Some topics are hard to understand. For us, one of those topics is homelessness. A lot of the time, we use the phrase without thinking of all of the implications, history, and effects it has on our society. As an organization that helps low-income communities, it is essential we understand what the term homelessness means.
City Lab has recently released an extensive article titled, Understanding Homelessness in America. This article was a great reminder of who we are as a community, where we came from, and where we have to go.
Homelessness became more widely known after the Civil War. Although common before, the number of people who became homeless after the war became larger, making it a larger issue. Veterans and former-enslaved peoples had no home to return to. With no legislation or policy supporting people who are homeless, the criminalization of poverty began. People could be arrested for being homeless.
In the 1950s, the attitude towards homelessness changed. Affordable housing units started popping up and more organizations were paying attention to the needs of people who were homeless. More social services became available to help with the wellbeing of those in need. In the next few decades due to redlining, discrimination, and different economic-political plans, more people lost their homes or were born into homelessness.
There is a *very* brief history of homelessness. Now a question I had, and you might as well, is how we count the population of people who are homeless. HOME, Inc. personally found this out last year as some of our employees went on a Point in Time count (and they wrote a blog about it, link below). Now, this count is not perfect as people might be staying at a friend’s house, assisted living, or they just miss people.
Still today, discrimination is seen within housing, even low-income housing, as African Americans experience homelessness at five times the rate of white people. One in five transgender people has been homeless at some point in their life.
Today there are a lot of causes of homelessness. Generational poverty, loss of materials, loss of connections to family, loss of health, domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness are the most common causes of people resulting in homelessness.
Most funding to support those who are fighting homelessness comes from the Housing and Urban Development Office (HUD). HUD funnels money into a Continuum of Care which helps distribute funds based on the needs of the region. Other nonprofits help people who are homeless, like us here at HOME, Inc.
Homelessness has always been part of our nation and our society. But, by knowing and understanding the background of this social struggle, we can change it. We can provide support, understanding, and housing for a better and equitable future.
A point in time count: https://www.homeincdsm.org/point-in-time-a-homeless-count/
Racist housing: https://www.homeincdsm.org/undesign-and-racist-housing/