Fifth Dimension

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Homelessness in the US: Consequences

Posted by fifthdimension on May 27, 2007

 It is very important to study the consequences of homelessness, for these individuals fail to play a full and productive role in the community. It entails lost productivity, lost capital accumulation or savings to the individual, and community as a whole. 

Homeless people do not enjoy the advantages of the resources that others have to compete in the labor market. They do not have a fixed physical address for correspondence. It is impossible for them to attend to grooming and hygiene, they have not been able to maintain education or training. Hence they have very limited opportunities for employment.  

Homeless people seldom maintain contact with their families or with active participants of mainstream society. Indeed, becoming separated from the family and associated support networks is a major cause leading to homelessness. For instance, when a young person flees a violent parent, a woman a violent partner, or a person with a mental illness becomes too much for their families to cope with. This separation results in a break down in supports most of us take for granted and rely on. For many, the loss of a home will also mean a loss of their broader social network. For women, the loss of a home has particular ramifications, as they tend to ‘network’ more in the home environment than the public environment, compared with men. Thus the homeless lack in the opportunities for interaction with resource rich networks. They are forced to forming relationships with members of excluded resource poor networks, which are not always beneficial to the individuals or communities involved.

Homeless people suffer from numerous physical health problems that threaten their life expectancy, and sometimes the lives of others. Most of the health problems experienced results from having to live without resources that guarantee good personal hygiene or nutrition. For instance, respiratory problems, dental problems, infectious disease and poor nutrition are common physical health problems experienced by the homeless population. The costs to the individual, others in the community and in government services are obvious. Many of the homeless suffer from substance abuse problems. Homelessness often makes rehabilitation very difficult – returning to an insecure housing setting where drug use is prevalent, after rehab sessions is not favorable to recovery. Homelessness can also make drug taking riskier than usual because the resources are not available for taking necessary health precautions, providing increased exposure to HIV and Hepatitis C. Again, the health rehabilitation and other costs of long term drug dependency among homeless people are quite obvious for both the individual and the community.


It is quite difficult for the homeless to undertake ongoing education. Without the achievement of basic educational standards, market prospects are limited. Homeless children experience slower than average language development, motor skills and personal and social abilities. As such, they are bound to suffer from low educational attainment. 

Thus, it naturally spins off negative effects for a society, which has scores of homeless people around. Even a short period of homelessness can lead to depression, mental illness and child neglect, yet increasing numbers of families are homeless for months and sometimes years. Emergency shelters are unable to provide the intensive long-term assistance, which homeless families require in order to stabilize their lives.


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