Homelessness In Canada Essay, Research Paper
INTRODUCTION Homelessness is a condition of people who lack regular access to adequate housing. As this condition becomes a growing problem in Canada people are forced to deal with the issues. Who are the homeless? They range from children to adults and even in some cases, families. Why are they homeless? Poverty, lack of jobs or well paying jobs, decline in Social Services, domestic violence, mental illness, and chemical dependency contribute to the majority of the homeless within our society. What effects does being homeless have on members of the family? It contributes to many physical and mental health problems for both parents and their children. Homelessness is a world-wide issue, yet zeroing in on Canada, the majority of the homeless live on the streets of Toronto and Vancouver where they seek shelter anywhere from a park bench to dark alleys. The fact remains that homelessness will always be a problem yet over the years, the number of homeless people has been on the rise and something must be done. Homelessness, specially in families, is a devastating experience. It disturbs nearly all aspects of family life, damaging the physical and emotional health of family members. In addition, it interferes with children’s education and development and often results in the separation of family members. It is hard to say exactly who the homeless are because it is usually a temporary circumstance and not a permanent condition. -2-Therefore more appropriate manner of estimating homelessness is to look at the number of people who are currently experiencing homelessness rather than the number of “homeless people”. WHO ARE THE HOMELESS Homeless people range anywhere from 11 to 65 years of age. Most studies show that homeless adults are most likely to be male that female. The homeless population is made up many different ethnic backgrounds, the majority being African-American. The majority of homeless children and females are victims of domestic violence (NCH, 1998). It is estimated that there are 200 000 homeless people who live on the streets of Canada (Globe and Mail, 1998) and an 80 000 more in risk of becoming homeless (National Post, 1998). Of these people between 30% and 35% are people with severe mental illnesses (National Post, 1998). “On any given night, 45% of the 4 200 people filling Toronto’s homeless shelters are families with children” (Toronto Star, 1998). An increasing number of the homeless are teenagers of which many are runaways who have been kicked out or felt they had no choice but to leave (Michaud, Margaret, 1988). It is difficult to find out exactly what age categories the homeless fit into because the information is very limited. -3-WHY THEY ARE HOMELESS There is so many different causes of homelessness the largest being poverty (NCH, 1998). Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, health care and child care. It is hard to make choices when recourses are so limited. Unemployment is also a large contribution to the homeless society (NCH, 1998). Another factor contributing to homelessness is the decline in Social Services. Within the last few years, government has made it increasingly difficult for anyone to be approved to get assistance. There is also the factors of domestic violence which forces many out of their home, mental illness which enables the individuals to obtain access to supportive housing and/or other treatment services, and chemical dependency which forces people into poverty because of their addiction (NCH, 1998). It is hard to give specific percentage data supporting cases of unemployment, domestic abuse, chemical dependants, and decreasing Social Services because the data is rather difficult to find.
EFFECTS OF HOMELESSNESS ON PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH Homelessness severely impacts the health and well-being of every family member. Compared to poor children that are housed, children that are homeless -4-experience worse health; more developmental delays; more anxiety, depression, some behavioural problems; and lower educational achievement (NCH, 1998).Furthermore, homeless children face obstacles to enrolling and attending school. Some of these difficulties include transportation problems, residency requirements, inability to obtain previous school records, and lack of clothing and school supplies. Parents also feel the harsh effects of homelessness. Homeless females tend to have chronic depression more frequently than housed females. Homeless mothers are also much more likely to attempt suicide than housed mothers (Bassuk et al., 1996). Homelessness very often results in the break up of families. Families are sometimes separated as a result of shelter policies. In addition, children are sometimes placed into foster homes when their parents become homeless. In other cases, parents may leave their children in the care of relatives or friends in order to save them from the effects of homelessness or to enable them to keep attending their regular school. There are some cases where the homeless make their situation worse by wanting to have children while they are on the streets. For example Martin and -5-Kathleen, a homeless couple, say they want to have two children. What will be the fate of these children? They will most likely turn out like their parents spending time on the streets begging for money and drinking the remainder of the day away until they have to search for a place where they can spend the night (High Class Skids, 1990). HELP FOR THE HOMELESS Although there isn’t as much help out there as there should be for the homeless, there is always shelters, which in most cases overflowing with homeless, and soup kitchens and organizations like street newspapers to raise money (James D. Wright, 1998). There is still a great need for more organizations and programs to help the homeless. Canada is far from dealing with the problem. Subsidized hosing is in great need, more shelters are needed, more jobs are needed, and basically any help the homeless can get is needed. CONCLUSION It is clear from the information given that homelessness is a large problem within our society. It is important to realize that homelessness is usually not by choice, but a condition that occurs when the recourse needed for individuals or -6-groups of people (i.e. families) to be able to live in homes of their own are limited or in some cases even non-existent. Homelessness in most case is the result of poverty and unemployment or low income jobs. There are also other cases which contribute to the homeless population. Homelessness is a devastating issue to deal with especially for familles. It has many effects on every member, effects that could possibly be scarring for life. It is incredibly hard to find Canadian statistics on the homeless. On the other hand, it is unbelievably easy to find statistics on the United States homeless. Our problem, although smaller than in the US , is not on such a small scale that it should be so vaguely imposed.