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Discrimination against the Homeless

Free Sociology Essays

Current State of the Homelessness

Current paper examines the issue of homelessness and discrimination against people who are left without any shelter. Today, many homeless are begging for money on the street. However, many people close their windows or turn away when seeing homeless. In fact, people have wrong attitude to homeless, and many different groups treat unfairly those people who are being homeless. Therefore, it gets no better for these people to find way out of their difficult life situation. It means that people have stereotype regarding homeless people. The issue of homeless is urgent, thus, people should become more aware of the problem of discrimination against those people whose life standards are lower than accepted. Therefore, this paper is dedicated to the issue of homeless, its current state, and other tendencies regarding homelessness.

Today, people face many difficulties such as lack of jobs, global conflicts, education costs, the poverty etc that are more crucial than ever before. It is widely known fact that homelessness and hunger are rapidly spreading plague that damages well-being of American society. In the United States along, people of every age, ethnicity, sex, and religion are striking because the poverty hits urban and rural communities.

According to 2013 report of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the national poverty rate has increased and has affected 13.2 per cent of population. In the United States, 1 of 7 people is at risk of suffering from poverty. Moreover, about 3.4 million people are forced to sleep in parks and under bridges (Arnold, 2012).

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High cost of living, low-wage jobs, and high unemployment rates only accelerate the issue. Thus, American people have to choose between housing and food and other expenses. Current study has shown that money spent on food is usually not viewed as the first priority. People will pay their bills, such as rent and utilities, first rather than buy food. However, in most cases, people do not know who the homeless are, and why they chose such way of living. Therefore, for further study the clarification of this issue is needed.

In fact, population of homeless includes people from all walks of life. As it was mentioned above, about 3.5 million people annually experience the homelessness in the United States. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has carried out a research concerning the rate of homeless population. Moreover, the Department has identified the social status of people in their past life and their current status of homeless. According to the date, there are people from various quarters of society (Duff, 2013).

  • 35 percent of people are family with children; moreover, it is the fastest growing group.
  • 23 percent are the U.S. military veterans, in most cases disabled because of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • 25 percent are children under age 18 who became homeless because of family troubles (alcoholism, drug abuse, etc.)
  • 30 percent of homeless have experienced domestic violence and were forced to leave their houses.
  • 20-25 percent of homeless people suffers from mental illnesses and cannot take care for themselves.

In urban communities, people experience homelessness usually for 8 months. There are many reasons why people become homeless. In fact, it is primarily an economic issue, and it is affected by number of social and political factors. As statistics shows, the government allocates fewer funds for the assistance to low-income families and the mentally challenged. The governmental spending level on housing assistance programs constitute fewer than 50 percent as it was in the 1980s and 90s (“Criminalization of homelessness,” 2013).

However, many people are not aware of these numbers and sometimes have biased judgment regarding homeless. Thus, misunderstanding and mistreatment frequently arise on this basis.

The Number of the Homeless in the United States

According to the U.S. National Coalition for the Homeless, there are many methodologies as for counting up the number of homeless people. Some of these methodologies are used for counting those people who are in shelters or on the street. Nevertheless, this information can be useful for the community services organizations; thus, they work with people, who are easy to locate on the street. However, there are more people who lack stable, permanent shelter, because many of the shelters are filled to capacity or unavailable. The U.S. Conference of Mayors conducted the study and revealed that 12 of 24 cities surveyed had to turn people away due to the lack of capacity. In fact, the number of homeless people is increasing in the United States. There are many factors that influence this number (Duff, 2013).

In accordance with the report of theU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 700,000 people experienced homelessness every night in 2008. However, about 58 percent of them lived in the shelter. In 2013, the number changed, and approximately from 2.3 to 3.5 million people experienced the state of homelessness. The study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty showed that the number of homeless varies from city to city. However, the number speaks for itself, thus the panhandling has increased by 200 percents in recent years. More and more people come to streets and roads only to ask for money because they have no other option. The most common tendency about the homeless is that the modern world views homeless as objects rather than subjects. Even Obama’s efforts in 2009, which were oriented on the decrease of homelessness by more than 50 percent, did not work out (Arnold, 2012).

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It is clear that more and more people have to panhandle and to sleep on the street, and the government’s efforts cannot stop this tendency, because there are many economical, social, and political factors that cause these processes. However, the issue is that people continue to discriminate homeless, and nobody takes into consideration above mentioned factors.

Statistics Regarding Discrimination against the Homelessness

In fact, every homeless individual has experienced discrimination in their life. Some of these people are addicts, mentally challenged, veterans, and some of them are temporally down on their luck even though all of them are targeted. However, legal actions did not help to stop this mistreatment. Many people have biased judgments, because many of homeless are drug addicts. In fact, for many of them, drugs look as an attractive way to forget the hopelessness of their existence. Nevertheless, it is not an excuse for using drugs and becoming addicts, but this addiction could be stopped if people gave up targeting homeless. Moreover, there are many veterans who risked their lives while protecting their country and bringing the world peace and who are now mistreated and discriminated (Milburn et al., 2013).

Everyday, homeless people face discrimination on the streets, in the stores etc. Many people mistreat them, and when people see the homeless, the first they start thinking is “Get a job!” Even though such way of thinking is earthbound, some people think wider and view the problem from all angles.

The U.S. National Coalition for the Homeless annually reports on how many angry and vicious attacks have been committed against homeless. In 2013, there were 132 attacks that resulted in 42 deaths, and the research showed that more attacks become lethal over the time. Nonfatal attacks include beating and rape. However, a large number of attacks stays unreported, thus, the real number of violent cases against the homeless is unknown (Milburn et al., 2013).

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As it was aforementioned, almost every homeless person faces discrimination in their life. Therefore, taking into consideration the number of homeless registered in 2013, it may be concluded that almost 2.7 million homeless people faced discrimination in their lives. However, more urgent topic is the violence against the homeless, because wrong judgments can transform into violence.

Stereotypes

Despite the real facts state the opposite, many people still believe that the majority of homeless people are alcoholics, drug addicts, psychologically disturbed, derelicts, or too lazy to work. Those are typical stereotypes. However, the reality is that those who fit into this description represent only the minority of homeless people.

In real life, the category of homeless comprises people from various walks of life. The recent study has quite clearly spelled it out that today’s homeless people do not accord with classic stereotype. The study pointed out that the real image of homeless had not been registered in the minds of Americans (Howard, 2013).

Many of them do not fit the classic stereotype. They can be healthy, hardworking, and addict free. Moreover, the study points out that such stereotypes cause discrimination and, in some cases, even violence. Besides, the National Alliance to End Homelessness points out that these stereotypes are wrong. Today, the United States faces recession and as many as one million Americans can become homeless in the next three years.

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In fact, as it was previously pointed out, the number of people becoming homeless has been steadily rising over past two decades. Due to economical difficulties, the society has witnessed an extreme increase (Arnold, 2012).

However, the most disturbing fact is that all people know that the country experienced economic difficulties, and that many people lost their jobs. Many people stick to the old stereotypes. Therefore, it can be concluded that the most widespread stereotypes regarding homeless people are:

  • alcoholics;
  • drug addicts;
  • psychologically disturbed;
  • lazy people.

Nevertheless, these misconceptions can be debunked due to the above mentioned arguments. In fact, the formation of stereotypes requires a lot of time. Thus, the denial of stereotypes needs even more time because they are deeply grounded in people’s minds.

The Role of Media

In fact, discrimination against the homeless has been accepted in today’s society. Moreover, the technological advance works both as positive and negative factors. Today, with the spread of the Internet, more and more videos in which homeless people participate appear. It is a pity that some of these videos discriminate the homeless. Since 2005, there has been a series of “Bum Videos,” in which homeless perform dangerous and degrading stuns for money, food or alcohol. These videos demoralize the lifestyle of homeless people. Some of these videos got into the network under the following headlines:

  • A homeless guy runs headfirst into a stack of crates for a dollar.
  • A homeless person rides in a shopping cart down a ramp and crashes.
  • A homeless guy with drug addiction fires up his hair.

It is very sad fact, but the reality is too rough. Thus, such videos only strengthen the classical stereotypes, which differ from the reality.

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Another fact of discrimination is that radio talk shows participated in the acts of discrimination against the homeless. Radio talk show in Cincinnati sponsored the “funny” programs. In this program, the bus picked up homeless in the Downtown area and dropped them off in the suburbs. Homeless person was lured into bus with the promises of cheap wine and liquor. On another radio station in Cleveland, DJs asked homeless person for permission to stun him with shock gun in exchange for a free pizza (“The war against the homeless: Unimaginable cruelties,” n.d.).

In fact, such materials reinforce negative and violent stereotypes that discriminate homeless people. However, in recent years, it has become popular to help homeless people. Especially, different bloggers on YouTube post the videos, where they help homeless people. These videos illustrate the real image of today’s homeless people. However, it can be concluded that the main source of discrimination is the Internet. In spite of this fact, there are some good materials that help to show the reality.

Bloomington and Discrimination of the Homeless

As it was mentioned above, today, many people get fear or have wrong stereotype regarding homeless people. According to the head count in the Indiana University-Bloomington, 8 out of 10 people have positive attitude to homeless people. Moreover, they are aware of wrong stereotypes and try not to have positive attitude without prejudices. However, if to take into account this numbers in percentage rating, out of 32 interviewed, only 6 people had wrong stereotypes and were afraid of homeless. About 32,000 of students study in the Indiana University-Bloomington; therefore, about twenty per cent of people have prejudice regarding homeless people. However, it is only hard numbers. In fact, the reality may differ.

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This fact is the evidence of high level of student’s awareness as for the issue of discrimination against the homeless. In fact, Bloomington has strong community service organizations, which are aimed at helping homeless people. One of these organizations is Shalom Community Center, which provides shelter and food for people who have none.

In conclusion, the Bloomington shows good results as for awareness about discrimination against the homeless as compared to another state. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, such megalopolises as New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, etc have shown the lowest rates (Johnson, 2013).

Conclusion

To sum up, the study showed that over 700,000 people experienced homelessness every night in 2008. However, about 58 percent of them lived in the shelter. In 2013, the number changed, and approximately from 2.3 to 3.5 million people experienced the state of homelessness. Therefore, it proves that the homelessness is increasing in the United States. However, people have wrong attitude to homeless, and many different groups treat unfairly people who are currently homeless. Moreover, discrimination against homeless people continues. However, there are many reports that are to raise the level of awareness regarding known incidences of violence and hate crimes against the homeless population. Nevertheless, today, social media plays a key role in formation of homeless people stereotypes. Taking into consideration positive influence of media, almost 2.7 million homeless people continue to face discrimination. At the same time, this topic is directly related to the violence against the homeless. In fact, it is more urgent topic, because wrong judgments can transform into violence against homeless people. As for Bloomington, it has shown good results as for awareness about discrimination against the homeless comparing to other states. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the lowest rates were typical of such megalopolises as New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, etc. However, this topic is very controversial; thus, it requires further study in order to raise awareness of the American society, regarding the issue of discrimination against the homeless. Moreover, the government should provide the social safety and protection for homeless people, which will be guaranteed by lawmakers. In fact, it will help to combat the discrimination and violence against homeless people.

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