Understanding Homelessness Essay

2308 words - 10 pages

An old man was curled up, sleeping on a grate on the side walk. Hisclothes were layered and dirty. His face looked weathered and was covered with dirt. He used a piece of cardboard for a blanket. Lying beside him was a plastic grocery bag which contained his belongings. I will never forget this sight. This was the first homeless person I had ever seen. I felt scared and helpless at the same time. I had never been in his world and he was probably dreaming about being in mine. I left Washington D.C. a few days later to return home to a warm house and a loving family. Meanwhile, he was probably searching for a way to find what I have.

America is filled with many people and many ...view middle of the document...

Something needs to be done.

Since 1976, homelessness has been on a steady rise ("Test on Homelessness Semi Advanced"). It has spread from the large cities into small towns all across America, even to Minnesota, in fact in our own city. The Bemidji community began seeing more and more homeless people sleeping on street corners and in parking lots. They wanted to do something. On January 15, 1988, the House of Hospitality opened in Bemidji (Meyerding). It was started by a husband and wife with the support of the community (Adelmann 1). This is a private nonprofit shelter, that provides a warm bed, counseling, and referrals for anyone who wants help ("A Temporary Emergency Shelter For The Homeless").

Homelessness is not a disease. It can not be spread from person to person. Anyone can become homeless. There are many causes for homelessness. Most often it is associated with alcoholism (Ahrens/Rauchberg). This is one cause, but there are many more. The wage erosion that has happened in America has made it impossible to survive on a minimum wage job (Ahrens/Rauchberg). This problem is being combated with the new increases in the minimum wage. Another cause is insufficient affordable housing ("Homeless America"). Many families can not afford six-hundred dollars a month for rent, which is the average cost for a three bedroom apartment in a large city in America today (Jessica).

There are also many cuts being made into the funding and programs designed to help the homeless (Ahrens/Rauchberg, pamphlet). No one wants to be homeless, but sometimes they need a little extra help to get back on their feet. Also illness can cause homelessness (Ahrens/Rauchberg, pamphlet). Staggering medical costs are sometimes overwhelming to people who just barely scrape by. For some people it is a matter of choice between next months rent or this weeks visit to the doctor ("Jessica", Interview). Mental illness is another cause of homelessness (Ahrens/Rauchberg, pamphlet). Many people think that most homeless are mentally ill. This was the case about thirty years ago, but with new programs and clinics started, these people are eligible for assistance and can be admitted into a program much easier than someone who is not mentally ill ("Jessica", Interview). Also an eviction, house fire, or a heat source breaking will force a family out of their home and into the streets or a nearby shelter (Meyerding, page 1 ) . Chemical dependence, as have already mentioned is a cause of homelessness, but in our fast changing society many kinds of drugs, including prescription drugs, are tearing families apart and putting them on the streets ("Homeless America", pamphlet). I think it is very important to point out that it is not always the male figure in the family that is the chemically dependent person. It could also be the female.

America is a fast paced place, and anyone who can not keep up seems to get left behind. The homeless people of America are not homeless because...

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