Human Rights in Public Policy Context
Homelessness has been singled out as a social setback that requires serious attention with the aim of not only assisting the homeless and their families, but also as a strategy to ease the strain that the urban areas they reside in and the charity organizations face. Factors exist that lead to individuals ending up homeless and remain homeless, but a major role should be played within the social circles to curb the cases of homelessness and pave way to assisting the homeless secure rehabilitation to get them off the streets and into secure living conditions. A major hindrance in curbing the issue is that most society members have not yet come to terms with the fact that there exist a homelessness problem and therefore the first step in eradicating the problem would be sensitizing the society on the prevalence of the problem of homelessness. Societal awareness of the problem is vital as enough support needs to be garnered for policies of change to be enacted by the political leaders.
Statistics according to a report released by the US Conference of Mayors indicate that men form a majority of the homeless individuals with the number being 44 percent while women form 13 percent of the population. The rest is made up of homeless families and homeless children. Not to be ignored is the fact that homelessness also consist of individual who are living in temporary residence in institutions which are not designed to primarily serve the purpose. Homelessness is more prevalent in the urban areas in central cities, the problem exist in rural settings too with the ratio of prevalence being 70 percent to 30 percent respectively. Homeless population in the rural setting is usually made up of individuals and families who are homeless for short periods of due to varying factors that include domestic violence.
Homelessness has been identified by experts as a problem that results from a combination of several factors and occurrences. Many studies have however identified poverty as proximate grounds for homelessness. This is evident according to statistics released in 1996 that confirmed that the homeless admitted having gone for days without food. This is a rather contradicting result considering the U.S economy has been reported to have risen significantly over the years. The most logic explanation is that as the income in the rich population goes higher, the lower class receive low wages that have stagnated for many years. This means that as the cost of living goes up it becomes significantly hard for the low income earners to afford the basic amenities like shelter.
It is said that about twenty to percent of the homeless population suffer mental illnesses. These mental disorders are said to be a contributor to their lack of seeking help from institutions and therefore end up homeless. A serious problem that needs attention is the fact that, in fact many mentally ill persons have been to these institutions but they are let free as a result of shortage or complete lack of psychiatric facilities and shortage of beds. According to Mooney et al., (2008), approximately two thirds of the homeless happen to be alcohol and other substances addicts. The effects of constant abuse of these substances is that thinking and decision making is impaired which consequently results in lack of enough resources to support supply of basic amenities like shelter and hence they end up in the streets. Here they lack access to good treatment as well as recovery services.
Domestic violence has continued to be a big contributor of homelessness. The biggest victims in this case are mothers and children who end up in the streets as a result of emotional or physical abuse. Single mothers are also constant victims of traumatic abuse. Children who are constant victims of sexual or physical abuse also make up a significant population of the homeless. Such children are forced to face a challenging life from early age and therefore are not able to enjoy proper parenting, descent housing, proper social amenities, medical care and proper diet. A connection has been drawn between children who suffer abusive pasts and prevalence of mental illnesses during adult life. On any given night, there are approximately 250000 veterans who become homeless; this is as a result of effect of the armed conflict which goes beyond the boundaries of the war zone. Most of them are found to be suffering from mental problems or drug addiction. Unfortunately, the departments of veteran’s affair do not afford to accommodate all the homeless veterans through their programs resulting in those who miss opportunities ending up n the streets.
The homeless constantly face many social challenges due to the vulnerable environs in which they reside (Hopper, 2003). National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty conducted a research which conclusively established that over the decades, numerous attacks have been carried out on the homeless. Homeless women have especially been constant victims of brutality where they’ve continually been attacked and raped. The issue of homelessness has brought with it challenges when it comes to maintaining the family set up. Families have broken up and in some cases forced to live apart as some institutions that provide temporary shelter for the homeless often refuse to take in the children. Such children miss out on the parent’s foster care and may suffer from depression, withdrawn, and several difficulties in their school life.
Serious health problems are experienced by homeless people as a result of poor sanitary living conditions and exposure to unhealthy environments (Hopper, 2003). Common illnesses amongst the homeless consist of leg ulcers and respiratory infections. Other illnesses that are prevalent with the homeless include tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Pregnant mothers are also exposed to the risks of unsafe deliveries as some do not access health facilities where they can be taken care of. The result is a high child mortality rate for the births that take occur in homeless conditions due to lack of proper care of the mother and the new born.
There are several stakeholders of this social problem commonly being the government and the private institutions (Todd, 2006). These two have been showing extra efforts through programs of providing shelter, food, and income generating activities. One such effort is the establishment of the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS). The leadership of HMIS also includes formerly homeless people and is representative of all populations including the youth as well as veterans. HMIS is charged with the role of availing information concerning homeless persons to ensure easy access of houses and other services required by the homeless in a bid to curb homelessness. Through efforts such as establishing a database that organizations that concern themselves with the plight of the homeless have easy electronic access of information concerning the homeless individuals. HMIS also works hand in hand with other providers in delivery of their services to the homeless.
Constituting lasting solutions concerning the problem of the homeless in the U.S is not an easy task and a number of organizations have to channel their commitments to the issue. This will call for shared leadership which will help in timely accomplishment of the set mission which in this case is the plight of the homeless. An example is when HMIS works together with human services community at different levels. Such synergies will help develop solutions that are vital to the homelessness problem.
Establishing a leadership approach to the issue of homelessness is vital to prioritizing and creating awareness of the issues that require to be attended to. Positive steps have in the recent times been taken, with those in leadership positions developing policies that address the plight of the homeless. This is a clear indication that a lasting ultimate solution is beckoning. These policies have been exercised and communities have shifted in to support the move thereby offering services meant to end homelessness. However, it is vital to have in mind that the success of the efforts highly depend on the commitment of all the stakeholders, availability of the resources and good leadership. Examples of the programs which are initiated by the stakeholders are: Homeless Shelters which basically concentrate on giving out temporary shelters to people who are homeless. Most of the shelters provided by these people do not cater for the needs of everyone who is need, some specify the gender which they can accommodate either men or women. Public housing units which provide apartments as well as individual buildings tend to assist the low income earners, physically challenged people, and elderly. These people are allowed to pay just what they can afford (Todd, 2006). Compliance with the set rules and regulations can enable these people to stay in these public houses forever. The federal government programs assist the disadvantaged people to find private homes or apartments as they desire where they are supposed to pay 30% of their income as the government through public housing agents pays the rest part of the rent to the landlord. These housing programs are not in a position to meet the requirements of the increasing number of homeless people.
Food Banks and Food Donations which have been in service since early sixties assists in collecting non-perishable goods such as canned foods from individuals and institutions to homeless people (Hopper, 2003). There also small independent organizations mostly staffed with volunteers like churches which operate their own food banks purposely to be distributed to the homeless people especially children, elders and the sick. Apart fro somewhere to sleep and provision of the three daily meals, these homeless people are given job training to cater for their future. For these people to be empowered and stand back on their feet both the government and private sectors volunteer to train these people on various jobs. The most important empowerment which these people receive from these institutions is being mentored, made computer literate, and being given some internship.
People will be regularly becoming homeless due to several reasons but with practice of several measures this social problem can have a desired outcome. Efforts of all citizens may be required to help local shelter in distributing goods and foods to these people (Mooney et al., 2008). Any person is capable of donating something to these needy people. Anything within the household which is not in use should be donated as well as money by those who can afford. Everyone should develop a special interest to advocate for a new legislation through local representatives to have a project purposely for the homeless people. In certain city states like Pasadena, the homeless are appreciated as equal citizens with the right to the access of what other citizens have access to. The Pasadena Police Department and the LA Department of Health have therefore teamed up and constituted a program called Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation Team which consists of specialists in mental health and law enforcement to offer services related to mental health.
Around the whole U.S, awareness of the existence of homelessness as a problem is being appreciated as the first step towards developing a solution to the same. Each individual has the mandate of recognizing that homeless people exist in our cities and therefore take a positive step towards serving them with any available help. A lasting solution will only be attained when the problem of homelessness is accepted as prevalent and pressure then applied on the concerned authorities for action.
Hopper K. (2003). Reckoning with Homelessness. New York: Cornell University Press.
Mooney L. A., Knox D., Schacht C. (2008). Understanding Social Problems. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.
Todd E. P. (2006). Homelessness: is society looking the other way? Carbondale, IL: Nova Publishers.