The Rode to Homelessness and How to Break the Cycle (by Yarden Shnayder)

In today’s world we take many things for granted, the food we eat, clothes we wear, jobs we have, and even our health. The only time we really see how fortunate we are is when we have those things taken away from us. Many don’t think of how the simple things they are given, are what others strive to get and work all their life to attain but cannot reach. The homeless epidemic has been on the rise, and according to the study “Predictors of Homelessness Among Vulnerably Housed Adults in 3 Canadian Cities: A Prospective Cohort Study” posted to the BMC Public Health website, “recent reports suggest an estimated 650,000 individuals across the United States and Canada are homeless on any given night” We see these individuals as a nuisance and think to ourselves “why don’t they just get a job”, “only the lazy are homeless”, and “well, drugs will do that to you”. Many of the causes of homelessness stem from improper housing conditions, demographics and other similar risk factors, education and access to resources. As we further the discussion we will identify the culminating aspects and influences that leads a person to homelessness, the cycle of homelessness and what we must do to eliminate this issue.

I decided to visit a low income apartment complex for my community project in order to familiarize myself with aspects of my community I would not have previously been exposed to. One of the many things I noticed was the influx of families and people that came in daily looking for an apartment, each of these people came in with a different story but almost every one of them were on the brink of becoming homeless. What confused me the most was that these people were often two parent homes and both parents worked one or two jobs, so how was it that finding an affordable place to live became so difficult? On one of my visits I decided to pose the question to the manager Juana Hollick

and was met with and answer I didn’t really expect. She explained that the housing community is set up in a way that benefits one side or the other and leaves a large group of people in the middle, because the family has two working adults their income caused them to be over qualified for a low income apartment, yet they do not make enough to qualify for standard living units. There are some cases where the income will meet requirements for standard living units, but because of how high the housing rates are the tenants can barely feed themselves after paying rent. She explained that in cases where that happens tenants will forgo paying rent once established in the unit to provide for other necessities and over time this leads to evictions and negative rental history that will limit their ability to find housing again. Many individuals are stuck in this cycle from childhood and those individuals are the ones who are most likely to be homeless in adulthood.

Many of us think of low income neighborhoods as areas of high drug abuse and crime but Weicher argues that the is not solely the individuals but their housing conditions. In “Housing Conditions and Homelessness”, John C. Weicher, Assistant Secretary for Housing Administration Commissioner at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development, discusses the evolving trends of housing conditions and its relation to the homeless. Weicher explains that, “ Slums were seen as the location of most urban problems, and were thought to be the breeding grounds of physical disease, mental illness, juvenile delinquency, and crime. Urban reformers believed that these problems were not only located in the slums, but also were caused by poor housing. If the slums were razed and replaced with decent housing, the problems of their poor residents would be solved.” In analyzing Weicher’s statement, what he means is that when you put someone in a better environment it influences them to make better decisions. In low income neighborhood where housing conditions are poor, tenants are less likely to uphold these conditions, this in turn invites crime because these houses are easier to break into, drugs are more prevalent and disease is easily spread. When given proper housing conditions tenants are more likely to uphold those conditions and ensure that others maintain them as well. When an individual no longer has to worry about their housing conditions they can focus on other things and maintain a sustainable financial situation.

 

Housing conditions are seen as one of the risk factors that leads to becoming homeless, thecategories range from demographic characteristics, physical and mental health status, substance use, and involvement with the criminal justice system. As I continued to become more involved in my community project one of the things I noticed was the limitations that are against some of these people for reasons that they cannot control and the resources that were beyond their reach. According to the study “Predictors of Homelessness Among Vulnerably Housed Adults in 3 Canadian Cities: A Prospective Cohort Study” posted to the BMC Public Health website, “numerous studies have examined risk factors for onset of homelessness” that range from “demographic factors, younger age has been associated with a higher likelihood of becoming homeless…Male gender and African American ethnicity have been identified as independent predictors of homelessness and obtaining less than a high school education has also been associated with homelessness.” I use the term resources as a term to define the tools needed by an individual to succeed. Resources would range from, proper housing, education, jobs, clothes, food etc. In the introduction of this discussion I referred to a phrase most people think when discussing the homeless “why don’t you just get a job?”, well for some of us it is not entirely as easy as you would think. When you don’t have proper housing it is hard to get showered and do the normal things you would do to get ready to go to work, when you don’t have a job you can’t buy the clothes you would need to make a good impression and gain employment, and when you lack proper education you do not qualify for jobs that would pay ends meet. Many of us take the resources that we have such as parents, a high school diploma and the roof over our heads for granted because they have always been available or attainable to us.

When thinking of how someone becomes homeless, its easy to assume that the individual just gave up and prefers to live that lifestyle, but there are so many aspects that can lead one to homelessness, the majority of which are out of our control. The youth are the most vulnerable to these influences and without proper guidance or resources there is little chance of success. Jaskiran Dhillon Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Anthropology, conducted a “study of the intersection among social exclusion, gender, and access to education, this article documents interpretive insights into the social and cultural dimensions of schooling through the narrative accounts of young women and girls living in poverty and experiencing homelessness in Canada” in her article “Social Exclusion, Gender, and Access to Education in Canada: Narrative Accounts from Girls on the Street”. It’s easy to say just go to school without thinking of the distractions and limitations that may be presented once there. Education plays a large hand in how successful an individual becomes. As Dhillon conducted her study, she noticed how the homeless youth “were underscored by the notion of social exclusion, typically described by the systemic processes whereby persons are barred from the social, cultural, political, and economic benefits that accrue to others. This type of exclusion is directly linked to the social axes of race, gender, ethnicity, ability, citizenship, and sexual orientation”. We tend to forget how much we are affected by those around us, especially at younger ages. Dhillion’s study focuses on how the illumination of these limitations and practices will then allow children of all demographics to attain education and avoid homelessness.

The issue of homelessness has been around for hundreds of years, by now you would think we would have a solution, and we do, by that’s not how the world works. In today’s day and age, there are those who are at the top of the totem pole, those at the bottom and those in the middle. With this practice some people have way more than they need and others not enough. In an article by Philip Lynch and Jacqueline Cole, “Homelessness and Human Rights: Regarding and Responding to Homelessness as a Human Rights Violation” they argue that homelessness is a violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms. A sentiment I fully agree with, nobody should have to sleep under and overpass while someone else sleeps in a king size bed. We see the homeless and think of them as people who are done trying, dirty, not deserving of respect but they are indeed people, humans in fact who deserve the rights we are all entitled to. When we stop and think of the homeless as people, things change. Lynch and Cole mention a a homeless woman and how our view of her may change to further our understanding. “Most weekdays, Pauline stands at the entrance of a large metropolitan Melbourne railway station with a sign stating, ‘I am homeless. I am a single mother. I care for my son and cannot work. Please help us.’ How we regard and respond to Pauline’s predicament is attributable, at least in part, to the

normative framework in which we understand homelessness. If we consider that homelessness is a consequence of individual weakness and dysfunction, we are likely to avoid or ignore Pauline. If, however, we consider Pauline’s predicament–and the predicaments of at least 105 000 like her–as a human rights violation, our responses are more likely to involve indignation and action.” So what we see here is that when we actually see a human being and not just a homeless person we can further understand their plait and consider ways of illuminating this predicament from occurring.

As human beings it is our responsibility to uphold to well being and conditions of our communities. Although the responsibility only goes so far we must make sure that we are all given the same stepping stones to succeed. Low income neighborhoods with poor housing conditions will not provide our neighbors with the resources to succeed, children should be able to access the same education to qualify themselves in the work force, we need to change our mindset and how we view the homeless. We hear the phrase often “put yourself in their shoes” and when you really think of it that way its easier to understand how homelessness is an epidemic that should not be allowed to exist. When we discuss these issues more people become aware and unsettled, when we are uncomfortable we act and in this case that is exactly what we need to do.

Bibliography

Dhillon, Jaskiran. “Social Exclusion, Gender, and Access to Education in Canada: Narrative

Accounts from Girls on the Street.” Feminist Formations 23.3 (2011): 110-34. Web.

In this source, the topic of gender and the access to proper education is discussed. We explore how education and social influences affect the development of specific genders as well as discuss those implications. Narratives are given by young women living in homelessness and poverty in Canada to explain challenges of the public education system to meet the needs of all students from different

backgrounds. The article is written by Jaskiran Dhillon Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Anthropology, who also has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Her writing ties back to my research project by highlighting the inequality in treatment of certain people that leads to homelessness.

Weicher, John C. “Housing conditions and homelessness.” Gender Issues 23.3 (2006): 35-53. Web. In this source, the topic of housing conditions and how it can lead to an individuals eventual homelessness. The author analyses data from the American Housing Survey before and after the passage of welfare reform. In his writing the author explores and discusses the resources that are unavailable to certain people and varying aspects that influence people and lead to homelessness. The article is written by John C. Weicher, who is the assistant secretary of housing and federal housing commissioner at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The author is well versed on the topic of homelessness and through his discussion of housing and homelessness I pulled references to elaborate on how vulnerable housing situations result in homelessness.

Otto, Dianne. “Homelessness and Human Rights: Engaging Human Rights Discourse in the Australian Context.” SSRN Electronic Journal (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
In this source, the topic of homelessness and its relation to basic human rights is discussed. The article begins by stating that being and allowing an individual to be homeless is a violation of human rights. The author argues that homelessness is a violation of the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to health and a few other examples. The conclusion encourages readers who can make an impact on the homeless population to do so. The article was copy righted by the Melbourne Journal of International Law accompanied with various resources from credible sources, it ties back to my research problem by illuminating the basic issue of homelessness and why it shouldn’t even exist.

 

To, Matthew J., Anita Palepu, Tim Aubry, Rosane Nisenbaum, Evie Gogosis, Anne Gadermann, Rebecca Cherner, Susan Farrell, Vachan Misir, and Stephen W. Hwang. “Predictors of homelessness among vulnerably housed adults in 3 Canadian cities: a prospective cohort study.” BMC Public Health 16.1 (2016): n. pag. Web.

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One comment

  1. Jessie Kerslake

    Hello Yarden,
    I really like that you chose homelessness as your topic, homelessness in Oregon is a really big deal, especially in Portland where rent is sky rocketing and the homeless population is only going up.
    I think you did a great job of making your thesis statement explicit clear, this is something that I always struggle with so I always appreciate having other people do it right so I can see how it is done. Your research is very thorough and you do a good job including your sources into your paper. I think you did a wonderful job on this paper. I hope you enjoyed the term!

    -Jessie

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