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What Causes Homelessness?

Having heard so many conversations about homelessness, both good and bad, I have started to explore some of the root causes of homelessness.

Having experienced homelessness myself, though in a short span of time, I now live my life with the hope of not returning to such former circumstances. Its perhaps reasonable to say that no one wants to be homeless. ‘Perhaps’, due to the fact that there are a number of people who choose to be homeless. But there are many more people who wish not be and have no control over their circumstances.

Throughout my research I have learnt many things, not only about the immediate causes of homelessness but the sequence of events that leads up to the unfortunate ending that manifest into homelessness. The stories I have come across are really sad and they paint a different perspective for me, in terms of how I approach homelessness and the homeless.

Why are people homeless?

This is a question that we may have all tried to answer at some point. Either we encountered someone who is homeless a, who asked us to spare him/her a dollar, we shrugged him off only to later introspect on our guilt or its the highly politicized messages that we often hear about the homeless.

I am curious, and I want to know. I want to know because I would love to help someone who is in a homeless situation and knowing the root causes, I imagine, would be a great place to start.

So here are some reasons why people go homeless:

1) Family Rejection – on accounts of sexual, physical or emotional abuse; intolerance towards one’s sexual orientation or gender identity and differences with regards to ideological or religious views. Having come from a very homophobic country, a very homophobic home I sympathize with anyone who has had to endure homelessness due to rejection.

2) Lack of wage or too little – this probably the most obvious of them all. But the logical assumption is that once a person is no longer able to afford their rent or to maintain their standards of living, it increases their likelihood of going homeless. There are many single mothers who I have met who are homeless for this very reason, and often times as a result of co-existing causes, such as domestic violence and low income. Their jobs don’t pay much and their rent/utilities are too expensive.

3) Developmental disorder and mental illnesses – in this case there are also several factors at play: being self-subsistent, family support, and treatment. Many people cannot access treatment because their insurance doesn’t cover emotional or psychological treatment or even if they do, there are many stipulations that acts as barriers and that prevents full access to affordable and effective mental health care. There is also the concern of stigma and whether society is accommodating to certain forms of mental illness. People who are not able to get the treatment that they need are very vulnerable to homelessness.
And the list goes on… which I will further explore.

Of course, these are only some of the common factors (just to share a hint), there are many more and as permitted I will cover these for now. But its really unfortunate that while people become homeless as a result of causes outside of their control, they are usually discriminated against, stereotyped or isolated. Misconceptions such as: ‘people are homeless because of bad choices that they make’, does nothing to help but put salt in the sore. While this may be partially true, it doesn’t make up for people who are struggling to get off the streets. Many people turn to substances abuse to cope with their reality and that too proliferates their troubles but it doesn’t make them bad people.

No one is perfect and I can’t repeat that enough but to substitute compassion for judgment is remotely human. I cannot help everyone who is homeless but I will help whoever I can and I believe that human compassion goes a long way. While no act is unselfish, good or bad, our duty, and not for religious reasons, is to be stewards to all of nature, including our fellow human beings.


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