By Kimberly King
Homelessness is a complicated issue our society is plagued by. A result of a system-wide problem that has been perpetuated for decades; it has been a challenge to envision a society where homelessness can be eradicated. Strides towards this possibility are hindered by stigma, stereotypes and myths associated with homelessness. The types, common causes, intersections, and experiences of individuals facing homelessness are often overlooked. Although our society has taken steps to tackle this issue, such as through rapid rehousing programs, there is still much work to be done. A 2020 study by Barbara Duffield looks at reimagining how children and families can benefit from homeless assistance. This study piqued my interest in how our society can re-envisage the future of eradicating homelessness by taking a deeper look at the current responses and re-evaluating new ways to reshape for better solutions.
Let’s first examine the four types of homelessness:
These four types of homelessness are often a result of economic and socio-structural factors. It is not just one incident that results in experiencing homelessness, but rather a gradual trickling down of challenges that can quickly turn into a snowball effect. It is a process that starts from an initial state of small significance and builds upon itself, becoming larger, and also perhaps potentially dangerous or disastrous. Now take that understanding and apply it to experiencing homelessness. Looking at this chart, it is more than just one circumstance that results in experiencing homelessness:
Source: The Path Home “Myths & FAQS”
The types and causes of homelessness find themselves at the crossroads of these challenges as well:
Current solutions: What is being done?
With this background knowledge of the types, causes, and intersections of homelessness, let’s look at current solutions. Government agencies, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), have implemented tactics to tackle the issue of homelessness by outlining what categorizes as experiencing homelessness, including:
1.) assesses the level of homelessness an individual experiences
2.) Utilizes community resources, often funded by federal and state agencies, in order to
place one in short-term & long-term housing.
When looking at these solutions, there are gaps that unfortunately many individuals experiencing homelessness fall through. For instance, this reactionary system lacks connecting resources for people experiencing homelessness. Transportation, job stability, childcare, and consistent affordable housing are not always factored into rehousing programs (2020). If these factors are not accounted for, it can place an individual or a family into a cycle of experiencing homelessness. Another gap is that this form of response places a disadvantage of available assistance for children and families. Based on HUD’s definition of homelessness (which is utilized by many organizations and community resources), families that are living doubled up are less likely to be eligible for homeless assistance. However, agencies are not considering factors such as network impoverishment, or the financial strain that additional members place on a household (2018). This strain contributes to the cycle of poverty by inhibiting individuals from receiving adequate assistance. Overall, the solutions that are currently in place to address the issue of homelessness only provide selective, short-term solutions to a long-term circumstance.
How do we re-envision homelessness?
So, the question that still stands is how do we re-envision solutions to homelessness that includes children and families? Well, here are a few possible solutions that include:
Luckily, there are programs already leading the change! For instance, the Department of Education is utilizing the public education system to support families experiencing homelessness (ex. McKinney Vento Act of 1987). Also, the work of nonprofit organizations across the country, such as HOPES, are providing resources to families and educating them on their rights.
A future of stable housing and adequate living situations for all is possible. Our society can re-envisage the future of eradicating homelessness by taking a deeper look within, humanizing the experience of homelessness, and reshaping our current responses that are preventative rather than purely reactionary
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