Homelessness

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Food line at the Yonge Street Mission, 381 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada in the 1930s.

Homelessness describes the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure, and adequate housing, or lack "fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence."[1] The legal definition of "homeless" varies from country to country, or among different entities or institutions in the same country or region.[dubious ][2]

The term homeless may also include people whose primary night-time residence is in a homeless shelter, a warming center, a domestic violence shelter, cardboard boxes or other ad hoc housing situation. American Government homeless enumeration studies[3][4] also include persons who sleep in a public or private place not designed for use as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.[5][6]

An estimated 100 million people worldwide were homeless in 2005.[7] In western countries the large majority of homeless are men (75-80%), with single males particularly overrepresented.[8][9][10]

Contents

Difficulties in classification: lack of generally agreed nomenclature

The "unsheltered" are that segment of a homeless community who do not have ordinary lawful access to buildings in which to sleep. Such persons frequently prefer the term "houseless" to the term "homeless". Others may use the term street people which does not fully encompass all unsheltered in that many such persons do not spend their time on urban "street" environments, and to the contrary shun such locales and prefer to convert unoccupied buildings, or to inhabit mountains or, more often, lowland meadows, creeks and beaches[11]

A portion of them are generally in transit, but there is no generally accepted terminology to describe them; some nomenclature is frequently associated with derogatory connotations, and thus the professional and vernacular lingo to describe these persons is both evolving and not lacking in controversy.[12] Much of the concern stems from the European situation, where "homeless" persons of Roma, Sinti and other ethnic descent have rejected the term "gypsy". Other terms which some use regarding in-transit persons are: transient, vagabond, tramp or "railroad tramp". Occasionally these terms are interchanged with terms not necessarily implying that the person is a traveler, i.e. hobo. The term "bum" is used for persons lacking a work ethic, or ethics generally[citation needed], but its application to persons purely on the basis of homelessness is strictly a form of prejudicial labeling. The term "transient" is frequently used in police reports, without any precise definitions across jurisdictions.

Many jurisdictions have developed programs to locate such persons in short term emergency shelter, often in churches or other institutional real property, during particularly cold spells. These are referred to as warming centers, and are credited by their advocates as lifesaving.[13]

Defining "homelessness" is a complex and difficult thing to do. Many different definitions have been made and changes to the concept are constantly being brought to attention. Congress has developed a definition that has gone through multiple changes. First in 1987, the general definition was provided and is now called the McKinney-Vento Act. As time went on and homelessness was still apparent in the United States Congress added a definition for the homeless children and youths that will be using the educational programs, this change accrued in 2002. Congress later, in 2009, enacted the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition Housing Act, also known as The HEARTH Act. This broadened the general definition of homelessness and gave more consideration to help given to those who are considered homeless. Once again in 2011 HUD issued a final rule to implement changes to the definition of homeless in the HEARTH Act. The implemented rule expands who is eligible for HUD funded homeless assistance programs. (Cackley, A. P)

United Nations definition

The United Nations, either via one of its agencies or via a vote in the General Assembly has agreed upon various minimum conditions for a person to be countable as homeless.[citation needed] It is understood that these legal definitions for homelessness may date back to the beginnings of the UN in the late 1940s. The definition of a person being a refugee is at least partly linked to the definition of homelessness as many refugees may have been or are homeless.[citation needed]

In 2004, the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, defined a homeless household as:

Homeless households are those households without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters. They carry their few possessions with them, sleeping in the streets, in doorways or on piers, or in another space, on a more or less random basis.[14]

In 2009, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Conference of European Statisticians (CES), held in Geneva, the Group of Experts on Population and Housing Censuses defined homelessness as:[15]

In its Recommendations for the Censuses of Population and Housing, the CES identifies homeless people under two broad groups:
(a) Primary homelessness (or rooflessness). This category includes persons living in the streets without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters;
(b) Secondary homelessness. This category may include persons with no place of usual residence who move frequently between various types of accommodations (including dwellings, shelters and institutions for the homeless or other living quarters). This category includes persons living in private dwellings but reporting ‘no usual address’ on their census form.
The CES acknowledges that the above approach does not provide a full definition of the ‘homeless’.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 10 December 1948 by the UN General Assembly, contains this text regarding housing and quality of living:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.[16]

ETHOS: The European Typology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion

Homelessness is perceived and tackled differently according to country.[17] The European Typology of Homelessness and housing exclusion (ETHOS)[18] was developed as a means of improving understanding and measurement of homelessness in Europe, and to provide a common "language" for transnational exchanges on homelessness. The ETHOS approach confirms that homelessness is a process (rather than a static phenomenon) that affects many vulnerable households at different points in their lives.

The typology was launched in 2005 and is used for different purposes: as a framework for debate,[19] for data collection purposes, for policy purposes, monitoring purposes, and in the media. This typology is an open exercise which makes abstraction of existing legal definitions in the EU member states. It exists in 25 language versions, the translations being provided mainly by volunteer translators.

Area of emerging interest: the unsheltered

The "unhoused" are that segment of a homeless community who do not have ordinary lawful access to buildings in which to sleep, as referred to in the HUD definition as persons occupying "place not designed for ... sleeping accommodation for human beings. Such persons frequently prefer the term "houseless" to the term "homeless". Recent homeless enumeration survey documentation utilizes the term "unsheltered homeless." HUD requires jurisdictions which participate in Continuum of Care grant programs to count their homeless every two years. These counts have led to a variety of creative measures to avoid undercounting. Thus teams of counters, often numbering in the hundreds in logistically complex volunteer efforts, seek out the unsheltered in various nooks and crannies.[20] There has been a significant number of unsheltered persons dying of hypothermia, adding impetus to the trend of establishing warming centers as well as extending the enumeration surveys with vulnerability indexes[21][22]

History

Modern

A homeless mother and her children in the street.

In the modern world, money was invented, building became specialized, and electric wiring and plumbing added to the cost of homes. Today, few people know how to build. Specialization increases demand and price, which raises the cost of living. Building laws, codes, ordinaces, and zoning limits may make home ownership even more expensive. In many places, houses without electricity and plumbing, or without foundations, are banned as substandard. These same homes were legal in the past. The industrial revolution caused a great migration from the rural areas to urban areas. Urban areas often have more complex building codes to handle the denser populations in modern cities. City ordinances coupled with higher land prices may make housing even more expensive in such urban areas.

England and the USA

Early history through the 1800s

Following the Peasants' Revolt, English constables were authorised under a 1383 statute to collar vagabonds and force them to show support; if they could not, the penalty was gaol.[23] Vagabonds could be sentenced to the stocks for three days and nights; in 1530, whipping was added. The presumption was that vagabonds were unlicensed beggars.[23] In 1547, a bill was passed that subjected vagrants to some of the more extreme provisions of the criminal law, namely two years servitude and branding with a "V" as the penalty for the first offense and death for the second. Large numbers of vagabonds were among the convicts transported to the American colonies in the 18th century.[24]

During the 16th century in England, the state first tried to give housing to vagrants instead of punishing them, by introducing bridewells to take vagrants and train them for a profession. In the 17th and 18th centuries, these were replaced by workhouses but these were intended to discourage too much reliance on state help.

A homeless man lives in a sewer, Vienna, Austria, 1900.

The growing movement toward social concern sparked the development of rescue missions, such as America's first rescue mission, the New York City Rescue Mission, founded in 1872 by Jerry and Maria McAuley.[25][26]

The Bowery Mission in New York City in the 1800s
Children sleeping in Mulberry Street – Jacob Riis photo New York, United States of America (1890)

In smaller towns, there were hobos, who temporarily lived near train tracks and hopped onto trains to various destinations. Especially following the American Civil War, a large number of homeless men formed part of a counterculture known as "hobohemia" all over America. This phenomenon re-surged in the 1930s during and after the Great Depression.[27][28]

Early 20th century

How the Other Half Lives later inspired Jack London's The People of the Abyss (1903). This raised public awareness, causing some changes in building codes and some social conditions.

These were later replaced by dormitory housing ("spikes") provided by local boroughs, and these were researched by the writer George Orwell. By the 1930s in England, there were 30,000 people living in these facilities. In 1933, George Orwell wrote about poverty in London and Paris, in his book Down and Out in Paris and London.

In general, in most countries, many towns and cities had an area which contained the poor, transients, and afflicted, such as a "skid row". In New York City, for example, there was an area known as "the Bowery", traditionally, where alcoholics were to be found sleeping on the streets, bottle in hand.

The Great Depression of the 1930s caused a devastating epidemic of poverty, hunger, and homelessness. There were two million homeless people migrating across the United States.[29]

Although The Bowery once was synonymous with homelessness, it has since become an avenue of high-priced luxury condominiums that jockey for space with its past.

In the 1960s, the nature and growing problem of homelessness changed in England as public concern grew. The number of people living "rough" in the streets had increased dramatically. However, beginning with the Conservative administration's Rough Sleeper Initiative, the number of people sleeping rough in London fell dramatically. This initiative was supported further by the incoming Labour administration from 2009 onwards with the publication of the 'Coming in from the Cold' strategy published by the Rough Sleepers Unit, which proposed and delivered a massive increase in the number of hostel bed spaces in the capital and an increase in funding for street outreach teams, who work with rough sleepers to enable them to access services.[30]

Later 20th century

[original research?]

Modern homelessness started as a result of economic stresses in society and reductions in the availability of affordable housing such as single room occupancies (SROs) for poorer people. In the United States, in the 1970s, the deinstitutionalisation of patients from state psychiatric hospitals was a precipitating factor which seeded the homeless population, especially in urban areas such as New York City.[31]

The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 was a predisposing factor in setting the stage for homelessness in the United States.[32] Long term psychiatric patients were released from state hospitals into SROs and supposed to be sent to community mental health centers for treatment and follow-up. It never quite worked out properly, the community mental health centers mostly did not materialize, and this population largely was found living in the streets soon thereafter with no sustainable support system.[33][34]

Also, as real estate prices and neighborhood pressure increased to move these people out of their areas, the SROs diminished in number, putting most of their residents in the streets. Other populations were mixed in later, such as people losing their homes for economic reasons, and those with addictions (although alcoholic hobos had been visible as homeless people since the 1890s, and those stereotypes fueled public perceptions of homeless people in general), the elderly, and others.

Many places where people were once allowed freely to loiter, or purposefully be present, such as churches, public libraries and atriums, became stricter as the homeless population grew larger and increasingly congregated in these places. As a result, many churches closed their doors when services were not being held, libraries began enforcing "no eyes shut" and sometimes dress codes, and most[dubious ] places hired private security guards to carry out these policies, creating a social tension. Many public toilets were closed.[citation needed]

This banished the homeless population to sidewalks, parks, under bridges, and the like. They also lived in the subway and railroad tunnels in New York City. They seemingly became socially invisible, which was the apparent effect of many of the enforcement policies.[citation needed]

The homeless shelters, which were generally night shelters, made people leave in the morning to whatever they could manage and return in the evening when the beds in the shelters opened up again for sleeping. There were some daytime shelters where people could go, instead of being stranded on the streets, and they could be helped, get counseling, avail themselves of resources, meals, and otherwise spend their day until returning to their overnight sleeping arrangements. An example of such a day center shelter model is Saint Francis House in Boston, Massachusetts, founded in the early 1980s, which opens for homeless people all year long during the daytime hours and was originally based on the settlement house model.[35]

Homeless person in Rome

Many homeless keep all their possessions with them because they have no access to storage. There was also the reality of the "bag" people, the shopping cart people, and the soda can collectors (known as binners or dumpster divers) who sort through garbage to find items to sell, trade and eat. These people carry around all of their possessions with them all the time because they have no place to store them. If they had no access to or capability to get to a shelter and possible bathing, or access to toilets and laundry facilities, their hygiene was lacking. This again created social tensions in public places.[citation needed]

These conditions created an upsurge in tuberculosis and other diseases in urban areas.[36][37][38]

In 1974, Kip Tiernan founded Rosie's Place in Boston, the first drop-in and emergency shelter for women in the United States, in response to the increasing numbers of needy women throughout the country.

In 1979, a New York City lawyer, Robert Hayes, brought a class action suit before the courts, Callahan v. Carey, against the City and State, arguing for a person's state constitutional "right to shelter". It was settled as a consent decree in August 1981. The City and State agreed to provide board and shelter to all homeless men who met the need standard for welfare or who were homeless by certain other standards. By 1983 this right was extended to homeless women.

A homeless person's shelter.

By the mid-1980s, there was also a dramatic increase in family homelessness. Tied into this was an increasing number of impoverished and runaway children, teenagers, and young adults, which created a new sub-stratum of the homeless population (street children or street youth).[39][40][41]

Also, in the 1980s, in the United States, some federal legislation was introduced on homelessness as a result of the work of Congressman Stewart B. McKinney. In 1987, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was enacted.

Several organizations in some cities, such as New York and Boston, tried to be inventive about help to the swelling number of homeless people. In New York City, for example, in 1989, a street newspaper was created called "Street News" which put some homeless to work, some writing, producing, and mostly selling the paper on streets and trains.[42]It was written pro bono by a combination of homeless, celebrities, and established writers.

In 1991, in England, a street newspaper, following on the New York model was established, called The Big Issue and was published weekly.[43] Its circulation grew to 300,000. Chicago has StreetWise which has the second largest circulation of its kind in the United States, 30,000. Boston has a Spare Change News newspaper, founded in 1992 by a small group of homeless people in Boston, built on the same model as the others: homeless helping themselves.[44] San Francisco, California has a monthly Street Sheet newspaper, founded in 1989.

Seattle has Real Change, a $1 newsletter that aims to directly benefits homeless people and also reports on economic issues in the area. Portland, Oregon has Street Roots, with articles and poetry by homeless writers, sold on the street for a dollar. More recently, Street Sense, in Washington, D.C. has gained a lot of popularity and helped many make the move out of homelessness. Students in Baltimore, MD have opened a satellite office for that street paper as well.[45]

Trends in homelessness are closely tied to neighborhood conditions according to a report by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in 1990.[46]

Twenty-first century

Sleeping homeless person in the corner of Cologne Cathedral, Germany, 2010

In 2002, research showed that children and families were the largest growing segment of the homeless population in the United States,[47][48] and this has presented new challenges, especially in services, to agencies.

Some trends involving the plight of homeless people have provoked some thought, reflection and debate. One such phenomenon is paid physical advertising, colloquially known as "sandwich board men"[49][50] and another specific type as "Bumvertising".

Another trend is the side-effect of unpaid free advertising of companies and organizations on shirts, clothing and bags, to be worn by homeless and poor people, given out and donated by companies to homeless shelters and charitable organizations for otherwise altruistic purposes. These trends are reminiscent of the "sandwich board signs" carried by poor people in the time of Charles Dickens in the Victorian 19th century in England[51] and later during the Great Depression in the United States in the 1930s.

In the USA, the government asked many major cities to come up with a ten year plan to end homelessness. One of the results of this was a "Housing first" solution, rather than to have a homeless person remain in an emergency homeless shelter it was thought to be better to quickly get the person permanent housing of some sort and the necessary support services to sustain a new home. But there are many complications of this kind of program and these must be dealt with to make such an initiative work successfully in the middle to long term.[52][53]

Some formerly homeless people, who were finally able to obtain housing and other assets which helped to return to a normal lifestyle, have donated money and volunteer services to the organizations that provided aid to them during their homelessness.[54] Alternatively, some social service entities that help homeless people now employ formerly homeless individuals to assist in the care process.

Homeless children in the United States.[55]

Homelessness has migrated toward rural and suburban areas. The number of homeless people has not changed dramatically but the number of homeless families has increased according to a report of HUD.[56]

The United States Congress appropriated $25 million in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants for 2008 to show the effectiveness of Rapid Re-housing programs in reducing family homelessness.[57][58][59]

In February 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, part of which addressed homelessness prevention, allocating $1.5 billion for a Homeless Prevention Fund. The funding for it was called the "Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program" (HPRP), and was distributed using the formula for the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) program.[60]

On May 20, 2009, President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act into Public Law (Public Law 111-22 or "PL 111-22"), reauthorizing HUD's Homeless Assistance programs. It was part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009. The HEARTH act allows for the prevention of homelessness, rapid re-housing, consolidation of housing programs, and new homeless categories. In the eighteen months after the bill's signing, HUD must make regulations implementing this new McKinney program.[61][62]

In late 2009, some homeless advocacy organizations, such as the National Coalition for the Homeless, reported and published perceived problems with the HEARTH Act of 2009 as a HUD McKinney-Vento Reauthorization bill, especially with regard to privacy, definitional ineligibility, community roles, and restrictions on eligible activities.[63]

Russia and the USSR

After the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861, major cities experienced a large influx of former peasants who sought jobs as industrial workers in rapidly developing Russian industry. These people often lived in harsh conditions, sometimes renting a room, shared between several families. There also was a large number of shelterless homeless.

Immediately after the October Revolution a special program of "compression" ("уплотнение") was enabled: people who had no shelter were settled in flats of those who had large (4,5 or 6 room) flats with only one room left to previous owners. The flat was declared state property. This led to a large number of shared flats where several families lived simultaneously. Nevertheless the problem of complete homelessness was mostly solved as anybody could apply for a room or a place in dormitory (the number of shared flats steadily decreased after large-scale residential building program was implemented starting in 1960s). By 1922 there were at least 7 million homeless children in Russia as a result of nearly a decade of devastation from World War I and the Russian Civil War.[64] This led to the creation of a large number of orphanages. By 1930s the USSR declared the abolition of homelessness and any citizen was obliged to have a propiska – a place of permanent residency. Nobody could be stripped of propiska without substitution or refuse it without a confirmed permission (called "order") to register in another place. If someone wanted to move to another city or expand their living area, he had to find a partner who wanted to mutually exchange the flats. The right for shelter was secured in the Soviet constitution. Not having permanent residency was legally considered a crime.

There were also virtually no empty and unused apartments in the cities: any flat where nobody was registered was immediately lent by the state at symbolic price to others who needed better living conditions. If a person who had permanent registration could not pay for shelter, nobody had right to evict them, only to demand money through a court.

After the breakup of the USSR the problem of homelessness sharpened dramatically, partially because of the legal vacuum of early 1990s with some laws contradicting each other and partially because of a high rate of frauds in the realty market. In 1991 articles 198 and 209 of Russian criminal code which instituted criminal penalty for not having permanent residence were abolished. Because most flats had been privatized and many people sold their last shelter without successfully buying another, there was a sharp increase of homeless. Renting apartments from a private owner became widespread (which usually only gives temporary registration and apartment owner could evict the leaser after the contract is over, or if the money was not paid). In Moscow, the first overnight shelter for homeless was opened in 1992.[65] In late 1990s certain amendments in law were implemented to reduce the rise in homelessness, such as prohibition of selling last flat with registered children.

Nevertheless, the state is still obliged to give permanent shelter for free to anybody who needs better living conditions or has no permanent registration, because the right to shelter is still included in the constitution. This may take many years, though. Nobody still has the right to strip a person of permanent residency without their will, even the owner of the apartment. This creates problems for banks because mortgage loans became increasingly popular. Banks are obliged to provide a new, cheaper flat for a person instead of the old one if the person fails to repay the loan, or wait until all people who live in the flat are dead. Several projects of special cheap 'social' flats for those who failed to repay mortgages were proposed to facilitate mortgage market.[citation needed]

Social science of homelessness

Contributing causes

Homeless street dwellers in Mumbai, India.

Major reasons and causes for homelessness as documented by many reports and studies include:[66][67][68][69][70]

A substantial percentage of the U.S. homeless population are individuals who are chronically unemployed or have difficulty managing their lives effectively due to prolonged and severe drug and/or alcohol abuse.[80] Substance abuse can cause homelessness from behavioral patterns associated with addiction that alienate an addicted individual's family and friends who could otherwise provide support during difficult economic times.

Increased wealth disparity and income inequality causes distortions in the housing market that push rent burdens higher, making housing unaffordable.[81]

Dr. Paul Koegel of RAND Corporation, a seminal researcher in first generation homelessness studies and beyond, divided the causes of homelessness into structural aspects and then individual vulnerabilities.[70]

Demographics

In western countries such as the United States, the typical homeless person is male and single,[82] with the Netherlands reporting 80% of homeless people aged 18–65 to be men. Some cities have particularly high percentages of males in homeless populations, with men comprising 85% of the homeless in Dublin.[83] Ethnic minorities are also overrepresented in homeless populations, with such groups two and half times more likely to be homeless in the US. The median age of homeless people is approximately 35.[84]

Problems faced by people who are homeless

Homeless man in Anchorage, Alaska.

The basic problem of homelessness is the need for personal shelter, warmth and safety. Other difficulties include:

Homeless people face many problems beyond the lack of a safe and suitable home. They are often faced with many social disadvantages also, reduced access to private and public services, gaps in their personal infrastructures, and reduced access to vital necessities:[85]

There is sometimes corruption and theft by the employees of a shelter as evidenced by a 2011 investigative report by FOX 25 TV in Boston wherein a number of Boston public shelter employees were found stealing large amounts of food over a period of time from the shelter's kitchen for their private use and catering.[86][87]

Homelessness is a risk factor for depression caused by prejudice (i.e. "deprejudice"). When someone is prejudiced against people who are homeless and then becomes homeless themselves, their anti-homelessness prejudice turns inward, causing depression. "Mental disorders, physical disability, homelessness, and having a sexually transmitted infection are all stigmatized statuses someone can gain despite having negative stereotypes about those groups.” [88]

Violent crimes against homeless people

There have been many violent crimes committed against people who are homeless.[89] A 2007 study found that the rate of such crimes is increasing.[90][91]

Assistance and resources available to homeless people

Most countries provide a variety of services to assist homeless people. They often provide food, shelter and clothing and may be organized and run by community organizations (often with the help of volunteers) or by government departments. These programs may be supported by government, charities, churches and individual donors.

In 1998, a study by Koegel and Schoeni of a homeless population in Los Angeles, California, reported that a significant number of homeless do not participate in government assistance programs, and the authors reported being puzzled as to why that was, with the only possible suggestion from the evidence being that transaction costs were perhaps too high.[92]

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Administration have a special Section 8 housing voucher program called VASH (Veterans Administration Supported Housing), or HUD-VASH, which gives out a certain number of Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers to eligible homeless and otherwise vulnerable US armed forces veterans.[93]

Social supports

While some homeless people are known to have community with one another,[94] providing each other various types of support,[95] people who are not homeless also may provide them friendship, food, relational care, and other forms of assistance. Such social supports may be done through a formal process, such as under the auspices of a non-governmental organization, religious organization, or homeless ministry, or may be done on an individual basis.

Income sources

Indian girl begging in Ladakh, India (26 July 2007)

Many non-profit organizations such as Goodwill Industries maintain a mission to "provide skill development and work opportunities to people with barriers to employment", though most of these organizations are not primarily geared toward homeless individuals. Many cities also have street newspapers or magazines: publications designed to provide employment opportunity to homeless people or others in need by street sale.

While some homeless have paying jobs, some must seek other methods to make money. Begging or panhandling is one option, but is becoming increasingly illegal in many cities. Despite the stereotype, not all homeless people panhandle, and not all panhandlers are homeless.[96][97]

Another option is busking: performing tricks, playing music, drawing on the sidewalk, or offering some other form of entertainment in exchange for donations. In cities where plasmapheresis centers still exist, homeless people may generate income through frequent visits to these centers.

Homeless people have been known to commit crimes just to be sent to jail or prison for food and shelter. In police slang, this is called "three hots and a cot" referring to the three hot daily meals and a cot to sleep on given to prisoners.[citation needed]

Invented in 2005, in Seattle, Bumvertising, an informal system of hiring homeless people to advertise by a young entrepreneur, is providing food, money, and bottles of water to sign-holding homeless in the Northwest. Homeless advocates accuse the founder, Ben Rogovy, and the process, of exploiting the poor and take particular offense to the use of the word "bum" which is generally considered pejorative.[98][99]

In October 2009, the Boston Globe carried a story on so-called cyberbegging, or Internet begging, which was reported to be a new trend worldwide.[100]

Australia

In Australia the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is a joint Commonwealth and state government program which provides funding for more than 1,200 organisations which are aimed to assist homeless people or those in danger of becoming homeless, as well as women and children escaping domestic violence [16]. They provide accommodation such as refuges, shelters and half-way houses, and offer a range of supported services. The Commonwealth has assigned over $800 million between 2000–2005 for the continuation of SAAP.

The current program, governed by the Supported Assistance Act 1994, specifies that "the overall aim of SAAP is to provide transitional supported accommodation and related support services, in order to help people who are homeless to achieve the maximum possible degree of self-reliance and independence. This legislation has been established to help the homeless people of the nation and help rebuild the lives of those in need, the joining of the states also helps enhance the meaning of the legislation and demonstrates the collaboration of the states and their desire to improve the nation as best they can.

United States

Housing First is an initiative to help homeless people reintegrate into society, and out of homeless shelters. It was initiated by the federal government's Interagency Council on Homelessness. It asks cities to come up with a plan to end chronic homelessness. In this direction, there is the belief that if homeless people are given independent housing to start, with some proper social supports, then there would be no need for emergency homeless shelters, which it considers a good outcome. However this is a controversial position.[101][102]

Miami, Florida's Community Partnership for Homeless launched a national outreach program in 2008 to help other communities throughout the United States address homelessness. Since its inception in 1993, CPH has served nearly 76,000 residents with a successful outplacement rate of nearly 62 percent in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The number of homeless people in the county has declined by 83 percent. The national program shares CPH's model of Homeless Assistance Centers, job training programs, on-site childcare, housing assistance and more. The organization also provides background on its unique funding structure and partnerships within the community.[103]


In Boston, Massachusetts, in September 2007, an outreach to homeless people was established in the Boston Common, after some arrests and shootings, and in anticipation of the cold winter ahead. This outreach targets homeless people who would normally spend their sleeping time on the Boston Common, and tries to get them into housing, trying to skip the step of an emergency shelter.

Applications for Boston Housing Authority were being handed out and filled out and submitted. This is an attempt to enact by outreach the Housing First initiative, federally mandated. Boston's Mayor, Thomas Menino, was quoted as saying "The solution to homelessness is permanent housing". Still, this is a very controversial strategy, especially if the people are not able to sustain a house with proper community, health, substance counseling, and mental health supportive programs.[104]

In October 2009, as part of the city's Leading the Way initiative, Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston dedicated and opened the Weintraub Day Center which is the first city-operated day center for chronically homeless persons. It is a multi-service center, providing shelter, counseling, healthcare, housing assistance, and other support services. It is a 3,400-square-foot (320 m2) facility located in the Woods Mullen Shelter. It is also meant to reduce the strain on the city's hospital emergency rooms by providing services and identifying health problems before they escalate into emergencies. It was funded by $3 million in grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Massachusetts Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation,[105] and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).[106]

In 2010 in New York City, where there were over 36,000 homeless people in 2009,[107] there was a mobile video exhibit in the streets showing a homeless person on a screen and asking onlookers and passersby to text with their cellphones a message for him, and they also could donate money by cellphones to the organization Pathways to Housing.[108][109]

In September 2010, it was reported that the Housing First Initiative had significantly reduced the chronic homeless single person population in Boston, Massachusetts, although homeless families were still increasing in number. Some shelters were reducing the number of beds due to lowered numbers of homeless, and some emergency shelter facilities were closing, especially the emergency Boston Night Center.[110]

Refuges for homeless people

A homeless person's shelter under a fallen willow tree in Australia.

There are many places where a homeless person might seek refuge.

Health care for homeless people

Health care for homeless people is a major public health challenge.[120][121][122][123][124][125][126][127][128][129][130][131]

Homeless people are more likely to suffer injuries and medical problems from their lifestyle on the street, which includes poor nutrition, exposure to the severe elements of weather, and a higher exposure to violence (robberies, beatings, and so on). Yet at the same time, they have little access to public medical services or clinics.[132]

There are significant challenges in treating homeless people who have psychiatric disorders, because clinical appointments may not be kept, their continuing whereabouts are unknown, their medicines are not taken and monitored, medical and psychiatric histories are not accurate, and for other reasons. Because many homeless people have mental illnesses, this has presented a crisis in care.[71][133][134]

Homeless persons often find it difficult to document their date of birth or their address. Because homeless people usually have no place to store possessions, they often lose their belongings, including their identification and other documents, or find them destroyed by police or others. Without a photo ID, homeless persons cannot get a job or access many social services. They can be denied access to even the most basic assistance: clothing closets, food pantries, certain public benefits, and in some cases, emergency shelters.

Obtaining replacement identification is difficult. Without an address, birth certificates cannot be mailed. Fees may be cost-prohibitive for impoverished persons. And some states will not issue birth certificates unless the person has photo identification, creating a Catch-22.[135]

This problem is far less acute in countries which provide free-at-use health care, such as the UK, where hospitals are open-access day and night, and make no charges for treatment. In the US, free-care clinics, for homeless and other people, do exist in major cities, but they often attract more demand than they can meet.[136]

The conditions affecting homeless people are somewhat specialized and have opened a new area of medicine tailored to this population. Skin conditions, including Scabies, are common because homeless people are exposed to extreme cold in the winter and they have little access to bathing facilities. They have problems caring for their feet[137] and have more severe dental problems than the general population.[138] Diabetes, especially untreated, is widespread in the homeless population.[139] Specialized medical textbooks have been written to address this for providers.[140]

There are many organizations providing free care to homeless people in countries which do not offer free medical treatment organised by the state, but the services are in great demand given the limited number of medical practitioners. For example, it might take months to get a minimal dental appointment in a free-care clinic. Communicable diseases are of great concern, especially tuberculosis, which spreads more easily in crowded homeless shelters in high density urban settings.[141]

There has been an ongoing concern and studies about the health and wellness of the older homeless population, typically ages fifty to sixty four years of age, and even older, as to whether they are significantly more sickly than their younger counterparts and if they are under-served.[142][143]

In 1999, Dr. Susan Barrow of the Columbia University Center for Homelessness Prevention Studies reported in a study that the "age-adjusted death rates of homeless men and women were 4 times those of the general US population and 2 to 3 times those of the general population of New York City".[144]

In 2004, Boston Health Care for the Homeless in conjunction with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council published a medical manual called "The Health Care of Homeless Persons", edited by James J. O'Connell, M.D., specifically for the treatment of the homeless population.[145]

In June 2008, in Boston, Massachusetts, the Jean Yawkey Place, a four-story, 77,653-square-foot (7,214.2 m2) building, was opened by the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. It is an entire full service building on the Boston Medical Center campus dedicated to providing health care for homeless people. It also contains a long term care facility, the Barbara McInnis House, which expanded to 104 beds, which is the first and largest medical respite program for homeless people in the United States.[146][147][148]

A 2011 study led by Dr. Rebecca T. Brown in Boston, Massachusetts conducted by the Institute for Aging Research (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program found the elderly homeless population had "higher rates of geriatric syndromes, including functional decline, falls, frailty and depression, than seniors in the general population and that many of these conditions may be easily treated if detected". The report was published in the Journal of Geriatric Internal Medicine.[149]

A report commissioned by homeless charity Crisis in 2011 found that on average homeless people have a life expectancy of 47 years, 30 years younger than the rest of the population.[150]

Tracking and counting homeless people

In the USA, the federal government's HUD agency has required federally funded organizations to use a computer tracking system for homeless people and their statistics, called HMIS (Homeless Management Information System).[151][152][153] There has been some opposition to this kind of tracking by privacy advocacy groups, such as EPIC.[154] However, HUD considers its reporting techniques to be reasonably accurate for homeless in shelters and programs in its Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.[155][156]

Actually determining and counting the number of homeless is very difficult in general due to their lifestyle habits.[157][158] There are so-called "hidden homeless" out of sight of the normal population and perhaps staying on private property.[159]

Various countries, states, and cities have come up with differing means and techniques to calculate an approximate count. For example, a one night "homeless census count", called a point-in-time (PIT) count, usually held in the early Winter, for the year, is a technique used by a number of American cities, especially Boston, Massachusetts.[160][161][162] Los Angeles, California uses a mixed set of techniques for counting, including the PIT street count.[159][163] In 2003, The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had begun requiring a PIT count in all "Continuum of Care" communities which required them to report the count of people, housing status, and geographic locations of individuals counted. Some communities will give sub-population information to the PIT, such as information on veterans, youth, and elderly individuals as done in Boston.[164]

Global definition of the problem

Statistics for developed countries

Homeless man in Tokyo
Homeless man in Prague, Czech Republic

In 2005, an estimated 100 million people worldwide were homeless.[165]

The following statistics indicate the approximate average number of homeless people at any one time. Each country has a different approach to counting homeless people, and estimates of homelessness made by different organizations vary wildly, so comparisons should be made with caution.

European Union: 3,000,000 (UN-HABITAT 2004)
United Kingdom: 10,459 rough sleepers, 98,750 households in temporary accommodation (Department for Communities and Local Government 2005)
Canada: 150,000 (National Homelessness Initiative – Government of Canada)[166]
Australia: On census night in 2006 there were 105,000 people homeless across Australia, an increase from the 99,900 Australians who were counted as homeless in the 2001 census[167]
United States[168]: According to HUD's July 2010 5th Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, in a single night in January 2010, single point analysis reported to HUD showed there were 649,917 people experiencing homelessness. This number has increased from January 2009’s 643,067. The unsheltered count increased by 2.8 percent while the sheltered count remained the same. Also, HUD reported the number of chronically homeless people (persons with severe disabilities and long homeless histories) decreased one percent between 2009 and 2010, from 110,917 to 109,812. Since 2007 this number has decreased by eleven percent. This is mostly due to the expansion of permanent supportive housing programs. The change in the numbers has happened due to the prevalence of homelessness in local communities rather than other changes. According to HUD’s July 2010 Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, more than 1.59 million people spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program during 2010 reporting period, this is a 2.2 percent increase from 2009. Most users of homeless shelters used only emergency shelter, while 17 percent used only transitional housing and less than 5 percent used both during the reporting period. Since 2007 the annual number of those using homeless shelters in cities has decreased from 1.22 million to 1.02 million. That is a 17 percent decrease. The number of those using homeless shelters in suburban and rural areas has increased 57 percent from 367,000 to 576,00[169]
Japan: 20,000–100,000 (some figures put it at 200,000–400,000)[170] Reports show that homelessness is on the rise in Japan since the mid-1990s.[171]
There are more homeless men than homeless women in Japan because it is usually easier for women to get a job and they are less isolated than men. Also Japanese families usually provide more support for women than they do for men.[172]

Developing and undeveloped countries

A homeless person in a park in Ahvaz, Iran

The number of homeless people worldwide has grown steadily in recent years.[173][174] In some Third World nations such as Nigeria, and South Africa, homelessness is rampant, with millions of children living and working on the streets.[175][176] Homelessness has become a problem in the countries of China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines despite their growing prosperity, mainly due to migrant workers who have trouble finding permanent homes.[177]

For people in Russia, especially the youth, alcoholism and substance abuse is a major cause and reason for becoming and continuing to be homeless.[178]

The United Nations, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat) wrote in its Global Report on Human Settlements in 1995: "Homelessness is a problem in developed as well as in developing countries. In London, for example, life expectancy among homeless people is more than 25 years lower than the national average.

Poor urban housing conditions are a global problem, but conditions are worst in developing countries. Habitat says that today 600 million people live in life- and health-threatening homes in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The threat of mass homelessness is greatest in those regions because that is where population is growing fastest.

By 2015, the 10 largest cities in the world will be in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Nine of them will be in developing countries: Mumbai, India – 27.4 million; Lagos, Nigeria – 24.4; Shanghai, China – 23.4; Jakarta, Indonesia – 21.2; São Paulo, Brazil – 20.8; Karachi, Pakistan – 20.6; Beijing, China – 19.4; Dhaka, Bangladesh – 19; Mexico City, Mexico – 18.8. The only city in a developed country that will be in the top ten is Tokyo, Japan – 28.7 million."[179]

In 2008, Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, referring to the recent report "State of the World's Cities Report 2008/2009",[180] said that the world economic crisis we are in should be viewed as a "housing finance crisis" in which the poorest of poor were left to fend for themselves.[181]

Homelessness by country

Tent city next to high-rise commercial buildings in Kochi, India. (2007)

Strategies to reframe approaches to homelessness

Housing first / rapid rehousing
In the USA, the government asked many major cities to come up with a ten year plan to end homelessness; and one of the results of this was a "Housing first" solution, also known as "rapid re-housing", which quickly gets a homeless person permanent housing of some sort and the necessary support services to sustain a new home. There are many complications of this kind of program and these must be dealt with to make such an initiative work successfully in the middle to long term.[52][53][186]

Enhanced data collection and evaluation Homeless enumeration counts are mandated by HUD for all jurisdictions participating in HUD Continuum of Care grant programs. These occur as frequently as every two years. More recently,organizations such as [Common Ground] have piggy-backed those counts with compilation of Vulnerability Indexes which prioritize homeless persons. The factors include the existence of late stage terminal disease, HIV-AIDS, kidney or liver disease, frequent hospitalizations and frequent emergency room visits. The data which is compiled which exceeds the BUD mandate is retained and held confidential by Common Ground. Advocates of the system claim high rates of success in placing the most vulnerable persons, but skeptics remain concerned with confidentiality and security issues.[citation needed]

Beyond homelessness

Transitional housing
Transitional Housing provides temporary housing for the certain segments of the homeless population, including working homeless, and is set up to transition their residents into permanent, affordable housing. It's not in an emergency homeless shelter but usually a room or apartment in a residence with support services. The transitional time can be short, for example one or two years, and in that time the person must file for and get permanent housing and usually some gainful employment or income, even if Social Security or assistance. Sometimes, the transitional housing residence program charges a room and board fee, maybe 30% of an individual's income, which is sometimes partially or fully refunded after the person procures a permanent place to live in. In the USA, federal funding for transitional housing programs was originally allocated in the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1986.[187][188][189]

Supportive housing
Supportive housing is a combination of housing and services intended as a cost-effective way to help people live more stable, productive lives. Supportive housing works well for those who face the most complex challenges—individuals and families confronted with homelessness and who also have very low incomes and/or serious, persistent issues that may include substance abuse, addiction or alcoholism, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, or other serious challenges to a successful life.

Pedestrian villages
In 2007 urban designer and social theorist Michael E. Arth proposed a controversial national solution for homelessness that would involve building nearly carfree "Pedestrian Villages" in place of what he terms "the current band-aid approach to the problem."[190] A prototype, Tiger Bay Village, was proposed for near Daytona Beach, FL. He claims that this would be superior for treating the psychological as well as psychiatric needs of both temporarily and permanently homeless adults, and would cost less than the current approach. It would also provide a lower cost alternative to jail, and provide a half-way station for those getting out of prison. Work opportunities, including construction and maintenance of the villages, as well as the creation of work force agencies would help make the villages financially and socially viable.[191][192][193]

Films about Homelessness

See also

Other itinerant or homeless people or terms for this condition

Socioeconomic issues or aspects of homeless life

References

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Bibliography

Further reading

External links