Homelessness is and isn't what you think. Here's a rough 101.
The homeless population in the US on any given year exists at an upwards of 3 million persons representing individuals and families. On any given day up to 200,000 children are without a home. Not all homeless people live on the street.
This population can be loosely classified into 3 groups; chronic, episodic and transitional. These groups span far beyond the guy in your mind w/ the cardboard appeal.
chronic. Long-term homeless activity generally by those individuals with a disability or drug/alcohol addiction. Few in this group are ever likely to generate earnings necessary for self-sustainability and require long term subsidized housing. This is who most of us imagine.
transitional. Likely to be homeless only once over a three-year period and at an average of three weeks at a time. They will leave the shelter system and not come back—with good reason. This is more and more becoming your neighbor.
episodic. Move in and out of the shelter system 4-5 times over the course of a three-year period. Their pattern of shelter use is seasonal with presence growing in the winter. This group is constantly a paycheck away from the streets. One episode away from losing a roof.
Homelessness is a symptom of poverty.
Poverty is a systems issue not a behavior issue.
Our nation is full of the working poor. Invisible people one "episode" away from becoming homeless. From situational poverty.
Homelessness is best combated with housing. Go figure. Housing first.
Sandwiches are best served through services. Avoid rogue park feeding and join a network of those working toward ending homelessness and developing human sustainability.
Most of our services are designed to manage and maintain homelessness not end it.
Resources need proper direction. Charitable misdirection is at an all time high. We must resource solutions.
Homeless people are people. They are just like the rest of us. For better or for worse.