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Homelessness means people who do not have a place to stay. The word "homelessness" also includes people who sleep in warming centers, homeless shelters, or in abandoned buildings, parking garages, or other places not meant for humans to live in. Homelessness happens when people or households are unable to buy and/or maintain housing they can afford.
Homeless peoplestereotypes. For instance, in slang, a vagabond is someone who travels without the money necessary to stay in good hotels. Such a person may or may not have a home somewhere. Sometimes police reports use the word "transient" to describe people from out of town or who are passing through. Many times these words confuse the issues because someone just passing through might own a mansion somewhere or might not.
There are tough questions in sorting out homeless people even when trying to create programs and services to help them. Homeless counts are required by the government agencies that deal with homelessness. In the USA, for instance, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency requires a homeless "enumeration" count every two years. They classify "homeless" in a careful way and that way is very influential and a lot of other agencies and church groups copy it.
Housing and Urban Development spreads information about what works and what doesn't. That information is called "best practices". HUD defines homeless as 1. somebody who lacks a fixed, regular, and decent place to sleep at night or 2. somebody who sleeps at night in A.a supervised shelter (including welfare hotels, homeless shelters, warming centers and transitional housing) ; B.a place that provides a temporary residence for people waiting for space in a place like a hospital, jail or hospice; or C.a place not designed for human beings to sleep, such as parks or public streets.
A new focus: people who live outside
The "C" part of the HUD definition is now getting more attention. It is called "chronic homelessness". (HUD) defines a "chronically homeless" person as "an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition". There are other conditions to that definition. It has to be someone who has either been homeless for a year or more, or has been homeless four episodes times in the past three years."
People who study these things believe that the "chronic" homeless cost a lot more than the rest. A new approach is to seek information on who those folks are. They are using what is called a vulnerability index system. It was invented by a doctor in Boston who works with a New York organization called Common Ground. These "Vulnerability Index's" code for things like bad liver, kidney disease, HIV-AIDS, age and visits to the hospital.
Health care for the homeless is a major public health challenge. Homeless people are more likely to suffer injuries and medical problems from their lifestyle on the street. Quite a few drink or have addiction problems with drugs. Some have skin conditions from being out in the sun without sunscreen to protect themselves from UV radiation. It is hard to find places to wash up, and homeless people are exposed to extreme cold and hot sun. It is tough finding good food for many homeless people so they tend to suffer from medical conditions. This can include obesity if they eat a lot of poor quality food with empty calories. Homeless people also may have more severe dental problems than the general population due to lack of access to washrooms and in some cases excess intake of sweets, which may be the only food available. Diabetes and liver problems are not uncommon, as are diseases associated with cigarette smoking.
The vulnerability index is from the work of Dr. Jim O'Connell of Boston's Healthcare for the Homeless. He was concerned about the causes of death of unsheltered homeless individuals living on the street. A national drive is underway by Common Ground to work with the HUD homeless count. Since communities are doing the count, he believes that is a good time to do the vulnerability index too. Its' people say that using it will help getting needy individuals off the street.
The vulnerability index has been tried out in a lot of other places not just the East Coast. These include New Mexico and Santa Monica
The main reasons for homelessness have been studied in many reports and studies. For example:
- Lack of affordable housing
- Low paying jobs
- Addiction and lack of needed services
- Mental illness and lack of needed services
- Domestic violence
- Social exclusion
- Discrimination that lows self-esteem
- Careless life style
- Prison release and re-entry into society
- Change and cuts in welfare
- Natural disasters
Developing and undeveloped countries
The number of homeless people worldwide has grown steadily in the past few years. In some Third World nations such as Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa, homelessness is a very big problem, with millions of children living and working on the streets. Homelessness has also become a problem in China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan.
In the sixteenth century in England, the government first tried to give housing to vagabonds instead of punishing them. In the eighteenth century, these houses were replaced by workhouses. These were later replaced by dormitory housing ("spikes"). By the early 1930's in England, there were 30,000 people living in these places.
In most countries, many towns and cities had an area where all the poor, transients, and afflicted lived, such as a "skid row". In smaller towns, there were hobos, who camped near train tracks and hopped onto trains from place to place. Many places where people were once allowed to loiter(such as churches, public libraries and public atriums) became more strict as the number of homeless people grew.
In the 1980s, in the United States, some new laws were made for the homeless as a result of the work of Congressman Stewart B. McKinney. In 1987, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was enacted. Several organisations in some cities, such as New York and Boston, tried to help the growing number of homeless people in a new way.
Homelessness in the popular media
- 1966. Cathy Come Home on IMDb - An influential film by Ken Loach which raised the profile of homelessness in the UK and led indirectly to the formation of several charities and changes in legislation.
- 1986. Down and Out in Beverly Hills on IMDb
- 1991. Life Stinks on IMDb
- 1994. With Honors on IMDb
- 1997. La Vendedora de Rosas on IMDb
- 2003. Homeless to Harvard: the Liz Murray Story on IMDb —see Liz Murray
- 2006. The Pursuit of Happiness on IMDb - the story of Chris Gardner
- 2005 Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America by Michelle Kennedy
- 1985. Streetwise on IMDb —follows homeless Seattle youth.
- 1997. The Street: A Film with the Homeless on IMDb —about the Canadian homeless in Montreal. New York Times Review,
- 2000 Dark Days on IMDb —A film following the lives of homeless adults living in the Amtrak tunnels in New York.
- 2001 Children Underground on IMDb —Following the lives of homeless children in Bucharest, Romania.
- 2003. À Margem da Imagem on IMDb —about the homeless in São Paulo, Brazil. Its English title is "On the Fringes of São Paulo: Homeless".
- 2004. Homeless in America on IMDb
- 2005 Children of Leningradsky on IMDb —About homeless children in Moscow.
- 2005 Reversal of Fortune on IMDb —Explores what a homeless who is given $100,000 and is free to do with it whatever he wishes.
- 2007 Easy Street—about the homeless in Florida.
- Homeless Statistics for Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States, all data from around the year 2001.
- PBS, "Home at Last?", NOW series program, first aired on February 2, 2007. The topic was what will most help homeless people reenter the fabric of society.
- Homelessness at the Open Directory Project
- Homelessness, Current information on U.S. homelessness written by The Rev. Chuck Currie, former National Coalition for the Homeless board member.
- Homelessness in Europe FEANTSA is the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless is an umbrella of not-for-profit organisations which participate in or contribute to the fight against homelessness in Europe.
- Homelessness in Spain News, agenda, documents, multimedia and other info about the homeless people in Spain.
- News Positive media coverage of homeless man, a former radio announcer, Ted Williams, who found job offers after being re-discovered while homeless in January 2011, and called "the man with the golden voice".
- Duke, Alan, "'Golden voice' Ted Williams departs drug rehab", CNN, January 25, 2011.