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Ryan CommarotaMr. WohlustEnglish IV28 January 2018Homelessness In America Homelessness in America has been prevalent since the 1950’s and 60’s when mental patients would be released from hospitals with nowhere to go, nowhere to stay, and with only the clothes on their backs. It was only until the 1980’s did people realize that it was becoming a problem, this is when incomes and housing opportunities for the poor started to fade rapidly. The economy wasn’t helping the poor and neither was the government back then and even now. The United States government isn’t doing enough to help America’s homeless because homelessness is on the rise. Homelessness from the 1950’s to the 80’s was rough with no end in sight but even though we have a good chance to overcome the problem now, we still aren’t doing as much as we could be doing. In 2015, the homelessness in America was nearing a truly unacceptable rate. “On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness- meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program” (National Alliance to End Homelessness). Comparing statistics, the population of the United States in January of 2015 was roughly 320,099,489 people (Population Clock). That means that in January 2015 alone, 0.2% of the population were homeless. This percentage may not seem like a big number at all, it isn’t even half of one percentage point, but that still means that on a single cold january night, 564,708 men, women, and children were on the streets with nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep, and nothing to keep them warm. Homelessness is a terrible situation to find yourself in, it’s what so many Americans have to deal with on a day by day basis, but a good way to fight it is to find out what causes it. Homelessness can be caused by a number of things, even things that we see everyday happening around us. Things such as insufficient income and lack of affordable housing are the leading causes of homelessness, and for women in particular, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness (nlchp, 3). Income plays a huge role in the deciding factor of homelessness. “Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked” (National Coalition for the Homeless). Homelessness never usually just happens, more than half of the time poverty is intertwined into it in some way. “In 2007, 12.5% of the US population, or 37,300,000 million people, lived in poverty” (National Coalition for the Homeless). There are a numerous number of factors that contribute to poverty, two of the more notable ones would be fading employment opportunities for the workforce and lowered availability and funding towards public assistance programs. Low-wage workers are usually left behind and become homeless due to a decline in wages. Another cause of homelessness is due to the lack of space in shelters. “In a 2008 report, eleven out of nineteen cities reported an increase in employed homeless workers” (National Coalition for the Homeless). Even though the homeless would be employed, they would still live in the shelters decreasing the amount of space for the homeless that need this space. The lowered amount of public assistance programs have been a big problem since it’s been repealed multiple times by the government since the August of 1996. Multiple programs have been created that have promised to do what others couldn’t but nearly all of the programs get repealed. The causes of homelessness are terrible, just as bad as being homeless itself, there are so many stories reported by the media about the homeless problem that any average person would expect our government to already be funding these public assistance programs in the hopes that they could in turn, end homeless as a whole. The opposite is unfortunately the case, the government has repealed almost all of those programs. So, where is all of that money and funding going to, perhaps the budget can answer that. The budget for 2017’s fiscal year is $4.147 trillion to date.”The distribution of the total basic needs levels (in dollars) for sample families of four person(s) is the following: less than $209, six families; $210-$239, two families; $240-$259, ten families; $260-$279, seventeen families; $280-$299, nine families; $300-$319, six families; over $300, six families; all levels, 56 families” (Heffernan, 66).As you can see, the greater number of people in a family that relies on public assistance, the higher amount of rent and tax that they have to pay. For a family of nine, they have have to pay on average $300-$319 with all nine mouths to feed. The government spends around 9% of their budget on public assistance programs in America each year. This percentage is a very low number that doesn’t make it way around every homeless person.”There is little justification for a system that allows client benefits to be an idiosyncratic function of the liberality of the caseworker, but at the same time the uniqueness of poverty conditions will continue to demand some discretion in benefit levels” (Heffernan, 68). The homeless and low-income families that are threatened by starvation and exposure need to be better understood and treated, even if it’s just by the government putting a little more of their tremendous budget into public assistance programs, anything would help. Homelessness, though very serious, can be changed. You can help in many ways to lower the rate and even help someone who’s in serious risk of being homeless. If help is what they ask for, give them the help that they need. On the other hand, some will argue that homelessness is not an issue. Some say that the media is to blame and the homeless rate isn’t on an incline but rather a decline. “Today September 13, 2011, the Census Bureau released its annual poverty report, which declared that a record 46.2 million (roughly one in seven) Americans were poor in 2010. The numbers were up sharply from the previous year’s total of 43.6 million” (Rector, 1). The word ‘poverty’ has a number of different definitions, most simply believe that it means there is no way for the person in poverty to supply themselves or others with the necessary means for survival. In that case, by those definitions, the number of the homeless drops drastically. Another definition would be that the person doesn’t have access to anything.”80 percent of poor households have air conditioning, 92 percent of poor households have a microwave, nearly three-fourths have a car or truck while 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks, half have a personal computer and one in seven have two or more computers, 43 percent have internet access, and one-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV” (Rector, 1).The ‘poor’ don’t seem very poor when you take into account these percentages but due to their location and housing complexes, they are considered among the poor. Electronics and consumer items that may have been considered a luxury, are now becoming something that everyone has. A big issue within homelessness has been the persona of hunger, have the homeless have nothing to eat at any point in time unless at a shelter or designated facility, this has been a widespread and common myth.”96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food. 83 percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat. 82 percent of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food” (Rector, 2).The persona of the poor or homeless can take many forms, all of which are only widespread common myths. Aided by the media, the screenings of common poor or homeless areas are portrayed as overcrowded and terrible living conditions. The reality of these screenings is false, poor living conditions aren’t as bad as they seem and are overreacted and well overrepresented as the media tries to tune more people in with misleading and often false information. Due to the media influence overreacting the portrayal of homelessness, the term has been skewed, stretched, and rethought, but the government has taken strides to help reduce the amount of homeless people in states and cities.”The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a key piece of federal legislation, offers a housing-based definition similar to Rossi’s that refers to the absence of an adequate nighttime residence but also specifies physical presence in selected locations- shelters, institutional settings, and places not intended for human habitation- as a sufficient condition to establish one’s homelessness” (Lee, 503).There have been a number of programs and legislative acts that have been passed that combat homelessness and though mostly repealed, they have helped reduce the number of the homeless. The government does have a number of other places for the homeless such as domestic violence facilities, residential treatment programs, and transitional housing for the mentally ill (Lee, 503). The government does have a ton of places for homeless or poor people to go to if they are ever in need of such a place. The government will also help and supply them with the minimum funds needed for essentials such as food, affordable yet horrible housing, and clothes.Homelessness has and will always be a problem for many decades to come. The United States population will continue to rise and fall in its endless war against poverty and homelessness. The government will continue to push the bare minimum amount of funding as to not be called out by the media or other countries. One may only hope that they will increase their spending and funding towards programs that help get the homeless off of the streets and help get the lives they once had, back. Until the government can truly come together to fight this growing problem head on, the growing rate that is homelessness, will continue to rise.