Homelessness in the United States

Homelessnessin the United States

Homelessnessin the United States

Homelessnessis a complex social matter caused by a wide array of factors such asfamily relationships, drug abuse, mental illness, economic issues,alcoholism, and the lack of affordable housing just to mention a few.Often, homeless people lack a permanent night residence, eithersleeping at a welfare hotel, a friend’s place, public or privateshelter designed for accommodation or to the worst sheltering in thestreets due to neglect or conflicts (Curtiset al., 2013).Homelessness is an issue that has affected the United States for along time now, and it would be best to understand its causes,effects, severity, and interventions in place to avert the tragedy.Besides, the impact of the media on how the public perceive thesituation is far reaching as much as it offers a fertile platform forscrutinizing the challenges of homelessness. This paper delves toexplain the scenario of homelessness in the U.S it provides abackground of the topic of study as well as the impact of the mediaon public perception on homelessness.


Causesof Homelessness

Thereare many causes of homelessness in the United States with the leadingfoundation being the lack of affordable housing and insufficienthousehold income thus the inability to acquire a shelter at personaland or family level. Approximately 10.3 million renters had very lowincomes in 2012 as established by the Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment while only 5.8 million rental units were available forthe 10 million individuals who could afford unfortunately, only 31out of 100 of the then affordable houses were available for thelow-income earners (Grantet al., 2013).Secondly, foreclosure crisis also contributes to the problem ofhomelessness and a majority of those who face eviction are rentingfamilies renters are becoming the majority population of the U.Sand, thus, many people are predicted to become homeless in the futureif the issue of foreclosure is not addressed. Besides, domesticviolence is another factor that has significantly contributed tohomelessness especially among the women who encounter family warswhich lead to breakups or divorces together with the persistentlyhigh rates of unemployment, poverty, immigration, the problem ispredicted to worsen over time among families. Similarly, people whoare unaccompanied experience homelessness as a result of mentalillness, drug abuse, alcoholism, unemployment, poverty, and theinsufficient affordable housing (Curtiset al., 2013).

Effectsof Homelessness

Theeffects of homelessness on the victims cannot be overwritten as thesegroup o individuals are seen to isolate themselves from others, andtheir health is never in good shape due to the frustrations resultingfrom the lack of a home. Regarding health, homeless people worsenover time because they are accorded limited attention by the peoplearound including the family members, doctors, and even thegovernment being attended to is a necessity for a comfortable lifeand the homeless are naturally discriminated upon by the deprivationof these necessities. Consequently, the U.S has recorded risingtrends of cold injury, cardio-respiratory illness, skin disease,mental illness, drug dependency, physical and or sexual abuse,nutritional deficiency, mortality, HIV/AIDS, and lack of sleep amongthe homeless subjects (Grantet al., 2013).In terms of personality, the homeless, under the frustration ofmissing shelter, have been reported to lose self-esteem, becomeinstitutionalized, invest in substance use, and develop behavioralproblems. Furthermore, such individuals lose the ability and will toself-care and are likely to engage in abuse and violence as well asbecoming part of other social crimes like stealing and burglary lifehas nothing substantial to offer and, therefore, they see no value tokeep to the norms and societal expectations (Curtiset al., 2013).


ByJanuary 2014, about 578,424 residents of the U.S experiencedhomelessness, either sleeping outside, in emergency accommodation ora transitional housing program this was, however, a small reductionfrom the previous years as a result of the economic recovery from theearlier great recession. Statistically, the decrease was by 2.3%among each subpopulation with the overall homeless percentages forthe unsheltered individuals, families, chronically homeless, andveterans marked at 10, 2.7, 2.5, and 10.5% in that order. 34 statesof the country registered decreasing homelessness trend while 17recorded the reverse trend the national rate of homelessness reducedto 18.3% homeless per 10,000 subjects in the overall population, withthe rate in individual states ranging from 120 in Washington to 7 inMississippi area. Although the trend seems to be falling, the period2015 to 2016 has reflected a steady rise in the incidences ofhomelessness due to increased levels of poverty reflected in theinability to afford to the house strategies must, therefore, be putin place to address the problem.


Eachyear, U.S communities carry out a housing inventory count inconcurrently with the point-in-time count to itemize emergingshelter, fixed supporting housing, temporary housing, and re-housingof beds as from 2013. In January 2015, they reported about 805,791beds availed for homeless individuals, with permanent supportinghousing harboring a majority of the beds (39.6%) while emergencyshelter and temporary shelter had 32.8% and 20.0% of the bedsrespectively and re-housing beds constituted 7.5%(Witte, 2012).In addition to the initiatives of the communities, the federalgovernment budget considers the homeless, and in 2015, $ 4.5 was setaside for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),Health and Human Resource Department, and Department of Education tohelp the homeless in creating affordable shelters. Furthermore, theNational Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) formulated a federalpolicy to support the victims and spread awareness of the conditionthis body works to enhance the effectiveness of the relevant programssuch that low-income families and unaccompanied youth are saved theburden of homelessness (Witte,2012).Although the attempts are helping to alleviate the challenge, moregovernment interventions are required to completely solve theconundrum and save the U.S populations the risks related to healthand personality that follow the homelessness.

Impactsof the Media on Homelessness

Thissection analyzes how the media represents homelessness in the UnitedStates because as it is mostly argued, the media is the most criticalplayer in the construction of the problem how homelessness is viewedand what it causes are essential ingredients to policy formulation.When viewed positively, media can be said to be very instrumental incovering the social problems that encounter the society, in thiscase, those who are homeless and in need of serious attention and itis such stories in the magazines, newspapers, television, and othersocial media that compel the government to act fast (Richter,2012).For example, the news article by Johnson(2015) inReuters provides in-depth coverage of homelessness in the U.S, layingout a hurting fact that America houses more than 500, 000 homelesspeople with a quarter of the number being children due to thescarcity of affordable housing. It proceeds to clarify that HUDreported a reduction in that population in comparison to the previousyears but persisted because the country still suffered from the sloweconomic recovery and a large number of lowest-income earners. Itfurther reports that about 565,000 people lived in the streets incars, subsidized transitional housing, and homeless shelters andthat the majority of this population was children under the age of 18years above all, the news specifies that the statistics provided bythe HUD is inaccurate. If this newspaper is critically assessed witha positive mind, it can be a great pillar in the formulation ofstrategies that can help control homelessness in one way, mediaworks as a tool for solving a social problem.

However,not everybody will interpret the assertions in Reuters as ethicalbecause people were not evaluated in terms of their views but rather,in numbers that is discriminating for some who don’t wish to beturned into numbers. Although the numerical may have beeninformative, readers often desist from concentrating on mattersrelated to homelessness, affordable housing, and poverty numbers arenot considered impactful as no human aspect is attached to numericalto make them relatable (Richter,2012).When media posts that the poor has been with us since time memorialand people ought to be cared for to solve the problem of homelessnessas seen in RT International news article by Munos(2016),the reader is likely to feel being viewed as a financially challengedfellow and that results in the negative personality development.

Inother words, the media presents excellent stories that can inspiresomebody, but that is diluted by the moments in which individuals arenegatively portrayed as living on the streets and lost in drugspeople thus assume the presence of such people stereotyped already.

Entertainmentmedia has also presented impracticable view of what to expect fromthe otherwise struggling homeless individuals here, they are relayedas crazy or on drugs these depictions corrupt the minds of peoplewho only focus on an individual who is homeless and forget the factthat this is an extension of a population that needs seriousinterventions. However, the worst damage is seen in the use of socialmedia in which the homeless people are scenically and ironicallytreated as comics and their pictures, the stereotyping ones included,are shared in the media (Richter,2012).Indeed, the media may be an excellent site for utilization by thesociologists who wish to comprehend the concepts of homelessnesshowever, the general public is more likely to misinterpret thecontents, and that would end up in stereotype behavior.


Homelessnessis a complex social matter caused by a wide array of factors such asfamily relationships, drug abuse, mental illness, economic issues,alcoholism, and the lack of affordable housing and with adversehealth and personality effects. Although its severity has slightlyfallen in the United States, the levels are still high and must becorrected through such strategies like community engagement andgovernment policies such as setting aside some amount of money fromthe national budget to fund all programs aimed at solving theproblem. As much as the media serves a crucial role in speedycommunication, it can be an annoying platform for discrimination inwhich the homeless are referred to as crazy or on drugs the onlypeople likely to benefit considerably with the media reports are,therefore, the social scientists who are out for data to establishreliable claims.


Curtis,M. A., Corman, H., Noonan, K., &amp Reichman, N. E. (2013). Lifeshocks and homelessness.&nbspDemography,&nbsp50(6),2227-2253.

Grant,R., Gracy, D., Goldsmith, G., Shapiro, A., &amp Redlener, I. E.(2013). Twenty-five years of child and family homelessness: where arewe now?.AmericanJournal of Public Health,&nbsp103(S2),e1-e10.

Johnson,E.M (2015, November 19).More than 500,000 people homeless in the United States.Reuters.Retrieved 2 October 2016, fromhttp://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-homelessness-idUSKCN0T908720151120

Munos,E. (2016, March 25).America, we have a problem: Homelessness is out of control.RTInternational. Retrieved2 October 2016, fromhttps://www.rt.com/op-edge/337192-homeless-poverty-us-crisis/

Richter,M. S. (2012). Homelessness coverage, social reality, and mediaownership: Comparing a national newspaper with two regionalnewspapers in Canada.&nbspJournalof Mass Communication &amp Journalism.

Witte,P. (2012). The state of homelessness in America 2012.&nbspWashingtonDC: National Alliance to End Homelessness.