HOMELESS IN AMERICA
University of North Dakota
We see them all the time. Homeless people sit at street corners, holding signs, and asking for money or food. We may look at them, choose to ignore, or choose to give, but for many of the homeless, this has become their way of life. The reason I chose this topic was because of my recent volunteer work with the Salvation Army and Thrift Store in Grand Forks. I have seen people in desperate situations and heard some stories while working with community service members during my time at the Salvation Army. I also personally worked with a homeless man every day at the Salvation Army. He was in his 50’s, tall, gray hair and a large build. He always wore layers of clothes which appeared dirty and worn. He never mentioned to me that he was homeless, but it was told to me by one of the other workers. I was also told that he often slept in the truck that was loaded daily with clothes to be sent over to Minneapolis. He always had such a positive attitude about his job, working for the Salvation Army. People in his situation are another reason I wanted to do research on the history and current epidemic of homeless in America. Locally there is not nearly enough shelter for the homeless. The cost of rent, even in this town, has increased dramatically. In order to afford an apartment, you must save more than a thousand dollars much of time. It is not an easy cycle to get out off, as many people think. As we have learned in class, women and children stay in different locations than the men, which means that families cannot stay together. Often, this fact leads families to sleep in their vehicles in order to stay together. There are many different reasons and causes for homelessness in America. Drug use is one of the earliest factors in homelessness. After the Civil War, morphine and heroin could be purchased from Sears and Roebucks catalogs. Hundreds of thousands of war veterans became addicted, and the addiction spread throughout America. The drugs were finally criminalized, but the damage had been done.2 The three common terms, “hobo”, “tramp”, and “bum” came out of this era. Racial divides also still occur in the areas of healthcare, education, access to mortgages, and access to equal paying jobs among many others. Unless some type of intervention occurs, generational issues are often the rule and not the exception. Living in poverty creates depression, which can lead to drug use, alcoholism, and neglect of self and others. Poverty was a well-known issue during the Civil War and many children ended up homeless and in orphanages simply because their parents, or remaining parent, could not afford to take care of them. War often leads to loss of life, and therefore loss of income in families, especially during this time. Our country was still newly formed and there were no social welfare programs as of yet. Further along in history, during the Great Depression, jobs were lost, and the rates of homeless again, increased throughout America. Natural Disasters are another factor in the homelessness problem. The Great Chicago Fire, The San Francisco earthquake, the massive flooding of the Mississippi in the 1920s from Ohio through New Orleans displaced over 1.3 million people. The Drought of the 30s in Oklahoma and Texas, Hurricane Katrina, are just a few examples of disasters that affected millions of people’s households. The snowball effect of unemployment and poverty attribute to homelessness. People living in generational poverty, for example, may not have the knowledge or resources to become educated and move out of poverty. People living in generational poverty do not have the resources and support to become educated and move out of poverty. In 2011, the official rate of poverty in America was 15.0%, which is 46.2 million.
Another category of homeless is the very people who fought...
References: 1. Kurtz, P. D. P. D., Lindsey, E. P. D., Jarvis, S. M. E. ,. S., & Nackerud, L. P. D. (2000). How runaway and homeless youth navigate troubled waters: The role of formal and informal helpers. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 17(5), 381-402. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1007507131236
2. Heidi, M. (2011, November 16). The history of homelessness in america 1640s to present. Retrieved from http://www.dceh.org/the-history-of-homelessness-in-america-1640s-to-present/
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