Poverty and Homelessness

It’s nearly impossible to live or visit a city and not be confronted with homelessness or impoverished people. Invisible factors such as mental illness, lack of education, abuse or neglect in the formative years of someone’s life all contribute to whether or not a person can hold down or even access a job. And yet, due to this affecting a marginal part of the population, the poor are stigmatized and largely ignored. Through preventative poverty resources; such as advocacy and education, and rehabilitative resources; like accessible necessities and social policy, the vicious cycle of poverty has a better chance of ending.

There are many contributing factors as to why and how so many Americans live in poverty. With economic downturns, massive layoffs occur and gaps in work history make it difficult to get back into the workforce. With the cost of health care, child care, food, and transportation expenses, not to mention accounting for unexpected illnesses or accidents, paying rent in an unaffordable neighborhood might not be the most important bill to pay. The lack of quality education youth receive in poorer neighborhoods perpetuates generational poverty; where the parents who’ve lacked the tools to pull themselves out of poverty beget children who lack the same tools. Issues such as malnourishment, illiterate environments and stress “may cause poor children’s neural systems to develop differently,” (Lusted, 2010, p. 53). Mental illness and no health care benefits means many people aren’t equipped to obtain or keep a job. Ironically, research shows that the anxieties brought on by poverty, such as unemployment and homelessness, can actually increase the possibility of having a mental illness.

In order to end the vicious cycle of generational poverty, preventive measures must be in place. The lack of equal educational opportunities in poorer neighborhoods affects the amount of high school dropouts, who are more likely to be involved in crime. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the educational level reached by individuals has a substantial impact on poverty, “24.5% of adults over 25 years old without a high school diploma are in poverty versus 4.8% for those with a college degree” (2013). With better funding for poorer neighborhood school districts and more after school programs, communities can be educated on how to avoid or reduce drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence and promote higher levels of education. Accomplishing better funding and quality of education comes from overt advocacy for those in poverty that are unable to speak up for themselves. By providing advocacy services, such as mediation or arbitration with social services organizations or governmental agencies, those in disadvantaged positions have a better chance of helping themselves in the long term.

While preventative measures in assisting those in poverty is good for the future, rehabilitative actions provide the tools for struggling individuals and groups right away. Providing assistance with tangible necessities like food, clothing, and shelter is one of the most obvious and immediate ways to help someone get back on their feet. Other resources that should be made available are social benefits, health care or child care. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “Only 1 in 6 eligible children receives child care subsidies” (2018). This illustrates the significance of bringing change to social policies. Through community organization, protests, fundraisers or political action, beneficial social policies that affect the poor can be established and put into practice.

Resources, whether they are tangible, governmental, or educational, are the key to decreasing poverty. Tackling the overwhelming social issue of poverty starts with helping those in need now and ends with preventing the cycle from continuing.