By Maryse IsmaSpecial to CSMS MagazineExploring the homeless problem in America and the history of the Social Security System, Maryse Isma, MSW, analyzed two days ago the historical framework of the ever-growing homeless problem in America. In this final part, she focuses on the theoretical framework of the problem. Due to a large response from our readers regarding the previous article, Maryse intends to bring her counseling expertise to our readers and agrees to set up a forum where readers can convey their social or emotional problems. Also check “Our Services” to get a better glimpse of what CSMS/CSYF offers. Theoretical Framework The Effectiveness of The American Family Inc.One of the programs that were designed for the homeless was the American Family Inc. created by Homes For The Homeless in New York City. It is a private-non-profit organization, which has served over fourteen thousand families and twenty-three children since 1886. It bases its theory on one principle: fighting poverty through the enhancement of education. Some ninety four percent of the families they train, educate, counsel and house with on-going support assistance “have remain in permanent housing for at least two years” (McChesney, 1992). The success of the AFI (American Family Inc.) paved the way for other social programs around the country.The AFI and Its Impact on Other Social ProgramsIn addition, McChesney (1992) stated that other programs such as The Community Technology Institute of Seattle Washington now provide voice-mail service to the low-income and homeless people in order to help them set up interviews and receive callbacks. It is funded through donations and grants; it is the nation’s first social service institution of its kind. The agency provides free voice-mail boxes to over twenty thousand homeless and phone-less people.The Healthcare Center for the Homeless in Orlando, Florida is another program for the homeless; they provide primary medical care, dentistry, eye care and medical education. They treat conditions that would hinder a person’s efforts to find a job or a home. Some two hundred-and-fifty physicians, dentists and optometrists donate their service to Orlando’s homeless population (McChesney, 1992).To date, the federal legislative response to homelessness is the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act passed by Congress in 1987. Regarded as landmark legislation, it authorized funding for a board range of services for homeless adults and children, including healthcare, education, job training and housing assistance (Wuerker, 1997). According to Wuerker (1997), McKinney programs have been evaluated as innovative, effective and cost-worthy, but the resources currently allocated to them are not enough to meet demands—the magnitude of which, according to many experts, is expected to quadruple over the next ten years.In addition, the National Coalition for the Homeless, the nation’s oldest and largest national homelessness advocacy organization supports such proactive legislative initiatives as the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Bringing America Home Act. If enacted by Congress, observers believe that both pieces of legislation would end homelessness in this country. Many ideologues have raised the concern of homelessness at this time because the problem of hunger and homelessness are steadily growing. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), a national advocacy network, there are four point seven (4.7) million more low-income renters in this country than there are low-income units available to rent. Even though the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill have both contributed to unraveling of the “Safety net” that previously kept the very poor from a perilous slide in to homelessness. President Clinton intention through the Welfare reform ought to move people from welfare dependency into employment. Indeed, the fact still remain, homeless people is an indication that the system of social welfare spending in the United States is not working for a lot of people (Wuerker, 1997). Some ideologues state that as of 2003, we have more homeless people now that in the Great Depression. Worse of all is the fact that the majority of the homeless are children (Muhammad, 2004).Scientific Results From Statistical AnalysesBecause homelessness is steadily growing, some experts find it as a social problem, which is, identified as lack of affordable housing. Other factors attributed to homelessness include mental illness, lack of needed services, low paying jobs, substance abuse and the lack of needed services. According to Rowe and Wolch (1992), in the U.S. Conference of Mayor-Sodexho Homelessness Survey, it is estimated that substance abusers account for thirty percent (50%) of the homeless population, persons considered mentally ill account for twenty-three percent (23%0); seventeen percent (17%) of the homeless in the survey city are employed and ten percent (10%) are veterans.The survey also stated that single men comprised forty-one percent (41%) of the homeless population; families with children were forty percent (40%); single women were fourteen percent (14%); and unaccompanied youth were five percent (5%). An ideologist, Mayor Bill Purcell of Nashville, state that the problem of homelessness is not going away anytime soon. Even with an improving economy, he believes that economic conditions will continue to have a negative impact on the problem of homelessness.A statement from an ideologist—Mr. Johnson, “I heard they are giving billions to rebuild Iraq. What about the poor, the homeless and the hunger over here? Does the president care about us? Don’t we need somebody to rebuild us too?” He is stating that the president ought to use all those billions to take care of Americans in needs before he tries to take care of another country. Furthermore, other ideologists stated that when people rent goes up, their income should go up also; instead, the rent goes up and income stays the same. Ideologists also stated that there ought to be more government services for the mentally ill, homeless, and the substance abuser, because of the lack of needed services for the mental illness and the substance abusers. Some families become homeless due to the substance abuse or mental illness of parental figures. When a parent is supporting a significant drug habit, there is often little money available for rent. And some homelessness has been passed down from a previous generation that never found root (Wuerker, 1997).ConclusionHomelessness is not a new problem in American society; it is a continuing problem in our society, according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors-Sideshow Homelessness Survey released on December 2004. It’s stated that request for emergency shelter assistance increased by an average of thirteen percent over the past year in the twenty-five cities surveyed (Muhammad, 2004). Muhammad (2004) stated that the survey was taken in twenty-five major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington D. C. The survey underscores the impact the economy has had on everyday American,” said Conference of Major and Hempstead (NY) Mayor James A. Garner. The face of Homelessness has changed and now reflects whom we least suspected.Every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser. Unfortunately the loser of many social problems is usually the poor—the homeless. The gainer usually is the rich. There is a saying “the rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer” (Muhammad 2004). The House Appropriations Committee passed an unnumbered bill to fund 2003 spending for HUD and other agencies such as Veterans Affairs, EPA, and NASA. HUD Programs received mostly the same level as in 2002 or increases. Big gainers included homeless assistance, Public housing operations, lead hazard control, and unit for elderly and disable. The biggest cut was in Section eight (8) vouchers for the poor, where the Committee expressed frustration over unspent funds from prior years. The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) received twenty-eight point five million 28.5 dollars, and the Office of Rural Housing and Economic Development (RHED) twenty-five million dollars. HUD budget had proposed to eliminate RHED. The Committee did not fund HUD’s proposed to Colonias Gateway, but did provide $200 million for the Administration’s new HOME down payment assistance initiative. Unfortunately, the homeless are going to continue to be homeless, because they can afford these new homes (Muhammad, 2004).Finally, Homelessness is without a doubt very destructive to anyone who chooses this way of life. These are the people who choose not to be bound by society norms, which is in fact stipulate that “living in a house and going to work.” Admittedly, we also have many people who need help and who do not know what housing options are open to them. They cannot read/write or fill in forms. Worst of all, many are too proud or too ashamed to ask for help to do so. We should do more to help these people, not close down many large hospitals, where people with mental health problems live and become institutionalized. These places for many homeless persons constitute their livelihoods, where their friends live and where they know any better. They have no family. The System closes the hospitals, shuts the doors on them, and leaves them to cope with bills and outside pressures. An action must be found for those who cannot cope with their daily hellish conditions. While acknowledging the progress that has already been done in the fight against homelessness, she must honestly understand that there is a lot to be done if poverty and homelessness are to be forever vanished from our society. We need more outreach type of work to locate the homeless people who want assistance to live within the accepted behavioral norm of society. References Barak, G. (1992). Gimme Shelter. A Social History of Homelessness in Contemporary America.Golden, A. (1998). “The Faces of Homeless,” The Globe & Mail (Toronto), May 28.McChesney, K.Y. (1992). Absence of a Family Safety Net for Homeless Families.Muhammad, J. (2004). Social Science Research and Contemporary Studies ofHomelessness.Rowe, S. and Wolch, J. R. (1992). “On the Streets: Mobility Paths of the Urban Homeless,” City and Society. Zastrow, C. (2000). Social Work and Social Welfare. Zastrow, C., and Kirsh-Ashman, K. (2001). Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Maryse Isma, MSW, is a Barry University graduate, founding member of the Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies and the executive director of Community Support for Youth and Families (CSYF).
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