By Adrian Johansen
Homelessness exists in every country around the world, often affecting vulnerable populations that are experiencing a difficult period in their lives and need extra support. Instead of providing these underserved populations with the help they need to get back on their feet, many cities criminalize homelessness. This not only doesn’t help the homeless population, it makes their situation worse.
Across Europe, homelessness has been a pervasive issue for decades. It’s not an easy issue to solve, as attempts to assist these communities are often met with mixed feelings about how much assistance the government should provide. However, there are many ways people can help work towards providing long-term support for the homeless community, giving them the resources they need.
Many individuals who experience homelessness also suffer from mental health issues that keep them from working their way out of their situation. This keeps these individuals from achieving the stability needed to keep a roof over their heads. In England, about 80% of the homeless population stated that they suffered from mental health conditions.
This statistic is consistent throughout several countries in Europe, as well as in the U.S. About 144,000 members of the American homeless community also reported living with mental illness. The relationship between mental health and homelessness make it clear that in order to address homelessness around the world, we also need to address access to healthcare. In the meantime, providing resources is hugely beneficial to the homeless community.
There are many different resources that are needed in the homeless community, as they often don’t have any, apart from a place to sleep at night and food from a soup kitchen. Charities like Evolve Housing + Support help people affected address their trauma and mental health in order to start getting their lives together. Although dedicated charities can be helpful, providing resources on a government scale would likely be more effective.
By investing in affordable healthcare, governments could help those struggling with mental health issues, as well as decrease their rates of homelessness, which often costs the government millions. It is more cost efficient to keep people from becoming homeless than it is to pay for homelessness. In the U.K., the cost of a single person sleeping in public annually is estimated to be over €20,000. Providing the cost of an annual doctor’s visit and monthly prescription is actually lower than that.
One way to help people find the access to care is by helping provide them with jobs. Some government organizations have been known to prioritize job candidates who are at-risk of mental health issues or homelessness, such as veterans. In the U.S., military veterans are prioritized as candidates for positions in the country’s postal service, a system that employs over 110,000 veterans. More programs like these could help provide stability to those who might otherwise have a hard time finding and keeping a job.
A tiny London-based coffee company is also working to employ individuals who are homeless in their area. Change Please is a British startup that leverages people’s love for coffee, as well as their desire to do good, to provide jobs for the homeless community. They do so by training members of the homeless community to work as baristas and run their mobile and permanent coffee locations. This not only provides them with a life skill they can use, it provides them with an income and resume experience that they can take with them wherever they go.
Much has been tried in the process of addressing homelessness, including providing tiny homes for those without a place to sleep at night. This can help individuals have a home base to rest, look for a job, and attempt to get back on their feet. This has been a trend in major cities as people look for ways to address homelessness in their very own communities and take a grassroots approach to finding solutions.
The homeless community needs support to address their health issues. Those without health literacy and access to care are more susceptible to the development of serious health conditions, as well as communicable diseases that can cause long-term health issues. At-risk communities need to be safeguarded through legislative means in order to stay safe and healthy.
Instead of criminalizing homelessness, governments should take care of their citizens by providing them with the resources they need when they experience a low period in their lives. Homelessness is a difficult state to be in, and it’s important to come together as a community to help provide resources to those in need. However, working towards long-term solutions by helping people overcome homeless by assisting them directly would be more effective.
This can be done by pressing legislators to make resources for the homeless community a priority and increasing funding for grassroots operations. Increasing the awareness surrounding homelessness and the resources available for those in need can help these people find the support they need to improve their lives.