According to Webster, being homeless is defined as having no home or permanent place of residence. The comforts of home, like a roof over your head and a warm meal to eat, is often taken for granted. But more often than not, these are unaffordable luxuries for many Americans and their families. In 2011, more than 48 million Americans were living in poverty. Millions of people are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. The 2009 housing crisis and the recession hit the poorest Americans the hardest, leaving more families homeless. On any given night there are approximately 650,000 people with no permanent place to sleep. On a more ongoing basis, there are an estimated 3.5 million homeless people in America.

According to a 2013 Homelessness in America report, there are 20 homeless people per every 10,000 people in the general population, yet it’s much higher for veterans; there are 29 homeless veterans for every 10,000 veterans in the general population. According to the same report, most people who are listed as “homeless” were staying for a short period of time in emergency shelters or transitional housing. However, 38% of all homeless people in America are living on the streets, unsheltered, in cars or abandoned buildings. The need for affordable housing is even greater amid long-term economic turmoil. Rents are rising faster than incomes for low-wage workers, and the number of renters with housing hardships is mounting. One common misconception about homelessness is that people are on the street because of addiction.

There are several federal programs that help people obtain a place to live such as Section 8 housing vouchers, Hope VI, Supportive Programs for Housing for the Elderly and Supportive Programs for the Housing the Disabled. Additional programs that help veterans, such as Operation Homefront, work to help them find jobs, pay bills, own a home, and provide other services in their time of need. Despite the fact that there are so many homeless people in the US, the number of vacant homes in the U.S. is over 18 million. That is more than enough to provide housing for people. We all can help!

Here are some reasons that people are homeless:

  • Poverty: 12.5% of the US population lives in poverty. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, healthcare, and education. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. This is the main reason people end up homeless.
  • Foreclosure: When people cannot afford their house anymore and the house is taken away. During the housing crisis, foreclosures increased 32% from 2007 to 2009.
  • Declining wages and decrease in jobs for less skilled workers.
  • Decline in public assistance: People with disabilities get a steady income but if rent increases, they are unable to pay the rent.
  • Lack of affordable housing.
  • Lack of affordable health care: Many families are forced to pay medical bills instead of housing. They deplete their savings to receive the medical care.
  • Domestic violence: Battered women have to choose between abusive relationships or homelessness.
  • Addiction disorders: People who are poor and addicted are clearly at an increased risk of homelessness.
  • Veterans: This is due to war disabilities, difficulty readjusting back to civilian life, mental anguish, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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