Faces of Homelessness

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May 16, 2016 by poverty2professional

Today’s post comes courtesy of the Social Work Degree Center, who provided us with this insightful infographic that discusses the most common causes and risks behind chronic homelessness. In particular, the graphic highlights the three groups that are collectively most at-risk of losing the roofs over their head: Seniors, Veterans, and LGBTQ youth

The Faces of Homelessness
Source: SocialWorkDegreeCenter.com

While we typically think of age 50 as last leg in our careers, a combination of the 2008 recession and common aging conditions make it horrifyingly simple to fall into a precarious housing situation. Reentering the job market after a round of layoffs is already difficult, but it becomes almost prohibitively so when the job seekers are only a few years away from retirement age and competing with younger, fresher applicants. Common age-related physical ailments like incontinence, poor vision, reduced motor skills, and cognitive impairment (among others) don’t help either. These can not only limit the ability to work but can also generate increased medical bills that can easily stretch finances to the breaking point. Today, over 50% of all homeless individuals are over 50 years old.

For veterans, the war doesn’t always end right when they finally come home. Major injuries sustained on the battlefield can leave former soldiers with debilitating physical disabilities that can be expensive to treat in the long term. However, what many soldiers return with is far more subtle, and therefore difficult to manage. Post-traumatic stress disorder can manifest in 100 different ways that are not always obvious, and ongoing stigmas around mental health can make it very difficult for some affected to work up the courage to seek treatment. For those veterans attempting to manage these issues on their own – chronic depression, anxiety and substance abuse – are distressingly common. Over 50% of veterans in homelessness are dealing with a serious mental illness. Also according to the infographic, over 1.4 million veterans remain at-risk of losing their homes due to impoverished conditions and lack of support networks (either family or friends willing to help). And many of those veterans will be unable or unwilling to leverage government housing because of rampant overcrowding.

Finally, if being thrust out of a loving family home and onto the cold city streets before you turn 21 seems like an outright nightmare, unfortunately that’s the reality for over 100,000 LGBTQ youth nationwide who were disowned by their parents. In many cases, they were pushed out of the house as a result of their sexual orientation, either explicitly told to pack a bag or forced to do so by relentless physical or psychological abuse by their family or community. Furthermore, the actual age range of this population can extend beyond the typical definition of minors. Individuals who age out of the foster care system can find themselves without a necessary support network of friends and family, which can lead to spiraling cycles of chronic homelessness. Tragically, many of the young individuals in this situation choose suicide as their only escape. While 29% of heterosexual homeless youth is already disturbing, over 62% of LGBTQ youth eventually commit suicide under the strain.

This information is critical to educating not only community leaders and policymakers but also our neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Homelessness is a deeply personal catastrophe that can happen to you as much as it did to my family. For more information on numbers presented in this infographic, please follow the links at the bottom of the image and please continue to share it.

Note: Got something to say? Saw something you think would make a great feature here? P2P would love to highlight news articles, blogs, and projects related to homelessness, especially youth and families. Please message poverty2professional@gmail.com for more information.

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