Homelessness has continued to be the most evident forms of systematic failure within the American society. For a long time, the majority of homeless people were simply individuals but the harsh economic conditions within the country have made more families and children homeless as well. This raises a big issue considering that 42% of these children are aged six years and below.
Seventy-five percent of homeless children are of elementary school going age. This has created a need for policy intervention, which can make it possible for these homeless people to live a more comfortable life that is free of upheavals.
These policy interventions must adequately deal with housing, psychological and social needs that cannot be accessed by homeless persons. Teachers should also be trained to deal with problems experienced by homeless schoolchildren in order to ensure counseling.
The issue of homelessness in America is one that has proved to be a big challenge to policy makers and social systems. Homelessness has become one of the most visible signs of failure as regards efficient planning, which burdens cities and state governments in America.
A homeless person is the one that cannot access a regular and fixed residence (Herbert, 1976). This paper is going to highlight the problem of homelessness, policy frameworks and policy recommendations that can help deal with this challenge.
The Problem of Homelessness
The phenomenon of homelessness has been found to be more prevalent in urban areas than in rural areas of America because of large numbers of people residing within these urban settlements. This has created a burden on the system, which has made it difficult for some people to find decent accommodation and shelter that can cater for their needs.
The increase in population being experienced has made it difficult for urban authorities to construct decent shelter for large numbers of people needing accommodation. This has had an effect of pushing many to the streets thereby increasing the number of people within America who cannot afford rent or buy good housing units.
It is estimated that the majority of those who are homeless live in central cities and they constitute 71% of all the people who are homeless in America (Drake, 2002). Twenty-one percent of the homeless live in suburbs while the remaining portion lives in rural areas of America.
This issue therefore requires a strong participation by the federal government and other state governments to come up with ways in which these challenges can be addressed.
The homeless do not enjoy any dignity as a result of deprivation and poor conditions, which they face and are a stark reminder of the torment they have to undergo just to survive. The homeless people living in rural areas of America face difficulties in finding shelter and they are exposed to various harmful weather conditions that are a threat to their health.
The major causes of homelessness have been found to be economically related. This means that homelessness results from job loss, unemployment and poverty. All these factors make it difficult for a number of people to afford decent housing and as a result, they are faced with difficult circumstances forcing them to become homeless.
It is estimated that the number homeless people in America increased by 20,000 from 2008 to 2009 translating to an increase of about 3%.
This means that if the number of people who find themselves deprived of decent shelter remain unchecked, there could be bigger implications that the society might have to care for (Radin, 2000). The homeless in the country can be categorized into families, individuals, unsheltered and deprived children. All these groups form a significant segment of people who cannot access shelter in America.
The majority of states in the country have had an increase in the number of people who are homeless, with the largest number being registered in Louisiana. The consequence of homelessness is a social issue that America cannot continue to ignore. The condition threatens the dignity of some Americans in a country that is reputed to have the strongest economy in the world.
A worrying trend is that the number of family households that are homeless has increased and this is a situation that should be redressed as fast as possible. The homeless families increased by more than 3200 households between 2008 and 2009, with the majority of these being in Mississippi. These families are larger in number, which has created a major challenge to the social systems within the country.
Several homeless people live in the streets, where they cannot access basic shelter. This creates a problem that is hard to deal with. It is estimated that four out of ten homeless persons in the country cannot access good shelter and live in places that are not fit for human habitation. These exposes such people to various security and health risks making the conditions that they live in hazardous to their wellbeing.
They are likely to be exposed to cold weather and rain, which can make them acquire chest infections such as pneumonia. They are also exposed to vices and the possibility of bodily harm from criminals who may perpetrate acts of violence against them. Some of these people can be easily lured into criminal activities thereby creating social problems to the society.
The economic hardships that were experienced within the US economy because of the recent recession contributed high levels of homelessness in the country. The majority of homeless persons in the country cannot access public social services in form of healthcare, education and shelter, making them not to fit within the context of American society.
The homeless are not able to access preventive remedies that can be effective in making them not susceptible to diseases because of the risks that exist within the environment. Homeless people cannot get routine check ups for diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer because they lack medical insurance.
The health system within the country does not offer ways in which they can be able to access health services at an affordable cost.
The homeless are more likely to be admitted to emergency rooms in hospitals for acute illnesses, which make them stay longer in health facilities compared to other Americans from low-income groups.
This is because they are not able to get preventive care to the health conditions that they face, making it difficult for them to recover quickly from acute illnesses. The mortality rates of the homeless are higher compared to those of other population segments, with their life expectancies being estimated to be below 45 years.
This makes the mortality rate of the homeless people living in America to be more than four times higher than that of the rest of the population living in the country. The harsh conditions that the homeless experience within their environment make them predestined to a shorter life cycle in comparison to other people within the country (Kuhlman, 1994).
The phenomenon of homelessness in the country has also brought about problems to children who are more vulnerable to dangers that emanate from horrifying lifestyles. It is estimated that one out of every fifty children in America are homeless because of several problems that exist within families.
This drives these children out of their homes. The children are driven out of their homes mainly because of parental neglect and abuse hence forcing them to the streets. Most of these children are exposed to depression, violence and anxiety, which affect their character when they become adults. Some are tempted to engage in criminal activities and other undesirable vices.
Texas, Louisiana and Georgia have the highest number of homeless children in America. This is because of destruction of property and loss of lives caused by Hurricane Katrina. The increasing number of homeless children affects social welfare programs that exist across different states in the country. Since it is estimated that forty-two percent of children are below years.
This makes their educational and healthcare needs limited compared to children from other families. These numbers create a terrifying situation for the country because there might be a higher number of homeless children in future because of inadequate budgetary and social support needed to eradicate the problem.
Some children are exposed to various forms of abuse when they are homeless, ranging from sexual abuse, drug abuse, initiation to crime and sexual violence. These children are exposed to an environment whereby such vices are common and as a result, they are likely to be psychologically and emotionally affected as they grow up.
Girls are at a higher risk of being sexually abused, and are more vulnerable because they are weaker and may not be able to defend themselves adequately.
Such girls may become pregnant at a very young age making it difficult for them to access job opportunities that they can depend on to sustain themselves and their children. This creates a situation where more people are not able to acquire quality shelter leading to prevalence of homeless families in the country.
There is a possibility of homeless children becoming juvenile delinquents. The justice system can be burdened with cases of criminal acts committed by minors hence creating social problems for the country. The high levels of violence and criminal acts experienced by the homeless may embolden them to become craftier as far as survival techniques and crime are concerned.
It has been noted that victims of physical or sexual violation are more likely to turn out more violent, especially if they do not receive any form of counseling (Kraft, & Furlong, 2010). Children develop sadistic instincts, which justify the use of violence to acquire any form of material possession without any regard to the likely consequences of their action.
The chronic homeless people should be supported to access housing services as quickly as possible so that they can be protected from vagaries of nature. The homeless policies nationwide must be structured to deal with the first time homeless people in order to help them settle as quickly as possible before they can be offered ways in which they can rebuild their lives.
Some homeless people are known to suffer from serious conditions of alcoholism and drug abuse and as such, they must be housed within shelters from which they can be offered health services (Kusmer, 2003). A combined health and housing plan help such addicts to recover quickly and help them live a positive life with a roof over their heads.
There are a number of solutions to the problem of homelessness such as political, perceptual and personal solutions. Perceptual policy is more costly and time consuming because it relates to changing the views of members of society. As an alternative, the policy is applicable only after solving political problems.
Personality policy is another alternative to the problem but it is more specific meaning that individuals themselves can come up with ideas on how to improve their lives. Community-based organizations can help individuals accomplish personal missions. Political solutions are more important because they consist of governmental action. It is about coming up with sound policies that aim at eliminating the problem.
It takes place in government that is, in the legislature, judiciary or executive. In this paper, more emphasis will be put on the executive branch because it is concerned with public policy.
The government must come up with policies that guarantee affordable housing, timely prevention and rapid re-housing plans, all-inclusive mental health services and increased social help (Drake, 2002). Policy makers from government are the only officers charged with designing all public programs.
State agencies must formulate key policies and legislations that aim at eradicating homelessness. The intention of homelessness legislation is to facilitate eradication of homelessness and reduce the load that lead to homelessness. For instance, the “No Child Left behind Act”, which was approved in 2001 ensures that schools do not discriminate homeless children by coming up separate classes.
In fact, it is a criminal offence to exercise discrimination against homelessness. Besides, one of the key aims of the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act was to put off schools from keeping out learners who could not provide contacts of their houses.
The Chronic Homelessness Initiative Act created by Bush aimed at ending persistent homelessness by the year 2012.
To help in realizing this objective, the head of state collaborated with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to form a plan that helps homeless persons obtain shelter and employment in quite a few communities. The tenets of the policy should be implemented fully to guarantee homeless people security.
In conclusion, homelessness is a social problem that has to be dealt with in order to ensure the American society does not suffer negative consequences. There should be effective policies that deal with the issue of homelessness comprehensively. Homelessness is an issue that policy makers have tried to handle in many years. However, the solutions and policies have not been conducive to the homeless people.
The Bush’s regime tried to solve the issue by coming up with a policy aimed at preventing segregation and discrimination of the homeless children. The Obama regime established another policy referred to as no child left behind, although it was not successful at the start.
Overall, affirmative action should be taken to guarantee equality in society. The problem of homelessness can be solved in case policy makers pay attention to the existing policy frameworks.
Drake, H. (2002). Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Herbert, S. (1976). Administrative Behavior (3rd ed.). New York, NY: The Free Press.
Kraft, M., & Furlong, R. (2010). Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives (3rd ed.). New York, NY: CQ Press.
Kuhlman, L. (1994). Psychology on the streets: mental health practice with homeless persons. New York: J. Wiley & Sons.
Kusmer, L. (2003). Down and Out, On the Road: The Homeless in American History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Radin, B. (2000). Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Comes of Age. Georgetown: Georgetown University Press