What Causes Homelessness?

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Often people blame homelessness on “The Big Two”: addiction and mental illness. While these two issues are certainly factors in most homelessness, it is difficult to determine whether they are primarily the cause or the result of homelessness. Below are some issues related to homelessness that are often overlooked:

Extreme personal crisis. Most folks on the street can pinpoint a certain event or experience that triggered their homelessness. It could be the death of a loved one, abuse from a guardian or spouse, exposure to drugs at an early age, loss of a job, or some other critical experience.

Lack of a support network. If most people experience a personal crisis, we have a support network to assist us. There are family, friends or a church to assist us when we are in need. But people on the street do not have that network, and that means that they cannot readily receive the help that most of us take for granted.

Employment difficulties. Most people on the street are desperately looking for work, but find it difficult to find or keep work. Sometimes it is because of their own lack of personal care or social limitations, but often it is because of an inability to work on a regular schedule, to keep appointments or to work for 40 hours a week.

Social limitations. Many people on the street, even if they have not been diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder, have social habits or difficulties that make it hard for them to obtain or remain in work, to live with others or even to maintain relationships.

Desire for freedom. Many people on the street have a hatred for being told what to do. They don’t want to be controlled by social workers, foster parents, mental health workers or others who are trying to “help” them. They want to maintain their independence, even at the cost of their economic well-being.

Inability to live with others. Some of the homeless are so mentally ill or socially dysfunctional, that they cannot live with or around other people. Some folks are just too stressed to be around people on an ongoing basis, while others have their mental issues triggered by others. At a time when all low income housing is crowded, these folks cannot live in any housing.