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#BTColumn – The pressing issue of homelessness

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By Wayne Campbell

“People who find themselves homeless will not be social inadequates. They’re people without homes.”- Sheila McKechnie.

Homelessness is pervasive. October 10 2022 marked the twelfth annual World Homeless Day. The aim of World Homeless Day is to attract attention to the needs of people that experience homelessness and supply opportunities for the community to get entangled in responding to homelessness.  Homelessness is one of the pressing social problems with the twenty first century. The rise cost of housing is maybe at the inspiration of homelessness in lots of instances. A major number of people will not be receiving a livable wage and because of this their housing needs will not be being met.  Is there an official definition of homelessness? America of America Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines homeless as: “a person who lacks housing (without regard as to if the person is a member of a family), including a person whose primary residence through the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that gives temporary living accommodations, and a person who’s a resident in transitional housing. A homeless person is a person without everlasting housing who may live to tell the tale the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned constructing or vehicle; or in another unstable or non-permanent situation. A person could also be considered to be homeless if that person is “doubled up,” a term that refers to a situation where individuals are unable to take care of their housing situation and are forced to stick with a series of friends and/or prolonged relations. In accordance with the United Nations, globally, 1.6 billion people worldwide live in inadequate housing solutions, with 15 million forcefully evicted yearly. It’s widely reported that the highest five cities worldwide with people experiencing homelessness are: Manila with the very best estimated rate of homelessness at 3 million. Over 61,000 persons are homeless in New York.  Los Angeles city has a homeless population of 36,000; Mexico City homeless population is estimated between 15, 000-30,000 and Mumbai in India has an estimated homeless population of 20,000.

The United Nations states the immediate explanation for homelessness is usually a selected circumstance in people’s life, but homelessness at all times has structural drivers. These drivers include poverty, shortage of inexpensive housing, lack of access to social protection, discrimination, social exclusion and privatization of public services. Moreover, quite a few social and economic aspects drive probably the most vulnerable population into being unsheltered. Considered one of which is mental health. Issues related to mental health, akin to bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia can and do limit a person’s ability to secure and maintain a job. This can even impact that individual’s ability to take care of his/her housing. Moreover, substance abuse and addiction also hinders a person’s ability to focus his/her attention on personal care and financial responsibilities. Wars and natural disasters akin to earthquakes and hurricanes have also contributed to homelessness in lots of societies. Last but under no circumstances least; physical health is also chargeable for homelessness. In lots of instances individuals with a severe illness oftentimes have difficulty paying for medical bills, especially, since universal medical health insurance shouldn’t be universal in most societies. At times a difficult selection must be made between paying for medical care or paying for housing needs. Women in particularly find it relatively difficult regarding housing needs.  For ladies, domestic violence is a number one explanation for homelessness. For ladies, domestic violence is a number one explanation for homelessness.

Working Poverty

Working poverty refers to a situation where families with not less than one person in paid work have a household income that keeps them below an officially recognized poverty line.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) states employment needs to be a vector to lift people out of poverty, but this is just true if job quality is sufficient, including adequate earnings, job security and protected working environments. The connection between employment and poverty depends greatly on the extent to which decent work is ensured within the labour market.  The working poverty rate reveals the proportion of the employed population living in poverty despite being employed, implying that their employment-related incomes will not be sufficient to lift them and their families out of poverty and ensure decent living conditions. For the aim of international comparability, the poverty line used for the measurement of this indicator refers to an absolute international poverty line of US$1.90 per capita per day at purchasing power parity. The minimum wage in Jamaica is currently at $9,000 per 40 hour work week while the exchange rate is $154 Jamaican dollars is required to buy US$1.  The United Nations confirmed that working poverty rates have increased pushing an additional 8 million employees into poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to a major variety of job losses which invariably have led to increased poverty.

Homelessness oftentimes results in the creation of unplanned settlements. There are lots of accompany problems with unplanned communities akin to a scarcity of proper sanitation which can lead to the spread of diseases. The desperation many homeless individuals face forces them to occupy unused lands to be able to construct a shelter for themselves and their families. Nobody is condoning this motion; nonetheless the basis cause should be interrogated as governments seek to seek out workable solutions to handle the problem of homelessness.  The pandemic of homelessness needs a collective effort to affect positive change. Along with highlighting the issue of homelessness, World Homeless Day addresses the necessity to construct adequate housing which is protected and captures all the fundamental amenities for comfortable living.   

Housing Solutions

Those that are homeless repeatedly are stigmatized and discriminated against. Regrettably, there are those within the society who’ve harmed and even murdered the homeless. These acts of violence perpetrated against the homeless should be condemned and the justice system must make sure that the rights of the homeless are safeguarded. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate, neither should we. The fear of homelessness hangs over our heads each day. The fact is a lot of us who’ve a roof over our heads are only a paycheck from being homeless ourselves. Too often we now have a picture of a homeless person being one who’s old with ragged clothes and a disheveled persona; nonetheless, many homeless individuals are relatively well dressed managing their 9 to five jobs but live of their cars or some transitional housing facility. The rapid commercialization of once residential areas is a cause for concern. As developers change the dynamics of residential communities the swell of homelessness continues unabated eroding the moral and social fabric of societies.  Undoubtedly, there may be a job for politicians in addressing the needs of the homeless. Nevertheless, private-public partnerships akin to the National Housing Trust, Food for the Poor, real estate developers, the church, urban planners, local government in addition to those on the community level should be a part of the discussion and solution.  Allow us to for a moment imagine the transformative impact inexpensive housing would have on the society, on any society for that matter. The transformative impact on generations can be astounding when it comes to land ownership in addition to breaking the cycle of poverty.  Landlessness has been a part of the discourse ever since slavery was abolished in 1838. The difficulty of home ownership in post-slavery societies akin to those within the Caribbean is critical to our sense of identity. This ownership also serves as a connection to our ancestors who worked and died as slaves on large plantations. It’s the responsibility of governments to handle and eradicate all types of poverty of their societies. Too many individuals are falling through the cracks and are ending up below the poverty line. Governments have to execute more housing solutions and social safety net for probably the most vulnerable within the society. The discussion regarding homelessness should be done in an environment of dignity and honesty. Allow us to work in unison to create a society where everyone has a spot to call home. Shelter is a basic human need.  The time to tackle the issue of homelessness is now.

Within the words of Michael Shellenberger, homelessness has change into a human rights crisis.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. [email protected] @WayneCamo © #WorldHomelessDay #WHD

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