Homelessness is a universal problem. Throughout the world, countries must struggle with seeing their citizens live on the streets.
Finding the true rates of homelessness is difficult. It is especially challenging to track since there is so much movement involved in homelessness.
Recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that there are about 600,000 homeless people in America on any given night. That is more than the entire population of Boston.
The National Coalition for the Homeless says there are five major factors that lead to homelessness in this country.
The Coalition believes that the lack of affordable housing is by far the biggest reason for homelessness in America. This is ultimately linked to the rising costs of rent. When coupled with the growing poverty rate, owning or renting a home is often out of reach.
The group also argues that the other major factors that lead to homelessness in America are the lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, and mental illness.
Despite popular belief, the Coalition does not attribute the high number of homelessness in this country to the release of a large number of patients from mental hospitals in the 1950s and 1960s. In the study, they found that the largest boom in homelessness in America occurred in the 1980s, after public housing options began to diminish.
Drug use is a leading cause of homelessness; many shelters will not accept people who continue to abuse drugs. In Philadelphia there are shelters that are available specifically for people who refuse to stop using drugs.
My Brother’s House is a shelter in South Philadelphia that houses about 20 men a night. Kate Colameco, the social worker at My Brother’s House, said that the shelter is unique because it allows its residents to continue to use drugs while they are staying there.
“It’s a safe haven for them,” she said.
The factors that contribute to homelessness change with each nation. The 2001 Population Census in Australia found that there were close to 100,000 homeless people throughout the country.
A survey of people who were considered homeless by the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program in Australia found that the most common reason for homelessness is domestic violence.
According to the SAAP Web site, the organization is the Australian government’s main homelessness initiative. Its basic function is to provide the money that agencies on local levels will be able to use to combat homelessness.
European countries also experience homelessness, although it differs throughout each country.
A non-governmental organization was put together by a number of European nations in order to combat rising homelessness rates.
The Web site for the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless states that it is the only major European network whose focus is exclusively homelessness in Europe.
It is a 90-member organization whose main purpose is to accommodate and support homeless agencies across European countries.
There are many European countries that do not make their data on homelessness available to the public, or do not even calculate the statistic.
In Germany, for instance, there are no official estimates by the German government on homelessness. An independent study by FEANTSA though, found that there are close to 500,000 homeless living there.
Another independent study found that in England, there are about 1,600 people homeless each night.
The British government has set up the Rough Sleepers Unit in order to regulate government spending on homelessness. It is also used to bring the services that homeless charities offer together, and has been successful in its mission.
Canada is struggling with the difficult task of finding adequate estimates on homelessness.
According to the Canadian Library of Parliament, there is still no official data on how many people are homeless in Canada.
In its annual census report card, the Canadian government estimates that almost 40,000 people stayed in homeless shelters in 2003 in Toronto alone.
One trend that is consistent throughout the world is the rising number of children who are homeless.
In America, the Department of Health and Human Services say that families with children make up 37 percent of people without homes.
There is also evidence that the number of these homeless families with children is increasing. This is especially dangerous since children who are living with homeless families experience health problems more than twice as often as other children. Education is also a major concern for these children.
This increase in childhood homelessness could spark an international pledge to fight this problem worldwide.
Emily Catalano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.