The Problem Of Homelessness In The United States Of America – Toronto Hud

31 October, 2010

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines “homeless” as — (1) an individual or family without a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and (2) an individual or family with a primary nighttime region that is: A) a publicly- or privately-run shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations; B) an institution that provides a temporary location for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or C) a public or private state not designed to be a regular sleeping accommodations for people (2006). Simply put, homelessness refers to people who do not have adequate, safe, and consistent shelter. Estimations of the homeless population in the U.S vary, causes of homelessness are structural and deep-seated, and the solutions to homelessness would require a nationwide concerted effort to make fundamental changes in the structure of society in the United States. “People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes” (McKechnie, 2006).

Due to the changing, mobile, and often hidden nature of homelessness, nobody knows with certainty how many homeless there are in America (Coleman & Kerbo, 2006). Due to its very nature, it is not possible to measure the homeless population with complete accuracy. The Census Bureau counted 228,621 in a nationwide tally, but they never intended to count them all and that number is believed to be significantly low (Coleman et al., 2006). The National Coalition for the Homeless recognizes a study done by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty as the most accurate approximation of the homeless population; the study states that “approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year” (2006). While different agencies and studies have resulted in different numbers, all of the sources agree that the numbers of the homeless have grown significantly in modern years (Coleman et al., 2006). However, more important than knowing the precise number of people who experience homelessness is our progress in ending it.

Homelessness is not a problem specific to the United States. It is estimated that there are about 3 million homeless people in the 15 countries of the European Union (Unicef, 1998). Philip Alston, Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights since 1991 states that “[o]n any given night, three quarters of a million people in the United States are homeless; in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, 6,500 people stayed in emergency shelters on a typical night in late 1997, a two-thirds increase in just one year” (Unicef, 1998). Homelessness is a global pickle.

Who are the homeless? Statistics show that the good demographics may defy accepted expectations. The homeless population consists not only of single unemployed men, but also a substantial number of children, single mothers, families, veterans, employed workers, and gays and lesbians. While most studies show that single homeless adults are more likely to be male than female, the National Coalition for the Homeless states that 39% of the homeless population was comprised of children under the age of 18 in 2003. In 2004, 25% of the homeless were ages 25 to 34 and 6% were 55 to 64 (2006). Single men comprised only 43% of the homeless population (National Coalition for the Homeless [NCH], 2006).

Abused women who live in poverty often must choose between their abusive relationships and homelessness. In a study of 777 homeless parents (mostly mothers) in ten U.S. cities, 22% had left their previous home due to domestic violence (NCH, 2006). A 2003 survey of 100 homeless mothers in 10 locations around the country found that 25% of the women had been physically abused in the last year. Other studies demonstrate that nationally, “approximately half of all women and children experiencing homelessness are fleeing domestic violence” (NCH, 2006). Domestic violence should be considered one of the necessary causes of homelessness.

Families with children are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population; the number of homeless families with children has increased considerably over the past decade (NCH, 2006). Families make up 43% of the homeless population (Coleman et al., 2006) and research indicates that single mothers, children, and families comprise the largest group of people who are homeless in rural areas (NCH, 2006). The sharpest increases in the homeless population have been among women and children (Coleman et al., 2006).

Gays and lesbians are often overlooked in the homeless population. However, an extensive new report published by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless reveals that there is an epidemic of homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth (Ray, 2006). “[Their] analysis of the available research suggests that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, contented, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Given that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual, it is definite that LGBT youth experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate” (Ray, 2006, p.9). This study states that more than 500,000 LGBT youth in the United States are at risk of homelessness during the winter of 2007 and 2008 (Ray, 2006). Homeless LGBT youth experience greater risks of victimization than their heterosexual counterparts. “According to the National Runaway Switchboard, LGBT homeless youth are seven times more likely than their heterosexual peers to be victims of a crime” (Ray, 2006, p.12). The LGBT homeless are a significant population.

It can be surprising to learn that many of the homeless are either veterans of the armed forces, employed, or both. Veterans are overrepresented in the homeless population. Research indicates that 34% of the general adult male population has served in the armed forces, while 40% of homeless men are veterans (Coleman et al., 2000). The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 271,000 veterans are homeless (NCH, 2006). Homeless shelters also often house primary numbers of full-time wage earners; surveys in new years have yielded the percentage of homeless working to be as high as 26% and in many cities and states the percentage is estimated to be even higher (NCH, 2006). It is evident that the homeless do not fit one general description, and homelessness crosses many social boundaries.

There are numerous causes of homelessness. These include lack of affordable health care, decreased public assistance, poverty, extreme wages, poverty, and a shortage of affordable housing. “[P]eople are homeless not because of their individual flaws, but because of structural arrangements and trends that result in extreme impoverishment and a shortage of affordable housing” (Timmer, 1994, p.15). Simply build, a household becomes homeless when it can no longer afford housing. To understand why some poverty-stricken people experience homelessness and some do not, many structural dynamics must be considered.

A lack of affordable health care results in homelessness for many families. When an individual or a family is already struggling to pay the rent, a serious health boom can result in a lost job, a depletion of their savings to pay for their medical care, and an eventual eviction. In 2004, 15.7% of the U.S. population–approximately 45.8 million Americans–had no health care insurance, and almost a third of those living in poverty had no health insurance of any kind (NCH, 2006). A lack of health insurance combined with an illness or injury can easily inaugurate a downward spiral into homelessness.

The reduction in the availability and monetary amounts of public assistance is a large source of increasing poverty and homelessness. The Serve to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program used to be the largest cash assistance program for unpleasant families with children until it was repealed in August of 1996 and replaced with a block grant program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) (NCH, 2006). Currently, Food Stamps and TANF benefits combined are well under the poverty level in every residence. For example, for a single parent of two children the current maximum TANF benefit is only 29% of the federal poverty level (Nickelson, 2004). Welfare is simply not enough to help people rise above poverty in the United States.

Poverty and homelessness are intrinsically intertwined. Improper wages, lack of affordable housing and insufficient housing assistance contribute to the problem of homelessness by making it difficult for many low-income people to afford housing. It is often not possible for poor people to pay for housing, childcare, food, education, and health care simultaneously; when their limited resources cover only some of these essentials, they are forced to accomplish difficult decisions. Since housing takes such a high proportion of their income, it is often the necessity that gets sacrificed (NCH, 2006). According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “declining wages have put housing out of come for many workers: in every state, more than the minimum wage is required to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Magnificent Market Rent” (2006). On average, minimum-wage workers would need to work at least 89 hours weekly to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of their income-the federal definition of affordable housing (NCH, 2006). Clearly, inadequate income leaves many people homeless, since “being awful means being an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets” (NCH, 2006).

The federal government drastically reduced the amount of money spent on subsidized housing over the last thirty years, which has significantly contributed to the problem of homelessness (Coleman et al., 2006). The need for assisted low-income housing surpasses the supply by far; unfortunately, only about one-third of low-income households receive any government housing subsidies, and the other two-thirds go without (NCH, 2006). In addition, it is notable that the National Coalition for the Homeless contends the following:

“[I]t should be noted that the largest federal housing assistance program is the entitlement to deduct mortgage interest from income for tax purposes. In fact, for every one dollar spent on low income housing programs, the federal treasury loses four dollars to housing-related tax expenditures, 75% of which benefit households in the top fifth of income distribution. In 2003, the federal government spent almost twice as distinguished in housing-related tax expenditures and philosophize housing assistance for households in the top income quintile than on housing subsidies for the lowest-income households. Thus, federal housing policy has not responded to the needs of low-income households, while disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest Americans” (2006).

In some communities, former welfare families appear to be experiencing homelessness in increasing numbers, because subsidized housing is so limited and housing prices are so high that “housing is rarely affordable for families leaving welfare for low wages” (NCH, 2006). Coleman and Kerbo assert that there is a “critical shortage” of low-cost rental housing for low-income people who will never be able to own their own home (2006). Millions of units of low-cost housing have been abandoned or converted into more expensive housing in recent years; over a million ‘flophouse’ rooms have been demolished since 1970 (Coleman et al., 2006). In addition, “the average cost of rental housing has grown twice as like a flash as the average income of renters” (Coleman et al., 2006, p. 413). Thus, while the number of poor people has been growing, the supply of affordable housing has been scared (Coleman et al., 2006).

Unfortunately, many homeless shelters need to accommodate those on the excessive waiting lists for public housing for months at a time, straining the shelters’ capacities. For example, New York homeless families in the mid-1990s stayed in a shelter an average of five months before being able to depart to permanent housing (NCH, 2006). The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that in a study of 24 cities, people remained homeless an average of seven months, and 87% of cities reported an increase of the length of time people are homeless in recent years. Longer stays in homeless shelters can result in less shelter space becoming available for other homeless people, who often live in inadequate housing or live on the streets.

The homeless population of the United States faces an increased risk of many hazards that their housed counterparts do not, including dangers from the elements, inadequate food, increased risk of criminal victimization and disapprove crimes, and increased health problems. Authors Coleman and Kerbo point out that “[l]ack of protection from the elements is the most obvious hardship they face” (2006, p. 199) Getting enough food to eat is also a constant danger, and because they spend so much time out on the streets, the homeless are easy targets for both violent and nonviolent criminals (Coleman, 2006).

The homeless experience higher rates of victimization from hate crimes and violence than do housed people. In February, 2007, the National Coalition for the Homeless released a 105-page publication titled Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness 2006 whichdetails the 142 violent crimes-including beatings, stabbings, burnings, and rape–against homeless individuals in the past year, the highest number of incidents since NCH’s annual study began in 1999 (2007). This past year’s attacks resulted in 20 fatalities. Attacks have increased 65% from last year, and over 170% since five years ago. (Hate, Violence, and Death [HV&D], 2007). This report strives to “educate the public to the inhumanities facing America’s homeless population” and has played a role in getting laws protecting the homeless passed in Maine and California as well as influencing pending legislation in California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and Texas (HV&D, 2007). Between 1999 and 2005, 82 homicides were classified as hate crimes according to the Center for the Study of Disapprove and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino. Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA reports that in the same period of time there were 169 deaths as a result of violent acts directed at homeless people–more than twice the number of deaths than those resulting from categorized hate crimes.” (2007). Michael Stoopes, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) asserts, “It is NCH’s state that many of these acts should be considered disfavor crimes. Crimes against homeless people are motivated by the same intolerance as loathe crimes against people of a clear religious, racial, or ethnic background” (HV&D, 2007). According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, reported incidents of attacks against homeless people are increasing and have reached the highest level in years.

Health problems can be both causes and effects of homelessness. For example, a health problem may prevent someone from going to work, which results in lost income that causes them to be unable to afford housing. Once homeless, the lack of shelter and trustworthy facilities can make it difficult or impossible to maintain proper hygiene which can both cause and worsen illnesses. A lack of shelter increases the risk of parasites, frostbite, ulcers, and infections, as well as an increased risk of physical and psychological trauma from muggings, beatings, and rape (Doak, 2006). The homeless suffer twice the rate of depression (41%) as the general population (23%), and three times the rate of chronic bronchitis and emphysema (22.7%) (Doak, 2006). Experts agree that the homeless suffer from more types of illnesses for longer periods of time, with more harmful consequences than housed people, and health care delivery is also complicated by the homelessness of the patient; it is significantly more difficult to manage diabetes, tuberculosis, HIV, hypertension, malnutrition, severe dental problems, addictive disorders, mental disorders, and chronic diseases in the homeless (Doak, 2006). In addition, “
The homeless have higher mortality rates and die at younger ages than the rest of the population; in 1997 the average age of death for the homeless was 43.3 years, while the average age of death for the general population was 72.6 years (Doak, 2006). Elements of homeless life that encourage early death include exposure to extremes of weather and temperature, crowded shelter living which can increase the spread of communicable diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia, violence, high frequency of medical and psychiatric illnesses, substance abuse, and inadequate nutrition (Doak, 2006). Socioeconomic conditions contributing to the prevalence of illness and early death in the homeless population include terrible diet, inadequate sleeping locations, contagion from overcrowded shelters, limited facilities for daily hygiene, exposure to the elements, exposure to violence, social isolation, and lack of health insurance (Doak, 2006). “There is a growing belief in the health care field that homelessness needs to be considered in epidemic terms-that massive increases in homelessness may result in a hastened spread of illness and disease, overwhelming the health care system” (Doak, 2006).

Homelessness in the United States is a result of a complex set of events, circumstances, and structural characteristics of society that force people to choose between health care, shelter, food, and other basic needs. To reduce or end homelessness, American communities need to make a collaborative and cooperative attempt to ensure nationwide access to health care, jobs that pay a true living wage, sufficient public support for those unable to work, and especially affordable housing. Congressman Dennis Kucinich aptly states, “We have weapons of mass destruction we have to address here at home. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction” (2007).

References

Coleman, J. & Kerbo, H. (2006). Social Problems (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River:

Pearson Education, Inc.

Doak, M. (2006). Homeless in America: How Could it Happen Here? Farmington Hills:

Thomas Gale.

Feldman, L. (2004). Citizens Without Shelter. Ithica: Cornell University.

Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence

Against People Experiencing Homelessness 2006 (2007, February). Retrieved April 12, 2007 from

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/getinvolved/projects/hatecrimes/2006report_2.pdf

Industrialized Countries: Commentary: Hardship in the Midst of Plenty. (1998).

Retrieved April 1, 2007, from http://www.unicef.org/pon98/indust1.htm

McKechnie, S. (2006). Retrieved April 7, 2007 from

http://thinkexist.com/quotes/sheila_mckechnie/

National Coalition for the Homeless Fact Sheet #1. (2006, June). Retrieved February 23,

2006, from http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/Why.pdf

National Coalition for the Homeless Fact Sheet #2. (2006, June). Retrieved February 23,

2006, from http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/How_Many.pdf

National Coalition for the Homeless Fact Sheet #3. (2006, June). Retrieved February 23,

2006, from http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/Whois.pdf

Nickelson, Idara. “The District Should Use Its Upcoming TANF Bonus To Increase Cash

Assistance and Remove Barriers to Work”, 2004. D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

Available at www.dcfpi.org.

Ray, N. (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth: An epidemic of

homelessness. New York: National Gratified and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute

and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Timmer, D. A., Eitzen, D. S., & Talley, K.D. (1994). Paths to Homelessness: Outrageous

Poverty and the Urban Housing Crisis. Boulder: Westview Press, Inc.

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2006, October). Retrieved April 7, 2007 from http://www.hud.gov/homeless/index.cfm

Ontario Anti Smoking Laws 6 – Ontario Government

31 October, 2010

SMOKING LAWS 6

Nancy Daigneault, president of Canada’s largest smokers’ right group, mychoice.ca, said it best. “The government clearly sees smokers as an easy revenue target.” While the government depends on the taxes (over 68%) peaceful on the sale of tobacco, it is doing its darndest to waste its golden goose. Daigneault says there have already been financial losses on charities, bingo halls, legions, bar owners and provincial gaming revenues in jurisdictions which have banned private clubs and designated smoking rooms.

A recent study conducted for Windsor officials by Toronto-based UrbanMetrics Inc. suggests the southern Ontario city that borders Detroit will lose $225.2 million in annual tourist dollars and some 2,700 jobs because of the original anti-smoking rules. In 1999, nearly nine million American tourists visited Windsor, more than any other destination in Canada. That number has dropped to five million last year. Some 80 per cent of visitors to Casino Windsor are from the United States.
Windsor St. Clair MP Dwight Duncan said he believes any plunge in business will be temporary, but promises to monitor the effects of the unique legislation. “The government relies on that casino and its revenues as piece of our budget and it will be important to us that it continues on; that’s why we’re investing $400 million to keep it competitive.” I don’t know what world Duncan is living in, but a $400 million hotel with no guests is a white elephant. The casino owners know this and that is why they haven’t invested a dime in this cockeyed scheme. All the money came out of the pockets of Ontario taxpayers.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said border cities such as Windsor are going to need some assistance to get through the transition period. He wants the same kind of multimillion-dollar campaign for American tourists that it launched to promote the province during the SARS medical scare in 2002. Of course, most of that money went to Toronto and as every honorable politician knows, Ontario stops at London. So what chance does Windsor have? Windsor’s tourism industry has been hit hard over the years by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, followed by the SARS medical outbreak in 2003 and now, a high Canadian dollar that reduces the loonie’s appeal for Americans at foreign exchange kiosks. Francis believes the province has so far fallen short of advertising the benefits of its non-smoking environments to U.S. visitors. Probably because there is no benefit to it other than trying to make smokers pariahs. An act to prevent smoking from being imposed on non-smokers is one thing, but this act goes far beyond that and actually seeks to impose non-smoking on those who are smokers.

Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson said 16,000 people die annually as a result of smoking, 2,000-3,000 of those are due to second-hand smoke. Unfortunately, other than Heather Crowe, a suspicious example at best, he can’t name one. Not one gawk confirms second- hand smoke causes lung disease. Not from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, not from Health Canada, not from the World Health Organization in Geneva. You will find a ogle of 17,000 people over 35 years, all non-smokers who lived/worked with smokers. This study, published in the Lancet (British Medical Journal), showed no statistical difference in the rates of lung disease between the study group and the general population. Therefore there is no medical support for the health and safety claims supporting anti-smoking legislation.