What causes homelessness? What factors lead people to end up homeless? Is homelessness really a choice made by an individual or is it forced on the person in a way or another? What has caused an increase in homelessness in the past couple decades in almost every country? How much of an effect do social factors such as immigration, tourism, rising number of elderly people, population, violence in family/relationships or other factors such as culture, values or lifestyle have on homelessness? Is the bitter truth of homelessness being taken seriously enough by the governments?
There is no simple or easy way to answer these questions. The core causes of homelessness can differ in every country depending on their cultural, financial and social factors. Homelessness is something that has always been around and for the past decade, it has been a rising issue in most countries. As we know, poverty is the main reason for this situation all around the world. Also, discrimination leads to homelessness in numerous cases. In many countries, the price to rent and buy a house or an apartment is rising faster than income. But what other factors lead to this situation?
‘’Causes of homelessness across countries are multifaceted, though some factors stand out, including shortages of affordable housing, privatization of civic services, investment speculation in housing, unplanned and rapid urbanization, as well as poverty, unemployment and family breakdown. Also contributing is a lack of services and facilities for those suffering from mental illness, alcoholism or substance abuse and displacement caused by conflicts, natural disasters and government housing policies. In some cases, too, homelessness leads to alcoholism, substance abuse and mental illness.’’ (Joseph Chamie, 2017)
In industrialized countries, causes for homelessness are lack of affordable housing, unemployment, low wages, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse and lack of services. For example, last decade’s Great Recession in America, combined with a lack of affordable housing and subsequent housing crisis, many families were left without the means to afford basic necessities, like housing. Even people with jobs sometimes cannot afford adequate housing on minimum wages. Rising poverty and rental rates have pushed low income households to uncertain living arrangements including slums, squatter settlements and homelessness, not only in the US but in most countries across the world.
The nature of homelessness however differs in developed and developing countries. In developing countries, the shortage of adequate and affordable housing is very often the core cause of homelessness. Lack of housing and space in general is also one of the causes in over-populated countries, such as China or India. People that migrate from rural areas to big cities to find work as they must make a living for their families and send back money are often also victims of this problem. Even though, poverty, especially rural poverty and failure of the housing supply system are the root causes, these factors alone do not necessarily lead to homelessness. There are several other issues that may not be as visible, that make these situations worse.
Social causes of homelessness in developing countries include marital breakdown, loss of a spouse, family violence or deterioration of traditional extended families which mainly effects women and children. Also, lack of services and facilities to help the homeless play a huge role in not improving the situation in these countries. In developing countries, it is also quite common for the government to use their power to evict people from their homes who have neither the money nor the power to defend themselves.
In economically developed countries, main reasons for homelessness are mental and physical health issues, substance abuse, low wages, discrimination, system failure and conflicts in families. Conflicts in families and fear of ending up in foster care especially pushes young people and children towards street homelessness. Tourism and immigration are also one of the reasons to the rising number of homeless people in developed countries, since people find it easier to stay there as a homeless than to return to their home countries with worse living conditions. Also, the neglect and denial of governments towards homelessness, low wages and lack of affordable housings and lack of services prevents from bettering the issue. ‘’Homelessness is often considered embarrassing, a taboo subject and governments tend to understate the problem’’ (J. Chamie, 2017).
How can the bitter truth of rising homelessness be decreased or prevented? The first step to this is to be aware of the issue. ‘’The tragedy is that it’s entirely within our power to do something about it: homelessness is not a choice made by the individual, it is a reality forced by government policy’’-Harry Quilter-Pinner (the guardian, 2018). Harry Quilter also mentions that he had found out that the answer to this problem was extremely simple; to give people homes. In the article, Harry Quilter-Pinner also states that, ‘’ When people are given homes, homelessness is radically reduced, engagement in support services goes up and recovery rates from addiction are comparable to a “treatment first” approach. Even more impressive is that there are overall savings for government, as people’s use of emergency health services and the criminal justice system is lessened’’.
There is also a need for low priced housing for the poorest households. These housings can be as simple as single rooms for a family. These sorts of housings could mainly be a big help in the developing and overpopulated countries. Also, more employment opportunity and development in rural areas are important in improving this condition. Although, the main cause of homelessness globally is poverty, there are also some hidden factors that push people to this living condition or worsens it but can be bettered by taking the right steps.