THEKEY FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE PERSISTENCE OF HOMELESSNESS
The causes of homelessness have inflicted a huge impact on the formation of the ongoing cycle of homelessness. Studies show that 1 in every 25 Americans has experienced homelessness. It is known through research that the most common causes are drug abuse, family violence, psychological problems, education level, and poverty. However, the leading causes are substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental illness. How does this affect women? And why has homelessness become a persistent cycle?
Topping the rapid growth of homelessness across all other population groups, women and children make up half of the population experiencing homelessness in America.
Even though the number of people experiencing homelessness has decreased, it is demonstrated through recent studies that there has been an increase in the number of domestic violence cases, which is the leading and most significant cause of homelessness among women. This has been the case for 1 in 30 women and children in the United States.
Regardless of age or gender, research shows that 42-80% of people experiencing mental health issues experience homelessness. A surprising fact is that female veterans are four times more likely to experience homelessness compared to non-veteran females. This is due to the lack of social support and resources, loneliness, and barriers to receiving treatment for injuries. This can then lead to mental health problems and substance abuse for these women which can result in chronic homelessness – when a person has experienced homelessness for more than a consecutive year. Overall, about 72% of women who experience homelessness face chronic homelessness.
Mental health plays a role in the cycle of homelessness due to its negative spiral in the lives of many. People with long-term psychological problems are more likely to develop mental illnesses such as depression, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, women are three times more likely to experience mental health problems, increasing their vulnerability to experiencing homelessness. Psychiatric problems can be heightened while experiencing homelessness, particularly when combined with drug use, creating a complex cycle of homelessness difficult to break.
In general, substance abuse is the most common cause of homelessness and among one of the leading causes of homelessness among women. About 40.9%of patients who enter an emergency room as a resultof substance-related issues end up in a shelter within the next 12 months. Seeking an escape, teens and (young) adults under the age of 50 tend to lean towards the use of drugs. A noticeable fact is that parental drug abuse directly affects female children which can lead them to drug abuse and homelessness in the future.
Once an addiction has started it can lead to troubled relationships and can cause a person to lose their job, which results in financial struggle. If there are overdue bills, this could result in the loss of their home and if troubled relationships exist, it may be difficult to gain financial support from friends or family, leading people in these situations to seek more substances as a means of escape.
Effective methods to break down these cycles
There are many ways society offers assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness. Among other resources, emergency shelters, transitional housing, and safe havens – which provide temporary housing – are the most prevalent. However, most require sobriety which can easily promote the cycle of homelessness in individuals unable to meet this condition. These are important ways of helping but the focus should rather be on making individuals experiencing homelessness functional members of society by addressing the root causes that lead to homelessness in the first place.
Since substance abuse is one of the leading causes of homelessness for over half of the population of people experiencing homelessness, the focus should be set on providing affordable or even free rehabilitation strictly for people experiencing homelessness to achieve sobriety and other health improvements. The US National Health Care for the Homeless Council supports this statement by showing the importance of addressing the root causes, emphasizing the need for effective treatment strategies using rehabilitation, mental health care, housing, medication, etc., instead of solely providing housing.
Another effective method in reducing homelessness is creating opportunities for individuals experiencing homelessness to set stages for them to start getting back on track – such as career pathways with benefits that include housing and homelessness assistance. This makes sure that their main focus will remain on their pathway allowing them to transition to housing once they are stable enough, drastically decreasing the chance of falling back into that cycle of homelessness.
In summary, people experiencing homelessness are at high risk of remaining in a cycle of homelessness which contributes to rising inequalities and prevention of social sustainability. The focus should not be just on getting these individuals off the streets, but more so on providing the necessary resources to allow them to ease back into society. These issues are not the responsibility of food or healthcare providers alone, but the responsibility of society as a whole. Policymakers, social managers, and the general public should all work together to assist people experiencing homelessness through coordinated efforts.