Friday, May 4, 2012

Awareness for Homelessness

The homeless community struggles with issues that many take for granted. Most homeless people do not know when their next meal will be or if they will be able to shower.  Because homelessness affects millions of people across the country, it is important to understand the causes behind homelessness and how society views the homeless community in order to find a possible solution. 

Many people see the homeless as people who are lazy, on drugs, or are criminals.  In reality, the homeless community is very diverse and most do not want to remain homeless.  Society needs to understand the various ways they can help those who are currently homeless and those who are at risk of becoming homeless. 

Awareness is an important factor for both the homeless and the communities.  It is helpful for the homeless people to be aware of programs and resources in their area.  Some programs and shelters offer housing, food, and job assistance in order to help the homeless get back on their feet.  Those who have substance abuse issues, can enter rehab facilities in order to help their problem before in becomes an issue which results in homelessness.  According to the Salvation Army, some of the programs available help individuals with psychiatric needs for their condition.  Veteran assistance is also available for those who qualify or need medical treatment.  The homeless youth can receive assistance from transitional housing centers and agencies specific to their needs as well.  

It is important for society to remember that the homeless people are human and many of them would like to have a home, food, and employment.  The National Alliance to End Homelessness has prevention assistance programs for people who are in jeopardy of becoming homeless.  Prevention programs help families and individuals in order to reduce the number of homeless people.

Even though funding is a big issue for private and government organizations, it is important for the community to know there are other ways to help besides giving money.  Locally and nationally community members and businesses can refer the homeless to local shelters and churches in order for them to receive some assistance.  The assistance programs also vary depending on the reasons behind homelessness.   There are some homeless people who want to remain homeless, although most would like help and awareness is a possible solution for them.    


Prevention and Diversion Toolkit, 2012. National Alliance to End Homelessness, Retrieved from:

Preventing Homelessness in America, 2003. Solutions for America, Retrieved from:

Toy, Mireya, 2012. Borderzine, Retrieved from:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

History of Homelessness

Many people in the United States have been dealing with homelessness for many years.  The cause of homelessness varies throughout the nation and over time.  The term “hobo” was introduced in the early 1900’s, as reference to those who were homeless or migratory workers.  The hobo’s would ride freight trains and sleep in rail yards across the United States.  In the 1930’s, the number of hobo’s riding freight trains increased because of the great depression.  During the height of the great depression, many of the hobos riding freight trains were teenagers (Uys, 2010).  The great depression left many unemployed and displaced.  Because of the struggles, the hobos would travel nationwide in order to find work.   

Besides the depression, natural disasters have also been a contributor to homelessness.  In 1906, there was a massive earthquake in San Francisco which ignited many fires.  The fires burned for days and left about 400,000 people homeless (San Francisco Earthquake, 1906).  Earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes are some of the disasters which result in an increased number of homeless people.  Private and government organizations help those who have become homeless, although they are not always successful. 

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, mental hospitals released most of their patients into communities.  Because of the release, thousands were left homeless while suffering with a mental illness.  The release of mentally ill patients, was a result of failed polices made by government officials.  Approximately ten years later, homeless shelters and services began to develop across the United States from government and private organizations. 

In early 2000’s there was an increase of homeless families.  The families were displaced from their communities and homes as a result of Hurricane Katrina.  Across the country, shelters and agencies helped those who were left homeless.  Due to the devastation of disasters such as Katrina, President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing program into law.  The new program would consolidate the previous three homeless assistance programs into one, in order to help the homeless community (Homelessness Resource Exchange, 2012). 

Since the program was signed into law, there has been an increase of homelessness because of financial reasons.  Unemployment rates have increased statewide which have left many homeless and in need of homeless assistance.  The history of homelessness has shown the variety of reasons why people become homeless.  Even though the reasons vary, those who are homeless share the commonality of needing assistance by private or government organizations.  


Homelessness Resource Exchange, 2012. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved from:

Mental Illness and Homelessness, 2006. National Coalition for the Homeless. Retrieved from:

Riding the Rails, 2010. PBS. Retrieved from:

San Francisco Earthquake, 1906. National Archives. Retrieved from:

The History of Homelessness in America 1640's to Present, 2011. Downtown Congressions to End Homelessness. Retrieved from:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Substance Abuse and Homelessness

The homeless community is greatly affected by substance abuse.  For some, substance abuse occurs prior to becoming homeless while others are homeless before they become involved with drugs or alcohol.

 The majority of homeless people suffering from substance abuse are dependent on alcohol.  The effects of alcohol involve impaired judgment, anxiety, sweating, trembling, irritability and insomnia.  Other homeless people choose drugs such as heroin, crystal meth, or crack cocaine.  Heroin affects the mind and body as a downer with disorientation and weight loss.  Crystal meth is a powerful stimulant which causes one to be extremely energized while developing tooth decay and sores.  The affects of crack cocaine are similar to those of crystal meth because it is also a stimulant, although an addict will also develop insomnia and loss of appetite.  The side affects of the substances along with living conditions of being homeless, cause many to be paranoid and unable to prioritize their needs.  The appearance of those on drugs or alcohol also becomes diminished while being homeless.   

According to the National Coalition for Homeless, the single largest cause for homelessness is substance abuse.  It is reasonable to believe that people who are homeless use substances to cope with their situation.  The treatment needed to help those with substance abuse issues are not readily available for the homeless community.  Because of that, the homeless people who want to become sober have difficulties finding treatment programs or shelters that will accept them.     

In order to support their habit, the homeless people refer to panhandling or theft.  Both panhandling and theft will support their fix, while also affecting the community.  Those suffering from substance abuse while being homeless, are caught in a cycle that negatively effects their future and health.  Community members also witness the odd behavior from the homeless people on alcohol or drugs.  The odd behavior can consist of hallucinating, talking to themselves, disoriented, or extreme mood changes.  

For the homeless, the high caused from the drugs are a brief relief of their problems.  As the addiction intensifies, the long term affects set in and the motivation to better themselves decreases.  The homeless also have a hard time remaining sober because many of those around them are suffering from substance abuse.  Overall, the issue of substance abuse and homelessness needs to be treated at the same time.  If there were more housing available that offered treatment for substance abuse then the success rate would be better.  The success rate would not only help those suffering, but also help those in the community.       


Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, 2011. Retrieved from:

National Coalition for the Homeless, 2006. Retrieved from:

Heroin Addiction Symptoms and Effects, 2012. Retrieved from:

What are the side Effects of Crack Cocaine?, 2012. Retrieved from:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Homelessness and Mental Illness

Many homeless men and women are living with a mental illness.  The illnesses vary from bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, as well as others. About 25% of the homeless community suffers from a mental illness. Mental illness is one of the top three reasons why people become homeless.  Those who are homeless, live in bad conditions which affect their state of mind, body, and people around them.

In local and national cities, people have witnessed homeless men and women acting strange, talking to themselves, or imagining things.  In many cases, those acting strange are a result of being homeless with a mental illness.  Considering that they are homeless, it is difficult to get proper medication or care for themselves in order to continue with life’s daily tasks.  There are services offered to the homeless which include: temporary housing, mental health treatment, and physical health treatment. Lack of funding is an unfortunate barrier for the treatment to be successful.  According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are programs such as: Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness which help the homeless population with a mental illness.   

The funding and treatment for those with a mental illness should be consistent.  In cases where the treatment is not consistent, the illness can get worse.  It is hard to imagine how difficult living on the streets may be, with limited resources, and a mental illness.  Without the resources, other aspects of life such as relationships and motivation can be affected.   

Besides being mentally ill, the physical conditions of homelessness affect ones body.  The lack of personal hygiene can lead to skin diseases.  Skin diseases can be painful, especially while dealing with a mental illness.  The pain of dealing with a illness can lead to drugs such as: crack, heroin, and crystal meth.  The symptoms of drugs, along with mental illness, negatively affect the hope a person living with homelessness may have.  It is important to improve the resources for those who are homeless and living with a mental illness.      

When all of the factors are considered, those living with a mental illness self medicate in order to cope with their living conditions.  The self medication is also a result of not having money or access to prescription medications specific to their illness. The illicit street drugs and the mental illness combined will result in harmful long term effects.    


National Coalition for the Homeless. 2009, Mental Illness and Homelessness. Retrieved from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2012, Homeless Health Concerns. Retrieved from 

Thursday, February 9, 2012


The issue at hand is homelessness.

In many instances, an entire community is affected by homelessness because of direct exposure to the homeless on a daily basis.  Many families and individuals, are subjected to homelessness due to a variety of reasons such as; poverty, lack of jobs, mental illness, and substance abuse.  Unfortunately, lack of public resources forces the homeless community to seek shelter in city neighborhoods, alley ways, and around business because of the direct access to disposed food and goods. 

Homelessness cannot be solved over night, there are city resources that assist the homeless and attempt to improve living situations for all.  An example of the resources is cleaning the streets, which is costly, to both taxpayers and non-profit organizations.  In many cases, over night shelters, food shelters, educational facilities, churches, and other community resources are set up to temporarily assist those in need.  When the community has access to these resources, it not only assists those in need but also provides a better quality of life for those subjected to the problem. 

According to the Department of Human Assistance, there are about 2,500 homeless in Sacramento.  In the state of California, there are approximately 135,000 homeless people.  There are private charities and organizations in Sacramento and throughout the state, which contribute to help and assist the homeless.  The organizations provide services such as: feeding the hungry, counseling, educational help, and a place to sleep.  The homeless benefit from the services, although no one benefits from people being homeless.     

While the resources are there, one of the issues I have noticed is the lack of publicity the organizations have to promote their assistance programs.  Considering that private charities do not receive government assistance, they rely on donations and volunteers in order to succeed.  Having volunteered with the homeless myself, I know it is a very rewarding feeling and many are not aware of the ways they can help by simply donating their time and spreading the word. 

I have come to believe that it’s not necessarily how great the resources are, but rather how many people can benefit from them locally, state-wide and at a national level. In order to minimize homelessness in the future, we need to understand the reasons why people become homeless and help the issue whether it is substance abuse, mental illness, poverty, or even being jobless.