Seeking Shelter: Resources For Helping The Homeless
Homelessness refers to low or no-income persons who require governmental aid in the form of emergency or transitional housing. Unsheltered homeless individuals roam the streets, parks, abandoned buildings, automobiles, public transportation venues, and other unsuitable places for human habitation. Chronic homelessness occurs when individuals find themselves without the proper care, oftentimes having repeated episodes lasting for more than a year on more than four separate occasions. Contrary to popular misconception, homelessness can strike anyone at any given time, regardless of their previous standard of living.
Homelessness affects people of all ages, sex, gender, or creed. It strikes people who have become poverty-stricken without sufficient work opportunities. For instance, it can occur when a tenant accumulates unbearable debt, loses his or her job, and fails to meet the monthly rent. In addition, the decline of public assistance has made it increasingly difficult for struggling individuals to pay their bills, especially with an inflationary economy that has failed to provide wage adjustments for low-income workers. A lack of affordable housing has caused families to foreclose. In addition, a lack of affordable health insurance has caused many U.S. citizens to live from paycheck to paycheck without adequate health coverage. In the past, the majority of homeless individuals included alcoholics, drug addicts, battered women, and the mentally ill.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development excludes individuals who live with friends or relatives, or who live in transient or non-transient shelters. The majority of homeless individuals will acquire the necessary assistance to get themselves back on their feet. For instance, the United States Congress voted for the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH) in an effort defeat poverty-stricken homelessness. The HEART Act explicitly defines homeless individuals who cannot find fixed, regular, and adequate shelter to sleep a night. The HEARTH Act enables sheltered and unsheltered families find the appropriate resources and support network to secure permanent housing. Families on the verge of losing their homes or place of residence may also qualify for the benefits offered in the HEARTH Act. In addition, the HEARTH Act covers unaccompanied children and youth who do not have permanent housing. Some of these individuals may opt to live outdoors, in motels, on farms for migrant workers, and may even start "couch surfing" from city to city to avoid sleeping on the streets.
Broader definitions of homelessness exist and may include substandard living conditions with burdensome housing costs. These unstable living conditions create an uncertainty for families that place them at risk for living in potentially dangerous areas. For instance, it may cause families to continuously move, an unsuitable condition for all children and young people. In fact, this creates disconnected relationships among family members, which results in rifted homes and quite possibly domestic abuse. Battered women may opt to seek out a homeless shelter as a means of getting out of a domestically abusive relationship. This can impact children who cannot live with the abusive father and must flee with their mother.
The homeless can receive governmental assistance if they currently do not have a place of residence, or are the risk of becoming homeless. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development offers several financial assistance programs that help homeless persons find a permanent place of residence. Homeless persons can also seek out their local emergency shelter, food and housing councils, and job training and placement centers to help them get back on their feet. The Continuum of Car (CoC) Homeless Assistance Programs aim to reduce the overall rate of homelessness in local communities by transitioning individuals into self-sustainable living situations in accordance to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Non-profit organizations exist for ordinary volunteers to help assist homeless persons find permanent housing. Everybody can help the homeless by donating or volunteering at these non-profit organizations to help the homeless find stability in their lives. Other individuals may opt to adopt homeless children or partake in a "Big Brothers Big Sisters" program.
Follow these links to learn more about homelessness:
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