Despite various social or economic constraints, creating affordable housing is seen as the most meaningful solution to implement to help homeless people and address one of the most pressing urban problems.

References

Boyajyan, Karapet. The Painkiller Crisis: An Evaluation of the Effects of the Opioid Epidemic on the Homeless Population in the United States. 2019. MPA thesis.

Cronley, Courtney, et al. “Homelessness from a Holistic Paradigm: Bridging Gaps in Curriculum Through Supplemental Education Opportunities.” Journal of Social Work Education, vol. 56, no. 1, 2020, pp. S16-S27.

Daniulaityte, Raminta, et al. “Methamphetamine Use and Its Correlates Among Individuals with Opioid Use Disorder in a Midwestern US City.” Substance Use & Misuse, vol. 55, no. 11, 2020, pp. 1781-1789.

Elder, Jen, and Ben King. “Housing and Homelessness as a Public Health Issue: Executive Summary of Policy Adopted by the American Public Health Association.” Medical Care, vol. 57, no. 6, 2019, pp. 401-405.

Glynn, Chris, and Emily B. Fox. “Dynamics of Homelessness in Urban America.” The Annals of Applied Statistics, vol. 13, no. 1, 2019, pp. 573-605.

Hallett, Ronald E., et al. Addressing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity in Higher Education: Strategies for Educational Leaders. Teachers College Press, 2019.

Hobbes, Michael. “Why America Can’t Solve Homelessness.” HuffPost, 2019. Web.

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Jackson, April, et al. “Exploring Tiny Homes as an Affordable Housing Strategy to Ameliorate Homelessness: A Case Study of the Dwellings in Tallahassee, FL.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 2, 2020, p. 661.

Katz, Mitchell H. “Homelessness – Challenges and Progress.” JAMA, vol. 318, no. 23, 2017, pp. 2293-2294.

Khurshid, Anjum, and Ashish Gadnis. “Using Blockchain to Create Transaction Identity for Persons Experiencing Homelessness in America: Policy Proposal.” JMIR Research Protocols, vol. 8, no. 3, 2019, p. e10654.

Kim, Jinhee. “Homelessness as Difficult Knowledge in Early Childhood Education.” Early Childhood Education Journal, vol. 48, no. 6, 2020, pp. 815-823.

Mendez, David. “Overdose Deaths Increase Among LA’s Unhoused as Opioid Use Spreads.” Spectrum News 1, 2021. Web.

Olson, Olivia. “Crisis on the Streets: Homelessness in Los Angeles County.” University of Southern California, 2020. Web.

Rufo, Christopher. “Homelessness in America: An Overview.” The Heritage Foundation, 2021. Web.

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