Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt uneasy because of the presence of a stranger who is asking for help. Have you ever walked down a street and seen a man, woman or child begging for money? Have you ever caught yourself looking away or ignoring that person because you feel uncomfortable or conflicted. I know for fact I have. Everyone in this world deals with homelessness in some kind of way, regardless if it’s yourself, a loved one or just simply passing them on the street. We have all come to experience it, or have felt it in some way. The homeless community has been a big part of my life, especially the past couple of years. I have seen the effects of homelessness and what it does to a person through a person who is very close to me; My brother. He has been in and out of the struggle of homelessness, and as hard it is to admit, I still look away from those from my community asking me for help.
It’s hard not to look at homelessness and jump to conclusions on why they are there in the first place. It’s difficult not to look at this problem and blame it on other self inflicted causes. Realizing these thoughts, several questions were brought to my attention. Who are the homeless and what lead them to become homeless? Is it because they simply cant find a job or is it addiction or is there an underlying factor that takes a big part in homelessness that we don’t know about? How many of them are there and is the homeless community growing?
According to the Department of Workforce Services, in order to measure this population, community leaders must rely on a variety of data sources to inform them about trends, demographics and outcomes. One of these sources is the HUD-mandated Point-in-Time (PIT) count. The PIT is a physical count of all homeless people who are living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and on the streets on a single night. This count is conducted annually in Utah during the last week in January and provides a snapshot of homelessness on a single night. The data gathered from the PIT not only better inform community leaders and providers about whom they serve and the difference they make, but also indicates where Utah stands in it’s work to help those experiencing homelessness relative to the nation as whole.
The people within in this homeless community are very diverse, but most are homeless for the same reasons. These reasons being, drug abuse, economic turmoil, addiction and social downfall. Homelessness effects every race, age, income, childhood, and mental heath status.
Illicit drug use and abuse falls off sharply in homeless persons over fifty, but this has increased with the aging of the younger generation of heavy drug users. (Department of Workforce Services) The reason a person with poor physical health is more likely to become homeless is the lack of public healthcare. Also finding a job with both physical and mental disabilities can be extremely be difficult or nearly impossible, because often times the simplest of jobs require physical capabilities or critical social skills that are often times missing with this demographic group of people. Once homeless, its hard to get your things together and to pick up and leave your community. Unfortunately, in the United States and around the world, it is seen as close to impossible to break the cycle of homelessness. This is due to these people often loosing touch of reality, leading to a break in personal routine, a loss of aspiration, and often times dependency on illicit drugs. This is also known was Chronically Homeless.
According to the Department of Workforce Services an adult individual or adult member of a family is considered to be chronically homeless when he/she has a disability and has been continuously homeless for a year, or has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years. (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) This population experiences a variety of health and social challenges, including substance abuse, mental health disorders, criminal records, and extended periods of unemployment. These challenges can pose significant barriers to maintaining stable housing. At any given time, according to the 2015 PIT, about 5.9 percent of Utahans experiencing homelessness are considered to be chronically homeless. “People experiencing chronic homelessness cost the public between $30,000 and $50,000 per person per year through their repeated use of emergency rooms, hospitals, jails, psychiatric centers, detox, and other crisis services…” (United States Interagency Council on Homelessness)
Not only can individuals become Chronically Homeless but families can too. These homeless families can vary from families of four to simply a single mother or father. National research suggests that families found in shelter generally have younger heads of households and that more than half the children living in shelters and transitional housing are under the age of five. (National Alliance to End Homelessness) The stress and challenges of homelessness often contribute to the break-up of families and adversely affect the development of children. (The National Center on Family Homelessness) Nationally, shelters and transitional housing programs supported about 157,000 families last year. (National Alliance to End Homelessness) Of those families, national data indicate between 70 percent and 80 percent exit homelessness to stable housing within six months. (National Alliance to End Homelessness) In Utah, 364 homeless families were identified during the 2015 PIT.
Its amazing to see the effects of homelessness and what it can do to a man, woman or a family. Its also amazing how the effects of homelessness can spread well beyond the person who is sleeping outside. Even though I wasn’t the one who was homeless, I feel that I still felt some of the pain while watching my brother go through it all. The biggest effect it had on me was the fact that I lost my brother. My family and I lost him for who was because of all of the hardship and anguish he had to go through. The person he is today is somebody I love and always.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Family Connection:Building Systems to End Family Homelessness.” 2013. United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Expanding Opportunities to House Individuals and Families Experiencing Homelessness through the Public Housing (PH) and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Programs Questions and
Answers( Q&As) September 2013.” September 2013. portal.Hud.Gov.
Utah Department of Workforce Services, Housing and Community Development Division State Community Services Office. Utah HMIS Data Support for Homeless Providers in Utah Point in Time Report. 29 June 2015. 23 September 2015.
The National Center on Family Homelessness. The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness. Needham, MA : The National Center on Family Homelessness, 2011.
The People Most of us Ignore by Marren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.