Housing the Homeless

Housing problem has been a pressing issue in many countries for quite a long time.  Homelessness in any given country may exist in many ways. One does not have to be spending the nights in the pavements or city streets to be considered homeless. This concept does not necessarily mean ‘having no home’. There are various ways on which a person can be considered homeless, for instance, staying temporarily in a friend’s house, living in a hostel, living in poor conditions that affect human health, living somewhere having no legal right to be there, staying in overcrowded places, staying somewhere that is beyond your means or even on situations that you are forced to stay apart by the other family members for reasons known to you and them. 

The problem of homelessness affects a larger group of people who may have various disadvantages in life for a number of reasons. Some are more vulnerable to this problem due to a number of reasons like having fewer rights, inability to cope by themselves and/or the existence of specific needs in their lives. Such people may include but not limited to the following; old people, people with young children, youths who leave their homes for the first time, people with disabilities, low income earners, refugees, displaced people and ex-prisoners. Other reasons that result for one becoming homeless can be due to landlord eviction, catastrophic event like earthquake, loss of employment, reasons related to health and relationships problems.

Depending on where one is, and the policies applied by the authority of that place, several alternatives have been in applied in an effort to cope with housing crisis. It also depends on the particular needs of the homeless. Some victims may be in need of crucial servicers like health, security, counseling or financial support (Michael, Stone & Hartman, 2001).  The community programs that have been put in place to address this issue may be categorized in the following ways.

Examples of supportive housing programs offered

 Street services which are programs established to cater for rough sleepers i.e. those who live and sleep outdoors during the day and at night. These community based services is usually run by volunteers and offers accommodation and food in various urban areas. The street outreach teams socialize and feed the street vagrants in addition to guidance services that maybe of long term help to them.

Temporary and emergency accommodation that’s usually provided for the single and homeless people in the republic of Ireland families and individuals who are not suitable for hostel accommodation are provided with private emergency accommodation (Balchin 1996). Some of the reasons that make these groups unsuitable for hostel may include their household size and particular medical and social needs. On accommodation, it has to be approved that the case was an emergency, the person is assessed as homeless, all feasible move-on options are explored and the person agrees to adhere with the rules and regulations of the house and other conditions.

Transitional housing is a program developed in a bid to assist residents to develop the capacity and skills to settle in a home and addresses any issues that may prevent sustainability of long term housing. It’s usually short term and targets particular groups, such as youth who are leaving residential care and the services are always linked to their needs. Transitional houses are provided in such cases, they are funded through local authorities in some countries like Ireland but there are also weekly charged accommodations provided by voluntary organizations.

Privately rented accommodation is another service offered by the housing sector and administered by the community. If ones income is too low to meet some needs, he/she can be given a weekly supplement (Rhoden, 2006). Before accommodation is granted a person must be established as homeless, registered for housing with local authority and have a rent supplement form.

Local governments also assist in solving housing needs and give overall priority to the validly established homeless, but they have to wait until there is at least one that’s vacant. They provide advocacy support and any other assistance of importance to access accommodation and be prepared for independent living.

The overall aim of these programs is to achieve residential stability, help homeless people improve their skills and obtaining higher freedom. In addition, it is a universal human right for every citizen to have access to safe and secure housing. Homeless person may be vulnerable to so many dangers including to infringement of right of an adequate living standard, right to security, right to privacy and many others. Right to housing is more than something about shelter; it’s the right to have somewhere that is adequate, secure, available, accessible and habitable (Rhoden, 2006). Housing was addressed and supported in a document Australian National Action Plan on Human Right in 1996.

Affordable housing and safety is quite important to the well being and the health of people. Therefore, without it, families have difficulties in managing their personal lives and the safety, health and development of their children. Those who pay more than they can afford leave so little for other basic necessities like clothing, food and health care. Transport to work may be an additional problem that makes them unable to go to work leading to living substandard lives.

Table 1 most recent housing according to American Housing Survey

Type of homelessness

Approximate figure

Households with children

2.5 million

Households with severely substandard lives


Households living in unaffordable housing


People homeless at least every night


Homeless children at least every night


(Balchin, 1996), a place where one lives, especially if one is poor and/or a person of color, places a very crucial role on fixing the persons place in the society and local community. To improve on human dignity, housing should be an issue of concern to every society.

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