Who are the homeless? Why are they homeless?
One out of four homeless is employed full- or part-time, according to the United States Conference of Mayors. The arithmetic is simple and frightening: a person who works forty hours a week at the 1992 Federal minimum wage of $4.25 per hour grosses about $700 a month, takes home less than $600-- and is a prime candidate for homelessness.
One quarter of the homeless are war veterans, most of them from the Vietnam conflict. Do you remember Ron Kovic's story in the film, Born on the Fourth of July? It dramatized the fact that the veterans of that war were abandoned and discouraged, even dishonored, and in Ron's case wound up on our streets, some of them disable, others mentally traumatized by their war experiences, others simply unable to find work.
One out of four homeless people is a child. The fastest growing homeless group in the United States is families with children. Their number nearly doubled between 1984 and 1989, and continues to do so. Many homeless children are alone. They may be runaways who left home because there is no money for food, because they are victims of rape, incest, or violence or because one or both of their parents is in emotional turmoil. Some are "throwaways" whose parents tell them to leave home, or won't allow them to return once they leave.
Elderly people on fixed incomes don't fit the traditional image of homeless folk. But the fact is that a senior citizen who receives $450 a month in benefits and pays $350 for rent can't survive in any U.S. city. However, Social Security, Medicare, and other senior oriented programs provide a safety net for many of the elderly, making their numbers
disproportionally less among the homeless than other minorities. Although the elderly are not as likely to be found in shelters, it is true that some are afraid to go to shelters, or even a soup kitchen. Others are living in poverty, not homeless, but often homebound and without proper heating, water, or other amenities.
Thirty-two thousand people with AIDS and their dependents were homeless in 1989. By 1995 over 100,000 AIDS related sufferers are projected to join their ranks.
Gays and Lesbians
Another main factor that has been forcing so many American teenagers to the streets is homosexuality. According to a report by 20/20 's Connie Chung, there are so many teenagers who are getting thrown out of their houses by their parents because of their sexual orientation. Since these kids have no where to go or no one to talk to, they turn in to prostitution and drugs which in turn has been the main factor for the increase in the rate of suicides among teenagers in the gay and lesbian population.
Main Factors for the Result of Homelessness in America
The Increase in Housing prices
The rapid rise of economy through out the country has resulted in increase in housing prices. Which, in turn has been the main factor for the increasing number of homeless in America. According to a survey done by The Christian Science Monitor, the number of families that are coming to shelters has increased by 10% and the stock of affordable housing has also shrunk by 19%.
A recent study done by National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty said that "more than three million poor Americans spend more than half of their income on housing, yet the department of housing and Urban Development estimates families should spend no more than 30%." And besides, the minimum wages that most of these families earn can not possibly cover their housing expenses.
There is a very small amount of resources available to help all the homeless around the country. But, instead of trying to help the situation, the country has responded by passing laws against homeless people for begging and sleeping in public even though they are not provided with any other alternatives.
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