Homelessness in America: Disparity Amid Prosperity

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Rodriguez 1
bilal adem
eng ll2
Natasha Olivera
Exploratory Essay

Homelessness in America: Disparity Amid Prosperity
Homelessness has been affecting societies despite of economic stability and the overall wealth of the nation. It is seen as a stigma and directly associated with the concept of marginalization. There are the conventional notions of people sleeping in a cardboard box or addicts concealed between the alleyways of streets. Yet the homeless include those who live in their cars, in temporary shelters, abandoned buildings, and cheap motels. They are individuals who lack sufficient resources and who can not afford adequate housing. But what defines a home? Homelessness is about more than rooflessness. A home is not just a physical space: it provides roots, identity, security, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing (U.K. Charity Crisis). Currently, since the issue of youth homelessness is on the rise- as many as one in fifty American children or 1.5 million according to The National Center on Family Homelessness- I became intrigued and was prompted to explore the matter further. Questions regarding the causes, characteristics and the influence of relationships arose. The concern over government involvement was a major consideration as well. Is there even enough political will? It is said that “the measure of the worth of a society is how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable citizens” (Sizer). This perception can be related to the prevalence of youth homelessness in America. How then has this been occurring in the wealthiest nation in history? Before I could focus on a single large scale factor of homelessness, the government, I had to begin with the individual aspects. I began by researching the main causes of why youth become homeless; generalizing it to those who are under eighteen years of age. As I scanned through various sources, I saw a repetition of the number nine, which is the average age of a homeless person in this country! After the initial shock passed, I resumed with my research. I was certain that there are myriad of ways in which the causes can differ according to the situations of each individual, still there are underlying themes among these causes which are linked between homelessness and broader social issues. One of the main ones is family breakdown. It is something that I am familiar with because I have been working with children professionally for about four years now. I have even earned the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Personal experiences also led to my understanding. Given that I took all of this into account, I explored deeper into the issue of family breakdown. Rodriguez 2

Using the FIU database, I located a particularly useful overview from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In a section titled “Causes of Youth Homelessness,” it first stated that the “same factors that contribute to adult homelessness such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, low education levels, unemployment, mental health, and substance abuse issues, can also play a role in the occurrence and duration of a youth's homelessness.” These were good points that brought up questions in regards to parent-youth relationships and some of the long-term effects, which I decided to come back to later. Furthermore, it said that beyond these factors, “the phenomenon of youth homelessness is largely a reflection of family dysfunction and breakdown, specifically familial conflict, abuse, and disruption,” which I agreed with. Though the article did not specify further, some types of conflicts that came to mind were disputes over risky behavior such as promiscuity, opposing views on discipline, and sexual orientation. When it comes to domestic abuse there are many layers including physical, emotional, sexual, and mental that, along with the conflicts, leads to the deterioration of families. The brief continued to say that youth usually enter a state of homelessness as a...
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