The Biggest Priority for the Homeless: Support
P1. We often make the mistake of putting the homeless population into one category, and do not look at the individual. People are homeless for different reasons, and treating them all the same will fail to keep them of the street. We have to look at each person’s story of how they ended up without a home, and come up with solutions that will actually work. There is, however, common ground that exists among a good portion of homeless people. Nearly half the population has experienced some type of blow to the head in their lifetimes.
P2. According to David Bornstein in “The Street Level Solution,” forty percent of all homeless people have had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at some point in their lives. Most homeless people have lived fairly normal lives until they suffered a blow to the head that changed them forever. According to Hwang et al., some of the main symptoms of TBI include mood swings, explosive behavior, cognitive impairment, attention deficits, and impulsivity. With these types of symptoms, we can see how it’s easy for people to lose their jobs and ultimately become homeless. Not only does TBI have detrimental symptoms by itself, but can lead to other negative outcomes for the health of homeless people. For people who are homeless and have TBI, there are many more problems they have to deal with other than finding a place to live. Mackelprang states that “TBI occurs frequently among homeless young people and is a marker of adverse outcomes such as mental health difficulties, suicidal behavior, substance use, and victimization.” Although TBI is a major factor in people who are homeless, it is not the only factor that makes it hard for people to adapt to living in a new house.
P3. When people are chronically homeless, it is difficult to come to back to the reality of living a normal lifestyle. When housing becomes available, many people need lots of help adjusting to their new environment. They also need constant support to help them with mental disabilities and addiction problems. When someone starts living in a new place after being on the street for years, it is easy to imagine how they can get lonely. They are not surrounded by people on the streets anymore, but isolated in their own living space. Day-to-day thoughts are no longer about just figuring out how to survive in that moment. Bornstein notes in the “The Street-Level Solution,” that instead, people now have to try to figure out how to get job, form relationships, manage finances, and other normal daily activities.
P4. Homeless people are costly to keep around. On average, they spend four more days in hospitals per year than people who have homes, and are constantly in and out of shelters. According to Topolovec-Vranic at al., they are also more likely to be in and out of jail, and have to use addiction treatments that are expensive. In Los Angeles, the chronically homeless, which is about ten percent of the homeless population in LA, cost half a billion dollars in services annually. Since they cost more money than people with homes, it makes sense that the government would want to fund programs that find them somewhere to live. Although this seems like the obvious solution, the assumption that putting homeless people in houses will solve everything is not entirely correct. According to Bornstein in “A Plan to Make Homelessness History,” the government-run programs also don’t seem to help the chronically homeless, since the public systems they put in place are complicated and make it harder to help people who need it the most. Housing is definitely an important step that helps the homeless start to rebuild their lives, but it is not enough. If they were not able to keep their houses in the past, something different has to be done or else the cycle of homelessness is likely to repeat itself. When someone is taken off the streets and thrown in a house without any type of support, chances are that they will end up right back on the street. Although there are people who think a house is good enough, there are also people who understand the consequences.
P5. An organization based in New York called Common Ground has worked hard on trying to making programs for housing more effcient. In Common Ground residences, having adequate support is one of its main priorities. Residents have access to social services, communal gardens, cooking classes, yoga, and photography classes. In “A Plan to Make Homelessness History,” the organization rarely has any problems with its residents since they have so much support, and the majority of them even get jobs. Organizations like Common Ground set homeless people up for success after they find a place to live. It has support systems in place that help people with TBI and other mental disorders. They understand that homeless people can’t be looked at as one group, but as individuals who all have different needs.
Bornstein, David. “A Plan to Make Homelessness History.” Nytimes.com. N.p., Dec. 20. 2010. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.
Bornstein, David. “The Street-Level Solution.” Nytimes.com. N.p., 24 Dec. 2010. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.
Hwang, Stephen W. et al. “The Effect of Traumatic Brain Injury on the Health of Homeless People.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal 179.8 (2008): 779–784. PMC. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.
Mackelprang, J. L., Harpin, S. B., Grubenhoff, J. A., & Rivara, F. P. (2014). Adverse outcomes among homeless adolescents and young adults who report a history of traumatic brain injury. American Journal of Public Health, 104(10), 1986-92.
Topolovec-Vranic, Jane, et al. “Clarifying The Link Between Traumatic Brain Injury And Homelessness: Workshop Proceedings.” Brain Injury 27.13/14 (2013): 1600-1605. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.