|Type:||Problem Solution Essay|
|Topics:||Homelessness, Drug Abuse, Poverty, Social Issues|
Homelessness, although pronounced in the developing world, is a chronic issue in the developed world, especially when considering the people that live in big cities. In spite of the fact that many developed countries including the US have established countless strategies to help in combating homelessness, the vice continues to persist. The most vulnerable individuals to become homeless are those between the ages of 8 and 16. The cities with the most homeless individuals include Hawaii, New York, and California. The Justice Department estimates that at least 1.7 million youths experience some form of homelessness annually in the US. Some of them enter this state after leaving foster care. There are a myriad of reasons for homelessness with the main one being poverty. Other reasons include poor mental health, drug abuse, and lack of affordable housing with the latter accounting for much of the homeless. It is estimated that housing has been getting expensive every year in the country although income has remained stagnant. While there are other reasons like domestic and physical abuse, the major causes of homelessness are poverty and unaffordable housing plans. At least 40% of the homeless cases are related to poverty, which is magnified by the ever-increasing rental fees. When a person is born in poverty, they rarely afford to pay for their education, which in turn means that they will not be able to afford good housing in the future. Such individuals may be able to undertake low skilled jobs, but the money they make is directed to other more pressing matters like food as housing is far more expensive that they can afford. At current, rental payments are said to account for approximately 2,000 dollars for a single bedroom rental apartment. Most people cannot afford this. Instead, they make tents while others live in vehicles and other inhabitable places like streets. This increases their chances of engaging in dangerous activities like drug peddling to sustain themselves while the females engage in survival sexual activities or even join gangs. As such, most of the homelessness in the US can be attributed to unsustainable housing and the lack of measures such as governmental policies that are geared towards controlling the hiking of rental fees.
To get a complete picture concerning the scope of this issue in the US, it is important to analyze the issue as it relates to specific cities in the country in addition to any measures that have been put in place to combat the problem. One of the cities that faced homelessness on a serious scale is New York. While homelessness has been on the rise in the US, New York exhibits most of it. Particularly, homelessness in New York increased by more than 4% in 2017 alone (Gay). To put into perspective the main reasons as to why this is happening is the escalating cost of housing in the city. New York happens to be one of the most expensive as well as constrained when considering the main housing markets in all of the US. The cost of housing has escalated partly because of the ever-rising demand for housing in the city. This demand is attributed to the rise in population, which was said to increase by approximately 38.7% between 2016 and 2017 (Gay). The number of the people living in shelters has also increased to almost 73,000 in 2017 which represents an increase of 2.7% indicating that the increase n housing may have forced these individuals out of proper apartments (Gay). With respect to measures to combat this, New York has not had a robust strategy to address this because the situation has been escalating in spite of the mayor saying that they are developing more plans to ensure that housing becomes affordable in the city. This showcases another important factor in the homeless case which is the ever-rising income inequality with the low-income earners struggling to meet the most basic needs. Some of the strategies that had been developed include a plan to establish 90 new shelters over a five year period starting in 2014 (Gay). While this may have helped those in the homeless predicament, it does not solve the problem of housing and does not nearly offer a comfortable way of living. They are usually overcrowded, and overcrowding brings other problems like the hepatitis A outbreak that was experienced in shelters in Los Angeles and San Diego implying that shelters just compound the problem, not to mention that the Department of Homeless Services has been increasing its spending in response to homelessness. The mayor has developed a housing plan that is expected to create more than 200,000 housing units that would be regulated to ensure that they would be available to low-income earners at a below-market-rate, which will be a step in the right direction although the results will be visible as from the year 2022 (Neuman).
Another city with a serious case of homelessness is Honolulu in Hawaii. Hawaii leads the country in per capita homelessness rate. This is in spite of the fact that it managed to reduce the overall size of the homelessness population by about 9% in 2016. Honolulu has 51 homeless people per 10,000 individuals, which is the worst in all the 50 states just after the District of Columbia that had 110 homeless people per 10,000 (Nakaso). New York then follows closely with 45 homeless people per 10,000. The lowest is Mississippi which has 5 homeless people per 10,000. There are plans to undertake a Point in Time count across the Hawaiian Islands to determine if the number has increased or reduced in January 2018 (Nakaso). The decrease of 2016 was the first since 2009. It is interesting to note that Honolulu faces the same predicament that New York faces. The rate of homelessness has worsened as a result of unaffordable housing. The same trend has been experienced in Honolulu, and other West Coast cities indicating that a lot needs to be done as the streets of Honolulu are acting as homes to a lot of people. The reduction experienced in 2016 was attributed to some implementations that the state has implemented, which implies that their strategies have had a positive impact and that Honolulu is on the right track. Some of the implementations include rapid re-housing for homeless families, working to establish and secure affordable housing, and shifting to a model referred to as Housing First. The Housing First model seeks to move people quickly from the streets and to stable and more comfortable places (Nakaso). While these implementations take considerable time to accomplish and show results, there are already results as Honolulu and Hawaii, in general, is not experiencing the kind of hike in homelessness that other places like New York are. There are also plans to start buying and renovating buildings that could be used to offer affordable housing. The city is seeing tangible results, and others need to follow suit.
The other city with a chronic homeless case is Los Angeles. While that of Honolulu reduced significantly, that of Los Angeles spiked by about 23% over the previous decade. As research indicates, around 2 million households in L.A spend more than 30% of their income on housing. This indicates that housing is the problem in most, if not all, the areas that have high levels of homelessness. Between 2000 and 2015, the median rent increased by more than 30% in L.A. The median income, however, remained stagnant (Holland and Doug). Particularly, two-bedroom apartments ask for more than $2,400 which is a ridiculous amount. However, there is an interesting twist in these L.A changes in homelessness. Although there has been a rise, which could indicate an inability to address the problem, it is evident that L.A has been at the forefront of placing people in housing. The explanation here is that homelessness is outpacing these efforts. This implies that if such efforts were not in place, L.A would be the worst in all of US with regard to homelessness. Other efforts that L.A is currently undertaking include rent subsidies, outreach, and new construction in addition to support services. A combination of these efforts managed to get at least 14,000 people from the streets in 2016, which is a considerable achievement for the state (Holland and Doug). Bearing in mind that there are efforts to end homelessness with insignificant changes to the overall rate, it is clear that either many homeless people are coming into L.A or L.A residents are falling into homelessness for certain reasons. The trend does not affect a specific demography, but all parties including families, youths, and veterans are affected evenly by the rise although the youths comprise the highest number of approximately 64% (Holland and Doug). This presents the state with the challenging responsibility of first discovering the source of the problem and acting accordingly. L.A leaders have hypothesized that the rising housing costs in addition to stagnant housing as the underlying causes although this does not explain the seeming lack of progress in reducing the number of homeless individuals. There are also plans to alter laws to change land use as well as rent control regulations as the situation is out of control. As the leaders put it, the extraordinary case that L.A is facing requires an extraordinary response. The L.A voters have also decided to help out by promising to contribute $1.2 billion to help in the establishment of permanent housing for homeless individuals, which could count as the extraordinary response required in the state.
In conclusion, homelessness is a serious problem in all of the US. Various areas like New York, Hawaii, and L.A have the worst cases. While there are efforts to end it, only a few areas are reporting optimistic numbers with Hawaii being at the forefront. The lack of affordable housing stands out as the main reason for homelessness. Rental payments have been increasing yearly requiring a significant portion of income making it unsustainable. The cities experiencing most homelessness should learn from those that are doing good. For instance, New York should consider strategies in Hawaii and L.A. instead of increasing the number of shelters, which do not act as actual housing.
- Gay, Mara. “Rise in City Homeless at Top of U.S. List.” Wall Street Journal, Dec 07, 2017, Web. 7 Dec. 2017.
- Holland, Gale and Doug Smith. “L.A. County homelessness jumps a ‘staggering’ 23% as need far outpaces housing, new count shows” Los Angeles Times (Online), 31 May 2017. Web. 8 Dec. 2017.
- Nakaso, Dan. “Hawaii Still Leads Nation in Homeless Count Per Capita.” TCA Regional News Dec 07 2017 Web. 7 Dec. 2017.
- Neuman, William. “De Blasio Says City Will Hit Affordable-Housing Goal 2 Years Early”.