Homelessness is an ever-growing issue worldwide. It affects a broad range of diverse individuals. Homelessness can lead to or be caused by addiction, abuse, poverty, and imprisonment. As a result, it is important to find and implement solutions to diminish the consequences of homelessness. There are many solutions that would make a major impact in the homeless crisis. These solutions include, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, shelters and transitional housing, increasing income and employment opportunities, and preventing homelessness (National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH)). Although these solutions are incredibly impactful to ending homelessness, the most effective, and the solution that incorporates almost all other solutions, would be fixing the problem of unaffordable housing.
In California alone, there are currently 129,921 homeless people one any given night (NAEH). According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the lack of affordable housing and low income is the prime cause of homelessness in America. Some other major causes of homelessness are health issues, survivors of domestic violence who are trying to escape their abuser, and minority groups who experience racial inequality (NAEH). The issue of homelessness may seem daunting and impossible to fix but there are many solutions that could at least improve homelessness.
Some of the other leading causes are financial instability due to low income, lack of affordable health care, domestic abuse, mental illness, and addiction (National Coalition for the Homeless). Financial instability can be caused not only by a lack of employment opportunities but also by most of the aforementioned causes, such as addiction. Healthcare is a big issue, since quality insurance is most often very pricey. For example, one vial of insulin costs $250 without insurance (Tsai). Combine that with the price of needles, cleaning materials, the cost of health insurance, living expenses, car payments and insurance, gas money, a family to feed, and all to pay for with a low-income job. Domestic abuse, whether it be from parents, spouses, or guardians, drives people to run away. This especially puts teens at risk for homelessness. Mental illness can make it hard to keep jobs, thus leading to financial instability, which then can lead to homelessness. And finally, addiction takes over an individual’s life and goals. Being addicted to a substance makes it incredibly difficult to hold a job, provide for family members, pay bills, eat, and can also create mental and physical health issues.
So, let’s talk about how housing would be one of the major solutions for nearly all of these issues. Alpha Project’s “rapid re-housing” program connects people to a home and services, such as rental assistance and security deposits (Alpha Project), swiftly through providing short-length rental help and services (NAEH). Rapid re-housing helps people get housing quickly, promotes self-sufficiency, and ultimately keep people housed. It is also less expensive than shelters and transitional housing. “Rapid re-housing assistance is offered without preconditions — like employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety — and the resources and services provided are tailored to the unique needs of the household” (United States Interagency Council on Homelessness).
Research has shown that people who have been beneficiaries of rapid re-housing are homeless for shorter lengths of time (NAEH). “The Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates the effectiveness of the Housing First model to aid the problem of homelessness, which emphasizes rapidly rehousing the homeless” (Dittmeier et al. 449). The enactment of rapid-rehousing is founded on the evidence that supports that families and people who spend more time in permanent housing have better outcomes (NAEH). Other types of housing that is beneficial to the homeless are shelters and transitional homes. However, there is usually limited space in these institutions.
Depending on the situation and the individual, there are five different levels of assistance for rapid re-housing. Levels can be determined using the National Alliance to End Homelessness Center for Capacity Building’s Rapid Re-Housing Triage Tool. Level One is for households who require minimal support to get and keep housing. Level Two is for households who require routine assistance. Level Three is for households who require longer time periods and/or more concentrated assistance. Level Four is for households who require longer time periods of assistance and intensive assistance. Finally, Level Five is for households who require longer time periods of assistance, more rigorous services, and staff with more professional training.
The second tier of the housing solution is permanent supportive housing, particularly for the extremely vulnerable. It combines housing with supportive services and case management (NAEH). The services help build tenancy and independent living skills and link people with community-based health care, treatment and employment services (NAEH). Since 2007, permanent housing has helped decrease chronic homelessness by 26% (NAEH). Permanent supportive housing is a largely supported as a vital resource to avert unneeded institutional stays and helps people with disabilities have stable lives within the community (Signer 18). Investing in permanent housing programs makes a great impact in improving and ending chronic homelessness.
The next solution for ending homelessness is increasing employment and income. This can be done in many ways. For example, creating more jobs, raising minimum wage, income support programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and unemployment compensation (NAEH). TANF is incredibly useful for families struggling financially. However, people need to be educated on how to use such services. The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is an effort to help under-skilled entry-level workers through funding subsidized employment and programs (NAEH).
Some cities, for example, Fortworth, Texas, have gotten creative with their solution for the issue of available employment opportunities by having homeless individuals clean up the streets in exchange for payment or housing. This not only helps increase money for homeless people and also raises incentive to clean streets and keep their jobs, but also positively effects the community and environment of the earth we all live on.
In the words of Asa Don Brown, “Homelessness is not a choice, but rather a journey that many find themselves in.” When you think of the homeless families, teenagers, children, women, men, humans—think if you were any one of them. Wouldn’t you want someone to take a chance on you to help you get back on your feet?
Dittmeier, Kerry, et al. “Perceptions of Homelessness: Do Generational Age Groups and Gender Matter?” College Student Journal, vol. 52, no. 4, Winter 2018, pp. 441-451. EBSCOhost.
Figure 1: Sandie. “Homeless in Southern Utah- Pretty Sad.” Homeless in Southern Utah- Pretty Sad, 20 Feb. 2011, 63angel.blogspot.com/2011/02/homeless-in-southern-utah-pretty-sad.html.
Guarnieri, Grace. “This Texas City Is One of Several across the Nation to Employ the Homeless and Clean up Litter on the Streets.” Newsweek, 21 Jan. 2018,
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Yousey, Amelia, and Rhucha Samudra. “Defining Homelessness in the Rural United States.” Online Journal of Rural Research & Policy, vol. 13, no. 4, Oct. 2018, pp. 1-24. EBSCOhost, doi:10.4148/1936-0487.1094.