There are a host of societal and mental ills that can lead to homelessness—an unexpected medical expense, loss of employment, drug abuse, depression or abandonment are just a few of its causes. With the number of homeless Americans on the rise, Marianne invites individuals who have been homeless, as well as experts on the subject, to share their insights on this challenge facing society and how individual citizens can make a difference.
Frank, a drug addiction counselor working in Detroit since 2000, says he was homeless off and on between ages 14 and 38. After a life marked by gang involvement, prison time and drug and alcohol addictions, Frank says he finally sought the help he needed to get off the streets. Now, he helps other homeless individuals and people with drug abuse problems. Based on his experience, Frank says people with drug addictions are much more likely than others to become homeless. "They're not working, they eventually lose their jobs, they eventually break their ties with their family because of their addiction and they eventually turn to the streets," he says.
Cleo is a college professor living in New York who says she spent five years homeless due to mental illness. Life on the streets wasn't always easy—Cleo says she was often harassed and her best friend was even killed while she was homeless. But she says that many people with mental illness derive a certain amount of comfort from living independently, even if they are without a home. "You don't have to conform to structure, you can do what you want to when you want to at all hours of the day and night, you don't have to worry about paying bills, you don't have to be responsible," she says.
Valerie, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology, has devoted her research to studying homelessness. She says additional funding from the government could help alleviate the problem. "You can pour funds into an organization and it [may not] not get to where [it should]," she says. "I think the funds need to go to the shelters, to the staff for training to empower them to be able to empower the individuals that are there."
Miriam, who is working on getting her PhD in clinical psychology, has also spent much time and energy trying to tackle the issue of homelessness. She says there are many ways people can make a difference. "Donating their time, their money, their energy, their clothing—anything they can do to raise the awareness of the homeless needs in America—would be helpful," she says.