What is Homelessness?


Homelessness is a condition where an individual of a family does not have a shelter or a permanent dwelling place. The homeless may sleep in the open, on the streets, in makeshifts, live in emergency hostels, and sometimes lodge with relatives and friends for lack of a desirable place to go. Homelessness is detrimental as the victims suffer isolation, lack of belonging and are exposed to extreme cases of insecurity and effects of hostile weather. Worth appreciating is that shelter is considered a basic need for the humans, and some countries have advanced legal systems to ensure that the citizens can afford the simplest form of refuge and, hence, mitigate homelessness. While the problem of lack of a housing unit is a global phenomenon, one could be interested in understanding the causes and possible remedies of the same. Therefore, evaluating the interventional measures on the challenge, the causes and effects, possible solutions, and comparing the challenge of homelessness in the United States and Canada is imperative.

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What Should we do about the Homeless?     

With the appreciation that the challenge of homelessness is widespread in many societies and different regions of the world, there are various ways to which the victims could be assisted. For instance, the help could be in the form of donations, voluntary services, advocacy, contribute in-house give-outs, and the creation of public housing, among others (Mannix 1).

Donations. The strategy would involve offering to help the individuals or families through such basic requirements as food and clothing (Mannix 1). Moreover, the donors could opt to offer monetary support to the victims, which could be useful in acquiring shelter and a form of livelihood.

Volunteering. Among other efforts that have been utilized in managing the homeless is by building of homes and care centers for the people. However, one could appreciate that while such facilities could be easily built, they may lack adequate service providers. Accordingly, the volunteer services could go far in facilitating the interventional measure. Besides, people could volunteer for civic education on the need to care for the homeless as a common social responsibility.

Advocacy. Homelessness has been shown to be a social problem that most people could not be aware of. The lack of knowledge and appreciation of the condition as a social challenge could also be blamed for perpetuating the challenge. The intervention by advocacy could be directed towards creating public awareness of the causes, effects, and possible solutions to the problem to manage the social issue (Mannix 1). Social advocacy could be conducted through word of mouth, posters, mass media, and public forums.

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Contributions in the Form of Houses. The inadequate housing units have been shown as the main feature of homelessness. Therefore, the intervention of providing accommodation units may go a long way in addressing the challenge (Mannix 1). Individuals and state corporations could provide such housing amenities that are not accessible by the homeless in the society.

Public Housing (Emergency and Transitional Houses). The people and the governments could decide to have programs aimed at ensuring that all the humans can access and afford a means of shelter through creating public utilities in the form of open housing units (Mannix 1). The appropriate coordination of the public facilities could ensure that no people remain in the streets for lack of homes. While the housing facilities could not be purely free, the ability of the government to subsidize the rates of such amenities could enable the majority of the homeless families to access such services. Markedly, civic goodwill and the partnerships with private stakeholders could be essential in the intervention in public housing.

Causes and Effects of Homeless

The discussion above indicates that lacking a shelter is not a natural state and is considered to be caused by certain factors. On the other hand, the condition of homelessness brings many effects, which are largely undesirable. The factors that cause individuals to become homeless can be thought of as being structural, institutional, personal, and relational (Galea 1).

Structural Causes. The causes considered structural in nature range from poverty, unemployment, lack of quality employment, and the absence of appropriate and affordable housing (Galea 1). In fact, poverty can be defined as the general scarcity or a situation where an individual lacks a certain material procession to achieve a particular means of living. The condition may explain the situation of homelessness as the victims lack the economic ability to construct, own, or even rent housing units. As a result, the families could be left with an option but to live in the streets and other areas inhabited by the homeless (Curtis et al. 2227). Secondly, the condition of unemployment could be blamed for contributing to the social challenge as the victims lack the means of generating income. At other times, the employed individuals may have inadequate resources to enable them run homes or housing units, hence contributing to increased cases of homelessness. Finally, when the available houses could be blamed for being exorbitantly highly priced and poorly made, few people could afford them (Mcquistion et al. 555). Consequently, the poor state of houses and, at times, the rent and ownership costs could make many individuals victims of homelessness.

Institutional Causes. The factors considered as institutional range from such as ex-convicts, the persons from mental institutions, and, at times, the victims of circumstances. In explanation, one could appreciate that sometimes people who have been serving jail terms or medical procedures in mental hospitals could find it hard to be embraced and fit into society (Galea 1). Therefore, these people may not have access to personal housing facilities, hence falling into the bracket of homeless.

Personal Causes. Health conditions resulting from drugs and substance use often make individuals decide to live in the streets (Galea 1). Therefore, the personal resolutions informed by the state of mind or even by social forces could explain the state of living as homeless by a considerable number of people across the globe.

Relationship Causes. The cause has been rampant, where the victims of abusive relationships find their way into the state of homelessness. For instance, many people who are sufferers of abusive relations, such as rape and physical harm, often run into the street to seek consolation (Galea 1). Accordingly, those people contribute to the rise of statistics in homeless families and individuals.

On the other hand, the challenge of homelessness has been associated with many undesirable effects. First, one could appreciate that homelessness implies that the victims do not live normal family lives and lack the sense of belonging (Cassady 1). Both the short term and long periods of homelessness may result in diverse effects, as discussed. First, the condition exposes the victims to a higher likelihood of social injustice, such as being attacked and accused of anti-social behaviors. Second, the exposure to unfriendly living conditions contributes to health complications and poor health (Cassady 1). Third, the poor quality of life has been associated with the increased cases of self-induced deaths like suicide by the victims. Furthermore the persons are more likely to fall victims of police and legal brutality as they are treated as primary suspects in many events related to crime (Cassady 1). Finally, the state of homelessness contributes immensely to the social problem of drug and substance abuse. Many people suffering homelessness are more likely to be manipulated and forced into the drugs business and usage.

Solutions to this Social Issue

It could be appreciated that the nature and magnitude of the problem of homelessness in many societies could not be fully addressed through a single policy solution. Rather, there are various ways by which the social issue could be addressed, which can be used independently or jointly. However, successfully eradicating homelessness depends on the ability to embrace some of the solutions as recommended. The direct interventions and solutions are together with creating shelters for the homeless, public housing units, education to the children, volunteering and donations (Shay 1). Nevertheless, one must appreciate that the solutions could be understood from the preventive to the system response.

Preventive Measures. The strategy can be well understood to target individuals before they become homeless and aid in reducing the time that the victims spend in the situation. The primary, secondary, and tertiary preventive measures can be evaluated (Shay 1). The primary prevention strategy focuses on the vulnerability of individuals to become victims of physical and emotional abuse. As discussed earlier, the abuse could lead to a higher potential of the individuals becoming homeless. Consequently, the primary focus utilizes target campaigns and awareness programs to prevent addiction, unemployment, and the cases of abuse.

On the other hand, the secondary intervention measure targets the early indicators before the individuals lose ownership. In fact, the involvement emphasizes the need to retain the original accommodation or finding new solutions before moving out (Shay 1). Such efforts are made possible through mediation with the other family members and the property owners where appropriate.

The tertiary solution is formulated with the aim of fostering long-term solutions. Accordingly, it involves mediating between the victims and the supporting agents to ensure continued support once the housing program is established.

System Responses. The measure focuses on streamlining the process of service provision by providing the victims with the appropriate support. For example, the system advocates for rearrangement of the processes and systems to accord the victims employment opportunities, care for addictions and drug abuse, and affordable and appropriate housing facilities, among other assistance approaches. The solution requires the collaboration of the agencies and stakeholders to improve sharing of information, provision of consistent care, and possibly minimize duplication of intervention measures for improved efficiency (Shay 1). Consequently, the multi-agency approach could be acclaimed on increasing the stability and community participation in capacity building, education, and social advocacy (Rickards et al. 149). Worth appreciating is that the “response approach” involves the vertical and the horizontal integration. The vertical integration would comprise the organization and coordination of efforts in an organization where the juniors collaborate with the seniors to develop effective solutions to the social problems. On the other hand, the horizontal integration involves the active participation of different agencies in a common level towards developing and applying the most appropriate solution to the homelessness challenge.

In a different approach, the challenge of homelessness has been well handled by the assistance of the government, the permanent supportive housing, and the principles of “housing first.” Accordingly, the government can intervene through charity, where the participants win prizes of housing units (Shay 1). The federal government has used such a strategy through the “federal housing vouchers.” Similarly, the permanent housing solutions, like the one utilized in New York, combine the affordable housing aid with vital services for such individuals who live with mental conditions. Finally, the “housing first” measure involves ensuring that the homeless have access to a shelter before being supported with the other social support. The aim of the program is to ensure that the quality of life for the victims is retained and supported through other long-term measures.

Homelessness in the U.S. and Canada

An estimated population of 300,000 people lives as homeless in Canada compared to approximately 750,000 people in the United States (Buset 1). Accordingly, the statistics show a great difference between the two countries regarding the homeless populations. Nevertheless, the economic burden of the homeless in the two countries varies, where U.S. is considered to have a lesser burden. Canada has the highest rate of per-capita of the homeless compared to the United States (Buset 1). However, the common element in the situation within the two countries is that the populations in context lack a decent and permanent place of residence.

On another aspect, Canada has been the only of G8 countries that does not have a national housing policy. Accordingly, the government, the civil rights movement, and the private stakeholders can be blamed for failing to initiate and design a comprehensive housing policy to address the social challenges of homelessness (Buset 1). In contrast, the United States runs one of the world’s leading and most comprehensive housing policies.

Then, contributing factors in rampant cases of homelessness among the citizens of the two countries can also be compared. In fact, drugs and mental health complications contribute largely to the increasing cases of homelessness in the two countries (Buset 1). Therefore, the countries could be compared, especially in the cause and mitigating approaches that have been embraced towards addressing the social challenge of homelessness. Consequently, as Canada faces the global pressure to develop effective approaches to solving the challenge, such as a national housing policy, the United States lags in implementing comprehensive intervention measures to curb the ever-rising number of homeless individuals.


As it is palpable from the above analysis, the discussion evaluated the problem of homelessness as a social issue. The paper establishes that the challenge is global, with various causes and effects linked to the issue of homelessness. The instigating factors have been shown as personal and environmental, while the effects are seen to run beyond the individual. Besides, various recommendations for intervention and solving the menace have been highlighted. For instance, the interagency approach where everybody in the society would be involved has been advocated for. Finally, the discussion focused on the comparison between homelessness in Canada and the United States. In essence, it is evident that in both countries, the effects of the social issue are common in the respective economies; hence, there is the need for committed efforts to manage the crisis.


Works Cited

Buset, Lindsay. “Homelessness in Canada and the U.S.: An International Context.” Homelessness in Canada and the U.S: An International Context. 2009. Accessed on 06 Oct. 2016.

Cassady, Lorena. “The Effects of Homelessness on Society.” Our Everyday Life. 2016. Accessed on 06 Oct. 2016.

Curtis, Marah A., et al. “Life Shocks and Homelessness.” Demography, vol. 50, no. 6, 2013, pp. 2227-53

Galea, Sandro. “Homelessness, its Consequences, and its Causes | SPH | Boston University.” SPH RSS. 2016. Accessed on 06 Oct. 2016.

Mannix, Liam. “Five Things You Can Do to Help the Homeless – Today.” The Age. 2015. Accessed on 06 Oct. 2016.

Mcquistion, Hunter L., et al. “Risk Factors Associated with Recurrent Homelessness After a First Homeless Episode.” Community Mental Health Journal, vol. 50, no. 5, 2014., pp. 505-13

Rickards, Lawrence D., PhD., et al. “Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness: Introduction.” The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, vol. 37, no. 2, 2010., pp. 149-66

Shay, Kylyssa. “Solutions to the Problem of Homelessness.” Soapboxie. 2016. Accessed on 06 Oct. 2016.

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