Homelessness is a big problem across the United States and across the globe. It has devastating effects on individuals as well as families. By understanding how people become homeless, how many people in our country are homeless and what happens to homeless individuals, you will be able to create a plan of action to help end homelessness.
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You can identify homeless men and women when you see them sleeping under cardboard boxes in alley ways. You also may see them pushing a shopping trolley full of other people's trash. These men and women are often seen wearing the same clothes and looking dirty because they don't have access to a shower. Some homeless children are sent to school. School teachers can identify these homeless children by observing their appearance, checking them for learning disabilities, and taking note of how hungry they seem at lunch and snack time. School officials may want to check the students' records to see whether the address and phone number given are legitimate.
Homelessness has a huge effect on an individual's physical and emotional health. Homeless men and women suffer from colds that they can not get rid of because they have no access to medicine, food and warm housing. They also are more at risk for dependency on drugs and alcohol and contracting HIV. They suffer from vitamin deficiencies and often don't get adequate sleep. Homeless individuals have no housing to protect them from physical violence and even rape. These can lead to emotional breakdowns that lead them to become institutionalised. If they are not institutionalised, they can begin to develop behavioural problems that land them in front of a judge.
There are three basic types of homelessness. Temporary homelessness occurs when individuals have been displaced from their homes for a time but do not stay homeless for long. This could be because of some type of damage to their home such as a fire or natural disaster. Circumstantial homelessness occurs when a person's circumstances change and he loses his place of residence. They might have lost a job or had to spend some time in a hospital. These individuals frequent rescue missions and food pantries to get by. They remain homeless for a time, but eventually get back on their feet. Long-term homelessness applies to individuals who remain homeless for a long period of time and may even die homeless. They can't seem to get back on their feet, sometimes due to addictions. Some long-term homeless individuals even become accustomed to living this type of lifestyle and stop seeking any way to improve their situation.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness distributed a report titled "Homelessness Counts" (see Resources). This report showed that 744,313 individuals experienced homelessness in 2005. California, Texas, New York and Florida experienced the largest size of homelessness in the United States. Vermont, Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi, Utah, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota had the smallest numbers of homeless individuals.
There are many groups that have programs to prevent homelessness. You can volunteer for these groups or contribute financially. One of the biggest organisations that helps the homeless is UNICEF. It collects money during Halloween all across America. An individual can also help out in his own community by working in a rescue mission or raising funds for food pantries. You can compile a list of organisations and their contact information to hand out to homeless individuals so they are aware that there is some help out there for them.
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