Homelessness in the United States Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Crime is not the only issue where homelessness is concerned, however, and homelessness in and of itself can be very difficult for someone to deal with, especially if the homelessness was unexpected or there are many familial obligations that suddenly will not be met (such as in the case of a single mother, for example). When homelessness occurs this way and causes these kinds of problems, there can be very serious emotional consequences for the homeless individual and his or her family. It becomes necessary at that point for the homeless person to seek help, and this is where the social worker comes in.

Many people may believe that the homelessness problem in this country is certainly not significant enough for social workers to be needed for these people, but it seems likely that these individuals do not realize the seriousness of the homelessness problem. Homelessness is not just America's problem, either. It is really a global problem.

The Emotional Implications of Homelessness

Homelessness is rampant throughout the United States, and the war with Iraq coupled with economic problems has done nothing in recent months and years to help this situation. The purpose of this section is to show that homelessness is bad in all states, but that Massachusetts needs some extra attention, as the amount of families that are living below the official government homelessness line is particularly high there. In this section, it will be shown that the homelessness level in Massachusetts is one of the highest in the nation, there is no end to this in sight, and that it is the children in Massachusetts and all over the country who suffer the most, as they are unable to fend for themselves and protect themselves against so many of the problems that come with homelessness such as poor health and lack of education.

Children that struggle with homelessness often do not get the immunizations that they need, they do not get access to adequate health care, and they also have difficulty with education (Lichter, 1997). They often cannot keep up with their more affluent peers. Homelessness in general, and the high rate of homelessness in Massachusetts especially, contributes in a large way to the desperate situation that homelessness is putting the nation's children into. In order to understand how the children are affected and how the country got this way, it is important to look at why homelessness occurs and what caused so many people in the United States, who were once doing well and supporting their families, to end up going from paycheck to paycheck, losing their cars and homes, and wondering how they will feed their families and where they will sleep at night.

While homelessness in the United States has always been a problem, it has recently gotten worse. There have been so many things that have caused this issue that is becomes difficult to count them all or even separate them from one another (Bianchi, 1993). However, it is important to understand that homelessness is a developing issue that is continuing to change and take shape as it grows. Not long ago, homelessness was reserved, at least stereotypically, for inner-city families. These families were often run by single parents, contained a large number of children, and survived on government hand-outs such as welfare (Lichter, 1997).

This might have been the stereotypical poor family that ended up homeless, and there are certainly families of this description living below the poverty line and/or on the streets, but there are also many other types of families that just cannot survive anymore on the amount of money that they make. These families do not overspend. They simply do not make the kind of money needed to survive in a world where prices continue to rise but wages do not (Bianchi, 1993). Most of this started with these families losing their health insurance because their employers could no longer afford to pay the premiums. The premiums went up because doctors were suddenly required to pay exorbitant amounts for malpractice insurance, which went up because of the lack of a cap on damages that could be awarded in lawsuits.

However, all the families were aware of is that they suddenly had no employer-sponsored health insurance, and they couldn't afford to get some on their own. So they decided to do without and hope that no one got sick. Some of them did get sick, however, and the medical bills from their lack of insurance were so great that they ended up poor because they could not afford to pay the hospital the money that they owed them. All of their extra money went to the bill, but it still was not enough, and there were collection agencies and other issues that these people fought with.

Even for those that did not get sick, trouble was still coming, and it was coming in the form of layoffs. Many large corporations began having troubles. Their CEO's were being indicted for fraud, they had spent the 401(k) money on something that had lost all of the original investment, and companies were folding up and disappearing. This left behind bewildered and unhappy workers who lost not only their jobs but their pensions and retirement funds as well, in most cases. Many of these people were at or near retirement age. Getting another job was difficult for them. They are, however, not the chief concern. While what they have been through is very tragic, there is another consideration - the children.

Many of the people who lost their jobs, pensions, and retirement funds were younger people who had been patiently working their way up the corporate ladder. They were working on this, and had been doing so for many years. They knew that they could make it to the top, and their family would be set. They had a lot of debt, though, and not much savings. When the company that they were working for folded, or they were laid off because of downsizing and other issues, they lost all that they had worked for, and they could not just go to another company, because almost all of the companies were doing the same thing - downsizing and laying off workers, or closing up.

These people lost everything and could not even support their families. They moved to smaller houses, collected unemployment or took jobs paying considerably less than what they were originally making, and sold vehicles to get away from the high car payments. Eventually, many of them lost their homes. With all of this job turmoil came an economic slowdown which kept many of these people from finding jobs that they were qualified for. They made too much on unemployment to flip burgers for a living, but they did not make enough to keep from being what the government classifies as "working poor." These were not welfare people, but they had about the same amount of money available to them. Who suffered most out of this terrible mess that the country managed to get itself into? The children (Bianchi, 1993).

Massachusetts has been one of the hardest hit areas for homelessness, but it is not alone in its struggle. The whole country has felt the pain of economic downturn and difficulty. It is causing problems for the whole country, but here the focus will be placed on Massachusetts as much as possible. The main issue in this focus will be the children, and how the homelessness in Massachusetts has affected them. They are the future of this nation, and they are missing out on many of the things that they need to grow up and be prepared to handle what the world will throw at them (Lichter, 1997).

The amount of poverty and homelessness in an area effects reading and math scores, and declines in many other areas of schooling are also apparent. Children's self-esteem can also be affected by the lack of money, as many of them grow up feeling inferior to children who have money, and those that have no homes grow up living in cars or shelters - many of them do not attend school, and so the cycle perpetuates. The mental and physical health of the children of Massachusetts is a primary concern, and without stopping or reversing the homelessness that is there, it will only become worse. Some feel that getting children out of homelessness is a waste of time, but there are many misguided opinions in this world that should not be followed, lest the moral fiber of society actually be damaged by them. This is one such opinion.

Children need to be removed from environments where there is a great deal of poverty. This does not mean that children should be removed from homes while the parents are left to…

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