Who Are the Homeless People of America?
Who Are the Homeless People In the U.S.?
At any given time there are 3.5 million homeless people in the United States.
People who are parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends – or used to be family members and/or friends (before being disowned by embarrassed friends and relatives), make up our homeless population. Some homeless people have university degrees. Homeless people are ordinary people just like everyone else except that they have fallen on hard times.
Who Are the Homeless In the United States of America?
Families With Children
Families with children make up 43% of the homeless population. Of that number, 23% -- just over half, are children.
The recent passage through Congress of a bill that will cut Food Stamps by 40 Billion dollars will not improve the plight of homeless families, nor prevent more families from becoming homeless.
One of the results of the passage of this bill that cut 40 Billion dollars from the SNAP program was that 900,000 needy veterans and their families lost their food stamps!
At a time when the economy is still bad for working class people, Congress has cut benefits to the most vulnerable people in our society – children – but have taken no cut in their own salaries of $172,000 a year plus benefits.
How could anyone with even a tiny conscience living a comfortable life, thanks to a generous God, deny food to poor people, and especially children? The majority of our Congress members have done just that – and want to make even more cuts to public assistance programs for the poor. (At least 60% of our Congress members are millionaires and accomplished that condition after being elected to office.)
Some members of Congress make even more than the basic $172,000 a year. For more about the salary and benefits members of Congress receive, see: Can Members of Our U.S. Congress Retire With Full Pay After Just One Term? The Dirty Details!
Cost of All Public Assistance Programs To the Average Taxpayer
In 2012, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 per year paid just $36 towards the food stamps program.
That's just ten cents a day!
That's less than the cost of a gumball.
And when it comes to funding the rest of America's social safety net programs, the average American taxpayer making $50,000 a year pays just over six dollars a year.
The Daily Take, Thom Hartmann Program
About 26% of the homeless population in the richest nation in the world -- these United States -- are veterans. Female veterans make up 3% of that number. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country.”
A high percentage of homeless veterans (including women) suffer from traumatic brain injuries and PTSD (Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome).
The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs reports that most homeless veterans come from poor or disadvantaged communities. Overall, about half suffer from substance abuse problems while nearly that many suffer from mental illness.
Most homeless veterans have served our country for 3 or more years in one of the many wars since World War II. We thank these heroic people for their service to our country with joblessness and homelessness. As Yakov Smirnoff might say, “What a country!”
Our soldiers and military people are heroes when they are following orders in Afghanistan or Iraq, but when they come home to our so-called richest nation on earth, to no jobs, no medical care, and homelessness, they are suddenly lazy, slothful, and most of all, disposable.
“The homeless are aging. In 1990, just 11 percent of the homeless were over 50, but now half are that age, and growing older.”— Medical Daily — Susan Scutti of The Grapevine (Newsweek Media Group)
About 44% of homeless people are employed. Some organizations that keep track of who is homeless believe there may be slightly more than 44% employed if you take into consideration the number of homeless people who are self-employed for cash, usually doing odd jobs where they can find them.
SNAP Recipients (food stamps)
Despite what most people seem to want to believe, Forbes.com reported in 2010, that at least 30% of SNAP recipients were working.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) administers the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps). The USDA 2011 report (the most recent statistics available) concurred with Forbes.com in that nearly 30% of food stamp recipients have jobs. Many SNAP recipients work minimum pay jobs, which is one of many reasons why the minimum pay rate needs to be raised.
As of June 2011 the USDA reported that 48% of food stamp recipients were children and 8% were elders over 60 years old. About 16% of SNAP recipients are disabled adults. FeedingAmerica.org states that the “average monthly SNAP benefit is $133.79 per person.
Currently taxpayers subsidize businesses that refuse to pay their employees a living wage. Taxpayers provide the low pay workers in these companies with food stamps and often Medicaid too, to supplement their poverty level paychecks.
No one seems to mind giving welfare to businesses (farm subsidies to corporate farms, tax breaks to big oil companies, etc.), but they object loudly to helping real people.
People Who Find It Hard to Fit Into Society
People Who Cannot Seem to Function in Society
About 20% of the homeless population is chronically homeless. Some of the people in this category have mental disorders and/or substance abuse issues. Despite what most people seem to want to believe, some substance abuse problems originate as a result of PTSD, or prescription painkillers for injuries sustained either in the military or as civilians -- injuries that produce pain that has no remedy and never lets up. Some people actually have reasons why they are hooked on drugs, not just excuses.
Yet many people paint all homeless people with the same brush, calling them all lazy, slothful, mentally unstable, junkies, and worse. Often times I even hear that most of the homeless people want to be homeless. Say again? I think no one who has ever been homeless, as in living on the streets or in their car, would ever say such a thing, or even think it.
To say that people are homeless because they want to be is to my thinking an excuse for not doing anything to improve the situation. For some reason these people who say homeless people like being homeless imagine it is an acceptable excuse for doing nothing except bad mouthing them. It is not.
Sometimes people do not want to be in homeless shelters because many homeless shelters are dangerous. Some homeless shelters are great places to get beaten up, raped, to have one’s few meager possessions stolen, or all of the previously listed.
Sometimes the people who run certain shelters are dangerous. It is not just some of the other homeless people staying in a shelter who present a threat. So if not wanting to stay in a homeless shelter is someone’s idea of people wanting to be homeless, think again. Taking cover for the night in a homeless shelter is still technically homeless anyway.
For more information on the dangers of poverty and homelessness check out this article titled: Poverty Kills More People Every Year Than Either of the Top Killers -- Heart Disease or Cancer.
Homelessness Is Dangerous
Homeless People Die Long Before Their Time
Sheffield University in England did a study that found homeless people die on average of 30 years before their time.
“Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, [a charity for homeless people based in London] said: 'It is shocking, but not surprising, that homeless people are dying much younger than the general population.
'Life on the streets is harsh and the stress of being homeless is clearly taking its toll.
'This report paints a bleak picture of the consequences homelessness has on people’s health and wellbeing.
'Ultimately, it shows that homelessness is killing people.'”
Gavin Allen, Mail Online
Dangers of Being Homeless In a Country That Does Not Care
In the minds of many people homeless people are disposable. That attitude permeating a community makes it even more dangerous to be homeless, because no one cares about the safety and well being of homeless people as a result. Being one of the few who care about homeless people when most of the people around you do not can be hazardous to fitting in – see the article “Conformity: How Imporant Is It to YOU to Fit In?”
When people are dehumanized, as is often done to homeless people, the people in our society who have poor judgment and who often have undiagnosed mental issues of their own, think it is OK to harass, attack, and do horrendous things to those unfortunate, homeless people, who are looked down upon by people who consider themselves better.
The Los Angeles Times reported on January 15, 2013, that 67-year old Violet Phillips was set on fire December 27, 2012 as she slept on a bus bench in Van Nuys California. Phillips, at last report (LA Times January 20, 2013), remained in critical condition with second and third degree burns over more than 20% of her body and required a ventilator to breath. Information as to whether Phillips survived the attack over the long run, or what her status is now several months later, could not be found.
There have been hundreds of attacks on homeless people all across the United States in recent years and months. Most attacks do not involve setting people on fire, but rather simply beating or clubbing them to death – or trying to.
In 2011, 10 hate crimes not involving homeless people were documented. That same year 32 homeless people were criminally killed out of hate and bias. These statistics come from NationalHomeless.org. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports there were many more hundreds of violent attacks that did not result in death. These violent attacks occurred essentially because a lot of people seem to believe it is acceptable to harass, abuse, or attack homeless people.
Even police in some cities harass and abuse homeless people and a few of them are now awaiting trial for murder. In Orange County California, three officers have been charged with killing a mentally disabled homeless man. Brutality and harassment by police is another danger homeless people must face, as if they do not already have enough problems.
What Is the Definition of Homeless?
“An individual who lacks housing, including one whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility that provides temporary living accommodations; an individual who is a resident in transitional housing; or an individual who has as a primary residence a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings [car, cardboard box, doorway, etc.].”
Who Make Up the Homeless Population?
“There is no fair stereotype of homeless persons: they include the young and old, individuals and entire families, and all races and ethnicities. According to 2000 statistics published by the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2002, best estimates indicate that approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population (3.5 million persons) experience homelessness each year—more than one third of them children. The rights of these persons have become important societal and legal issues.”
From the Free Online Law Dictionary
What Are Some of the Causes of Homelessness?
“Unemployment, cutbacks in social service programs, a lack of affordable housing, and the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill patients are some of the circumstances that have led to people living in shelters or on the streets.”
The Free Online Law Dictionary
It Is Against the Law to Be Poor In the United States!
Dozens of cities across the U.S. have passed laws making it illegal to be poor. That would seem to mean that it is against the law to be laid off from one’s job. Against the law to NOT be hired when one has applied for a job. Against the law to suffer a great disaster such as a major accident, a major illness such as cancer, or to have one’s house struck by lightening and burn to the ground.
It is also against the law (if it leads to homelessness and poverty) to be born into this world with a physical or mental handicap. All of these things contribute to poverty and homelessness, and most if not all cannot be controlled by the individual, yet they are sometimes charged with a crime if one or more of these terrible events befalls them because these are the things that lead to most homelessness and poverty.
The crime of being poor! Not only Afghan people are still living in the first century it would seem . . .
Having laws passed making it illegal to be homeless and poor has not been helpful in either getting homeless people employed, or solving their homeless problem. Yes, homeless people get off the main streets or go to jail and stand trial for the egregious crime of being poor, but everyone has to be somewhere, so homeless people are simply pushed from place to place so that the better off (and in their own minds just plain ‘better’ people) -- people incapable of compassion -- do not have to look at them.
The world seems so much nicer when a person can pretend everything is as perfect for everyone else as it is for themselves -- and it saves having to care.
In addition to criminalizing the condition of poverty, jailing the unfortunate victims of this circumstance and giving them a police record, the few meager possessions most of the homeless people have when they are arrested are confiscated and destroyed.
How long before police are not only encouraged, but ordered, to shoot homeless people on sight? If being homeless and poor can be made into a crime, what is to prevent even more egregious and unconscionable behavior towards these unfortunate victims of our society?
Will criminalizing people who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances be the limit of heartlessness? How long before it becomes illegal to be sick? To dye your hair the wrong color? Or to butter your bread on the wrong side? You can laugh if you want to, but who ever imagined being poor would be crimimalized?
Some people care about the way homeless people are needlessly and unfairly condemned, reviled, vilified, and abused. They care about helping and finding long-term solutions, but they are the minority.
If everyone, or even the majority of people in this country truly wanted to end homelessness and the dangers that go with it here in the United States, it would happen. Making poverty a crime is not the answer. Forcing people to move on is not the answer. Starving people or letting them die for lack of healthcare, or shelter from the elements, and the dangers associated with being reviled, is not the answer. In short, hate is not the answer.
Apathy Changes Nothing
Give a person a fish and they have a good meal. Teach a person to fish and they eat for the rest of their lives – or something like that.
There are currently many people who are unemployed, homeless, and/or on food stamps who have college degrees. It does no good to know how to fish if there are no fishing jobs available. Indeed, no amount of education or skill will make up for no jobs of any kind available.
As my co-hubber and dear friend Aunt Jimi recently said in a conversation we were having, “Instead of obsessing about abortion and gay marriage, why not focus on creating jobs? We can always send people to Hell after we fill their bellies with food and provide them with a means to sustain themselves and their families. It is not as if Satan is going to close up shop and we have to meet a deadline for forcing people to share our religious views or forever gnash our teeth because someone escaped Hell and it was all our fault.”
Except for the grace of God, anyone could find him or herself living in poverty or homeless. Amazing that so many people who call themselves Christians and who insist this country (the U.S.) was founded on Christian principles and values do not seem to know the first thing about Christian principles and values as stated in the Bible and spoken of in the Red Words.
These uninformed people masquerading as Christians seem to truly believe that Jesus went around healing the sick and charging horrendous fees for so doing just like doctors do nowadays – and of course refusing to heal those who could not pay, also like doctors and hospitals do nowadays.
People who encourage violence through words, hate, or the passage of laws that criminalize something people cannot help being (poor, and or disabled in this case), and against people who are the least able to help themselves, are not behaving in any way that is exemplified as Christian in the Bible.
While I am a strong Christian, I must say I have known atheists who behaved more like Christians are expected by God to behave, than people who claim the Christian label.
Sources for This Article
These are the sources used in this article. I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about this issue to read further from the references below.
Newsweek Media Group on homeless elders
Free Online Law Dictionary
The Free Legal Dictionary
United States Dept. of Agriculture
Truth-out.org on the Cost of Public Assistance Programs to Average Taxpayer
Bill Moyers on Homelessness
Collection of articles on the homeless population
ABC News on violence against homeless people.
Los Angeles Times on setting homeless woman on fire.
Huffington Post on violence against homeless people
Think Progress on violence against homeless people
National Coalition for the Homeless
© 2013 C E Clark