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Homelessness And How You Can Make A Difference To Those In Need
June 28, 2012
Homelessness can be described in many ways—as the condition of people who do not possess a regular dwelling, including those unable to attain safe, adequate, or “night to night” residence, as well as those who seek shelters whether through local community institutions or makeshift homes.
The condition of homelessness is as old as recorded history, and over time has not been addressed properly by governments and fellow citizens. The causes of homelessness are varied, but generally are due to economic hardship and increasing cost of living, high unemployment rates, medical conditions and lack of healthcare, deinstitutionalization from clinics and hospitals, social exclusion, natural disasters, industrialization (movement from rural to urban areas), war or conflict, famine, and more.
Today, families and children are the largest growing segment of homeless persons in the world, with particular emphasis on women and children in areas of conflict.
Homelessness is oftentimes stigmatized, both in developed and developing countries, and can be considered more of a nuisance than a humanitarian issue. However, many other issues associated with homelessness that are frequently overlooked cannot be solved without the proper care and respect of those that lack a proper, regular dwelling.
Homelessness is often also linked to crime—particularly theft and assault—despite some studies that suggest otherwise. The homeless are generally banished to some of the most dangerous communities in their regions, and are victims to the crime and violence of the area. And in some desperate instances, some homeless persons even commit small crimes in order to be sent away, where they know they will be fed and sheltered, although imprisoned.
The homeless are not only subject to social stigmatization; however, they are also incredibly vulnerable to many other dangers. They are of course vulnerable to the obvious dangers, such as security, warmth, and shelter, but they are also subjected to lack of privacy, poor hygiene and inability to clean oneself and belongings, exposure to the elements (such as winter weather, rainy seasons, and more) and inability to secure, store and prepare food.
Other issues that may arise include legal matters—such as lack of mailing address, limited access to healthcare, increased subjection to abuse, loss of normal relationships, and limited access to education and banking services—which create cyclical effects on generations of homeless when children are unable to receive an education or savings resources.
What YOU Can Do
Although refuges, homeless shelters, churches, institutions such as Goodwill, and other social services both private and public provide assistance for these individuals and families, the problems associated with homelessness have yet to be addressed with adequate resources and understanding worldwide.
The National Coalition for the Homeless, a U.S. organization, urges us to take action to help the homeless through the acronym CARE—Contribute, Advocate, Reach out, Educate.
Those looking to assist the homeless can do so by contributing clothing, household goods, books, computers, phones, and job opportunities, as well as fundraising or providing a caring ear and smile to those in need of assistance.
In terms of advocacy, those looking to assist the homeless have many options available, such as volunteering with a coalition that serves the homeless, making phone calls, writing letters or emails, or meeting with legislators to make homelessness a top priority in State and Federal Congress, educating friends, families, and neighbors on the issues associated with homelessness, becoming involved in the media, and encouraging the homeless to advocate for themselves and to register to vote.
Those wanting to directly combat homelessness and assist those in the situation may take action by volunteering at a shelter—whether working with staff or with persons experiencing homelessness, offer professional skills or job training, sharing hobbies and common experiences, organizing events at shelters, working with children through tutoring or organizing a field trip, and getting your friends and family involved!
Learn about the causes and effects of homelessness on local, national, and international levels, and then—spread the word. Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to educate those around you and encourage others to become involved. Share your knowledge and experiences with others!
Getting connected to the local chapter of the American Red Cross is also a great start! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons