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Homelessness in the United States: Discerning Patterns to Disperse Solutions

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Essay title: Homelessness in the United States: Discerning Patterns to Disperse Solutions

The U.S. has consistently failed to adequately address and respond to the permanent mark and complex challenges homelessness has left on society. A number of us have many options in our lives. I feel for anyone it is hard to imagine becoming homeless, because of the possible alternatives they think they may have rather than being on the streets. This is not true for most people who are homeless. They have run out of good options. That's why they are on the street. They constantly have to choose between very limited, mostly unattractive, alternatives that usually don't do much to improve their lives. Because of these limited options, it keeps the frustrated, in crisis, homeless people trapped on the street or in shelters trying to beat the odds. Sometimes, after all options seem exhausted, they stop trying. The various researches on homelessness conducted by the author (Henlsin, pp. 1-2, 123-124, 275-276) and my experience in volunteering in shelters and a game called Hobson’s Choice (http://www.realchangenews.org/hobsons/index.html, n.d.), homelessness continues to be eye opening. Prior to volunteering at my first shelter, I was required to play this game called Hobson’s Choice, which is an effective tool in highlighting the invisible plight and silent frustrations that many of the impoverished face daily. It gives you a sense of what this might be like to be without real options.

Out of the four options I played, the fourth situation seemed to weaken my social safety net to the point I gave up, finding myself on the streets without shelter. My initial journey began with me being hospitalized for three weeks and thus being unemployed and unable to pay rent. My only available option, so I believed, was to move in with my parents. They agreed and I immediately sought welfare assistance and assistance to find affordable housing. I was placed on the wait list for six months, of course, because affordable housing in Northern Virginia is not plentiful. I then enlisted the aid of a friend for shelter, ending the game. The second choice was to speak with the landlord, I believed in all three choices I could get assistance from the government for welfare assistance and assistance to obtain affordable housing and my parents. After being placed on a waiting list, I enlisted the aid of my friend again, which ended the game again. The third choice of asking money from friends, was something I didn’t want to do, but I did and they could not assist, so I had no other option but go to the shelter because the resources were scarce. Eventually my parents took me in and within six days I was able to obtain a temporary job, which could result in long-term employment. The fourth choice was to obtain welfare assistance. This became frustrating and due to continued lack of resources, my comfort zone of basic shelter was nonexistent. I had to accept that I was homeless and sleep in my car. After exhausting all of my resources, I stopped the game. The fact that I became homeless indicates the system of social welfare spending in the U.S. is not working for many people. Also after talking to some of the residents in the shelter, they described their situations that were similar to the outcome of the game I played.

Homelessness is not a new phenomenon in American society, but significant public and political attention must be given to designing consistent programs that standardize state-sponsored education, increase affordable housing, and expand a meaningful governmental social service that raises standards of living for the impoverished and foster self-actualization to break the cycle of poverty. Despite the prevailing notion of those not directly affected by the effects of poverty and homelessness, most people that are homeless are not “lazy”, “good-for-nothing lowlifes”; instead, they are products of unemployment due to deindustrialization and downsizing and societal factors such as rising healthcare and economic costs. Moreover, the homeless are invisible in a society that has more shelters for animals than for people. This unacceptable national

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