Homelessness reveals the horrific reality of life on the streets of United States. According to a recent report of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homeless population of the country has risen for the first time since 2010. The report has found that 553,742 people were homeless on a single night in 2017, a 0.7% increase over last year.
The HUD report also highlights the rise in the number of homeless veterans. The number of homeless veterans increased by 585 people between 2016 and 2017. This increase was driven by an increase in the unsheltered population for both genders. San Diego County has the 4th largest homeless population in the entire nation.
Homelessness is always assumed to be related with a mental illness, which creates a major roadblock in eradicating the overwhelming social problem. It also creates a barrier for the homeless person who wants to find work and is unable to do so which in turn leads them to stay unemployed and homeless. The Regional Task Force on the Homeless, which conducts the count, estimated just 14% of the unsheltered homeless in San Diego have a mental illness.
While everyone has some idea of what it means to be homeless, it is important to be precise. The HUD lists out four broad categories defining the homeless.
- People who are living in a place not meant for human habitation, in emergency shelter, in transitional housing, or are exiting an institution where they temporarily resided.
- People who are losing their primary nighttime residence, which may include a motel or hotel or a doubled up situation, within 14 days and lack resources or support networks to remain in housing.
- People who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, have no other residence, and lack the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.
- Families with children or unaccompanied youth who are unstably housed and likely to continue in that state.
The true measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The HUD and other government agencies collaborate with state and local partners to prevent and end homelessness across the country.
I read something interesting somewhere, giving money to the homeless is an economic crisis of the heart, a tug-of-war between the instinct to alleviate suffering and the knowledge that a donation might encourage, rather than relieve, the pain of the poor. The best help is a shelter not a dollar. If we drop change in a beggar’s hand without donating to a charity, we’re acting to relieve our guilt rather than underlying crisis of poverty. Handing out money is not an answer to the situation but being involved with an organization which is working towards betterment of the homeless and can ensure that the money is spent wisely is one of the steps we can take as a society.
Tanya Sawhney is a Freelance Journalist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Tanya Sawhney