A lot more complicated than most people realize. It’s not your fault. Most likely, you don’t know anyone who is homeless. Most people who are experiencing homelessness don’t go around proclaiming it. It’s often viewed with an element of shame here in the US.
Homelessness is complicated. Typically, a series of events and circumstances came upon a person that led to them being homeless. There isn’t a nice easy path that involved. Usually it’s a combination of many different things.
Maybe it started with a health issue – something that ended up costing the person their job. Even if they wanted to work – the situation might not allow it (and many people who are homeless do want to work, or actually do work – often in full time jobs). There are many health issues that require someone to remain out of work. If you don’t work, you don’t earn money and you end up losing the place you live.
Maybe it started with a break in a key relationship – maybe a marriage, a parent/child relationship, etc. A serious break in relationship could cause someone to leave their home and not recover from the loss.
Maybe it started with car trouble. If you don’t have reliable transportation (and don’t live somewhere with good public transportation), it’s possible that car trouble could cause someone to lose their job.
Maybe it started with getting behind on a bill or two. The bills piled up and then finally came due. And then the person’s credit score nose dived. Good luck getting into decent housing with a terrible credit score that shows a history of unpaid bills.
The possibilities are endless.
Here’s what I do know – offering a solution of “if they would only get a job, they’d have enough for housing” is an easy answer to a complicated situation. And really not an answer at all. I only wish “if only they would get a job” would be the solution.
But what do you do for someone who is already working a full time job and can’t get housing? What do you do for someone who has no reliable transportation? What do you do for someone who has health issues? What do you do for someone who is doesn’t even fit the definition of homelessness according to HUD, yet is really homeless? In that situation, a person is limited in the help they can receive. But staying in an unpleasant shelter is better than literally going homeless just to get on a waiting list. Especially if a child is involved.
Homelessness is not easy. There are no easy simple answers typically.