Living on the edge

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It is the sorry sights of homeless people reaching out for help, or seeing a sleeping figure stretched out on a germ infested floor they call their bed, that deeply saddens me. I wanted to learn deep into America’s problems, and homelessness is a sad yet interesting topic to research. The results of my research were astounding to me. Awkwardly, it is people like you and me who have somehow been reduced to a life of hunger and sorrow, becoming a distasteful, horrendous sight for those passing by. Sadly, there are between 350,000 and 3 million homeless people living in the United States, “the land of opportunity.” Clearly, this is not always noticeable, perhaps because of the difficulty in finding all those people hiding on the streets, or perhaps the country has not made a substantial effort to learn about the nation's poverty problem.

Is it the nation's problem? How did these people manage to lose everything? We've succeeded. Why couldn't they? The majority of us blame homelessness on alcohol and drug abuse. But, in fact, only 44% of this nation's homeless are substance abusers. Indeed, drugs and alcohol can completely destroy a person both mentally and physically. Once addicted, the substance takes priority over life's responsibilities like a permanent virus. Jobs, friends, family and their own health become last priorities as the drugs take top priority. Soon enough, this can lead to being homeless by spending all of their money on supporting the habit, rather than survival needs. The next step down is living (or attempting to live) on the streets. There are cases in which substance abusers are "thrown out" of their homes, leaving families behind and forcing them to live on their own. This affects all ages from teenagers through the elderly (which is devastating). Poverty is widespread and keeps growing rapidly.

But substance abuse is not the only cause of homelessness. The sudden loss of a job can eventually lead to a life on the streets, perhaps for the whole family if you were their provider. Living in the U.S.A, especially today, has become extremely difficult to afford and keep up with things like rent, and other bills. Living in a home requires a continuous flow of money because without it, it is unrealistic to expect to live in a house or even an apartment without the consistent money flow. Including the money for food, bills, loans, etc.

Although we'd like to believe that people are self-motivated and perhaps willing to accept a lower-level job than the previous one, in reality, the drop in status can tear a person apart emotionally. The rejection from a job can make a person feel useless and depressed. In the meantime, bills stack up. Soon their home is gone. Also, without a permanent residence, it is practically impossible to get a job. Not to mention living on the streets can make it difficult to maintain a clean, respectable appearance, there for making it even more difficult to get hired.

The fact is rents are rising and buildings are being transformed and becoming the exclusive property of the privileged. Is it the government's fault? What have they done to prevent housing problems?

While the government may not be doing enough, there are churches, and charities and other organizations doing their part in aiding the less fortunate. We have organizations such as the Salvation Army and shelters in which the homeless can sleep safe for the night. Yet, traveling from shelter to shelter almost every night will not cure the homeless people's situation. They should not become dependent on shelters, or else they will not attempt to get back on their feet. But, because they may only stay in one shelter for one night, they are forced to keep trudging on. This indeed stresses out the homeless a lot causing them to start to not care about getting back on track. According to Jim Loeson (a used-to-be homeless man from California) being homeless was like hell to him.
So, what can we do? The answer is difficult to determine, but without attempting to solve the problem, we will never find a solution. Government funds, volunteers, and a plan need to be combined in order to put the homeless into homes and provide them with jobs: the key to our solution. Jobs will bring back a person's self-respect and dignity. Although I don't have a concrete solution, I do know the statistics are horrifying. The fact that mentally disturbed patients are released from institutions before being "cured," both frightens and saddens me. The fact that our government is not helping enough disgusts me. But all in all, we are the only ones who can make a difference in the lives of the homeless. We must volunteer our services and ideas, for without giving it a try; there will never be a solution.





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