Defeating Homelessness with Specific Tactics in the USA

The homeless always caused irritation to the US political leaders. Homelessness is the reverse side of the hope that enticed millions of people looking for well-being and prosperity into moving to America. The US problem of homelessness has a very long history. Being such an attraction for those who anticipate a better life, this country always generated homelessness. The problem has recently exacerbated greatly due to the increase in the population as well as in the cost of housing. The number of the homeless grew sharply during the recession of the 1980s, and currently there is a threat that it will repeat. Despite a great number of social programs for the homeless supported by the US government, there is an urgent need for specific tactics to defeat homelessness in the USA, including provision of the homeless with housing and employment.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 750 000 homeless people in the USA. About 1.3 to 2 million people lose housing every year. These people live on the streets, in hospitals or transit shelters, in cars or tent cities. However, this number does not include prisoners, lunatics in asylums, people who lack their own housing as well as those six million citizens who rent casual housing, paying most of their income for it. However, all of them cause fluctuations in the number of the homeless from time to time. Moreover, around 20 to 30 per cent of homeless people suffer from mental diseases. Even at the most favorable combination of circumstances mentally ill people face serious problems while looking for independence. Many of them become homeless if necessary medical and social care is inaccessible to them in the society and there is no housing suitable for them.

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The recent data of the National Alliance to End Homelessness state that homeless people having problems with alcohol or drug abuse amount to about 25 to 40 per cent of the total number of the homeless in the USA. Drug and alcohol abuse is the main cause of homelessness. Moreover, it became a tragic feature of the modern generation of the homeless. A small but growing percentage of homeless people are HIV-positive or infected with AIDS. About 10 per cent of them have no physical defect. The majority of homeless people possess more than one of the characteristics, which reduces their chances of finding and retaining home to zero. The characteristics of homelessness are: 1) a set of factors making the search for a place of residence impossible; 2) a lack of suitable housing; 3) insufficient income; 4) absence of relevant services needed for the solution of personal problems. Thus, the specific tactics of defeating homelessness in the USA include the main features, such as a possibility to receive housing and have a decent income to cover the main people’s needs.

Judging by the name, homelessness is a housing problem. In fact, the only general characteristic of homeless people is that they have no housing. In order to defend homeless people in the USA, it is necessary to provide enough housing available to the poor and the needy. The quantity of the housing suitable for people with a small income has greatly decreased in the previous several decades. The shortage of housing for the needy segments of population was filled either from the funds of the federal authorities or at the expense of the private sector. However, nowadays the federal government reduced its influence in the market of housing construction, and the private sector sees no benefits in the construction of a cheap housing. However, it is possible to develop such construction by means of raising the possibilities of charitable and public organizations. In addition, the growth of the public support to similar projects will provide privileges to the private sector. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the housing or re-housing is an effective tool in the approach to end homelessness:

While monitoring of the effectiveness of the intervention continues, thus far rapid re-housing appears to have encouraging outcomes: decreased length of homelessness, fewer returns to homelessness, lower costs per household than other interventions, and decreased homelessness in communities. On an individual level, rapid re-housing minimizes the amount of time an individual or family spends homeless and rapidly helps them stabilize in their own housing.

The second direction in the struggle against homelessness has the final task of obtaining income sufficient for the maintenance of a stable independent life. The homeless should be given the hope for a better future since the fear of hopelessness is very strong. Every homeless person should have a chance of earning a living on his or her own. Children should have a chance to obtain education and profession. Creation of favorable conditions for the development of self-employment and independent cooperation will make it possible to receive new workplaces, and thus provide employment to people. Work is the main source of income for homeless people; however, their earnings are very low. There are various ways to increase their income, including training (for the unemployed), professional development and expansion of the network of welfare payments.

Thirdly, the assistance in overcoming problems connected with independence is required for the majority of the homeless. A lot of homeless people need a developed program of treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction and long rehabilitation courses. Others need public support to help them cope with the critical situations in everyday life. Some of the homeless need treatment and consultations concerning mental diseases or family quarrels.

Homelessness is a characteristic feature of the American way of life. However, this problem was successfully dealt with even in the difficult recession years. Some states worked hard to defeat homelessness and reduced it considerably. According to the statistical data of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, it has led to the general decrease of 17 per cent in the level of homelessness in the country. Everything started with the changes in the Utah State, where local authorities decided to completely change the approach to the solution of the problem of homelessness. Social services, urged to solve this problem, used to pay more attention to social problems of each homeless individual. There was the only criterion – to change the way of life of a homeless person. When a person proved to be a member of society, he or she was able to receive subsidized or state housing. Such an approach did not allow thousands of people who lost their housing to change their lives.

In 2005, the administration of the state decided to radically change the approach to the solvation of the problem of homeless people. Firstly, they counted the expenditures per a homeless person, including the services of ambulance, arrests by police and stay in preliminary detection cells. The research showed that the attempt to socialize homeless people costs around $35-40 thousand a year for the government. However, Free State housing costs $12 thousand a year per person. This truly American approach has changed the situation in the Utah State dramatically. The number of the homeless decreased by 73 per cent. The majority of those who took part in this program started a new life. The approach accepted in the Utah State was supported by the dozens of states in the south and in the center of the country. Even federal services adopted it, calling it the Second Chance Program. This program aims at providing former military personnel who became homeless with the housing. However, not all states apply the new approach to the solution of the problem of homelessness. A lack of a housing stock does not allow doing it. For example, the number of the homeless in the capital of Massachusetts, Boston, as well as in New York grows despite a very strong influence of social programs. Some of the states have big problems with a housing stock. Besides, the housing in other states is more expensive than in Utah, and the government cannot allocate enough funds to the program of support of the homeless.

Thus, in order to defeat homelessness and to come to a stable and independent life, people should have affordable housing adequate to their income and a corresponding service, which will allow them to overcome the existing personal problems. In order to prevent the increase of homelessness, a suitable housing, a corresponding salary and psychological service should be available to the poor and needy people who regularly join the rows of the homeless. Provision of the homeless people with support is an important issue that demands cooperation in all spheres of society - state (including federal and local governing bodies), private (corporations and funds) and charitable organizations.