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Essays About Homelessness: Top 8 Examples Plus Prompts

Everyone has heard of homeless people at some point in their lives; if you are writing essays about homelessness, read our top essay examples and prompts.

Poverty is one of the greatest evils in the world. Its effects are seen daily, from people begging on the streets to stealing to support their families. But unfortunately, one of the most prominent and upsetting diversity is homelessness. Homelessness is a significant problem in even the most developed nations, including the U.S. and Canada. Despite all the resources used to fight this issue, countries often lack the means to reduce homelessness significantly. With the proper aid, homelessness can be entirely eradicated in the future. 

If you want to write essays about homelessness, keep reading to see our essay examples and helpful writing prompts.

2. A journey with the homeless by Sujata Jena

3. i chose to be homeless: reflections on the homeless challenge by emily kvalheim, 4. my experience being homeless by scott benner, 5. what people get wrong when they try to end homelessness by james abro, 1. causes of homelessness , 2. how can homelessness be reduced, 3. mental illness and homelessness, 4. reflection on homelessness, 5. is homelessness a “personal problem”.

Are you looking for more? Check out our guide packed full of transition words for essays

1. That Homeless Man is My Brother by Megan Regnerus

“But the subtext of my friend’s statement is really Why should I give money to someone who’s lazy; who isn’t willing to work for money like I do?’ And to that I say, her opinion that people who ask for money are freeloaders who could work but choose not to, is based on assumption. It relies on the notion that the two things that shape us into able-bodied adults who can hold down a regular job, nature and nurture, are level playing fields. And they’re not.”

Regnerus writes about a friend’s claim that the homeless are “lazy,” reminding her of her homeless brother. She cites genetics and circumstance as contributing factors to homelessness. Despite the other woman being her friend, Regnerus strongly refutes her belief that the homeless are non-disabled freeloaders- they should be treated with empathy. For more, check out these articles about homelessness .

“I realize that the situation of poverty and homelessness is a huge social problem around the world. But when I meet them, I face fellow human beings, not some abstract “social problem.” The very phrase, “What would Jesus do at this scene?” haunted me.  I ventured to ask their names, age, where they came from, where they live (street, bridges, cemetery) and the reason they are on the streets. Their stories are poignant. Each one has a unique story to tell about his/her reason to be homeless, how they were forced to leave distant rural villages to live on the city streets. I tried to listen to them with empathy.”

In her essay, Jena remembers the homeless people in Manila, Philippines. She can see them beyond some “aspect of society” as human beings. She empathizes with them extensively and recalls the words of Jesus Christ about loving others, particularly the neediest.

“I, too, have not been compassionate enough, and I have allowed my prejudices to distort my view of the homeless. One woman, who sat across from me at a feeding program, talking to herself erratically, may have seemed strange to me before the Homeless Challenge. But when I really saw myself as her equal, and when I took the time to watch her get up and laugh as she danced to the music playing in the background, I thought she was beautiful. She had found her own happiness, amidst despair.”

Kvalheim details her experiences during an immersion challenge with the homeless. She recalls both the discrimination and generosity she experienced and her experiences with other homeless people. She was amazed to see how they could stay positive despite their terrible circumstances. We should be thankful for what we have and use it to help others in need. 

“As my funds dwindled, and the weather got colder, I sought shelter at Father Bill’s in Quincy Ma. When you are homeless, sometimes very small things mean a lot. A dry pair of socks, shoes without holes, a pocketful of change. You begin to realize how much you value your personal space. You begin to realize other people want space too. A lot of people have issues or have suffered in one way or another and you can see their pain. I think that there are people who for a variety of issue are chronically homeless and a larger portion of homeless are transitioning through a series of bad events.”

Benner’s essay, written for the company ArtLifting, reflects on his experience of being homeless for a brief while. Then, he and his wife grew ill, and Benner sought refuge at a homeless shelter after his company shut down. After that, he realized how his struggles were very different from those of others and the value of the more minor things he previously took for granted. Luckily, he escaped homelessness by making art with the help of ArtLifting. 

“The court denied my sister’s request and named me our mother’s legal guardian, but it appointed my sister as guardian of her property.  In 2009, when my mother passed away, my sister evicted me. The day I was scheduled to move out, I stood in a convenience store, dazed, as I stared at microwaveable meals.  These would be my new staple when I moved into the motel room. My phone rang—my sister.  She told me she needed me out of the house in a couple of hours—she was a real estate agent and a client wanted to see the house. ‘No hard feelings,’ she said.”

Similar to Benner, Abro narrates the circumstances surrounding his homelessness. After his mother’s death and a conflict with his sister led to his eviction, he ended up homeless. While his situation was unfortunate, he believes that there are many people worse off than him and that something must change to address the housing and poverty crises in America.

Top 5 Prompts On Essays about Homelessness

Essays about Homelessness: Causes of homelessness

For your essay, it would be interesting to write about how people become homeless in the first place. Research the different causes of homelessness and elaborate on them, and be sure to provide sources such as statistics and anecdotes. 

What solutions to homelessness can you think of? In your essay, propose at least one way you think the homelessness problem can be solved or at least reduced. It must be concrete, realistic, and defensible; be sure to explain your solution well and defend its feasibility, backing up your claims with facts and logic. 

Homelessness and mental health can be linked—research into declining mental health and how homelessness can impact a person’s mental well-being. Make sure to use research data and statistics to show your findings. Conclude whether poor mental health can cause homelessness or if homelessness causes poor mental health.

You can write about what homelessness means to you in your essay. Perhaps you’ve heard stories of homeless people, or maybe you know someone who is or has been homeless. Use this essay to highly the effects of homelessness and how we can work together as a society to eradicate it.

Many say that homeless people “choose to be homeless” and are underachievers; otherwise, they would simply “get a job” and lift themselves out of poverty. Is this true? Research this topic and decide on your stance. Then, write about whether you agree with this topic for a compelling argumentative essay.

If you’re still stuck, check out our general resource of essay writing topics .

why should we help the homeless essay

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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Addressing the U.S. homelessness crisis

homeless tents under a bridge

February 29, 2024 – Between 2022 and 2023, the number of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. jumped 12 percent—the largest yearly increase since the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started collecting data in 2007.

“We’re in a crisis right now—let’s make no mistake about that,” said Jeff Olivet, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, at February 22 virtual event co-sponsored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Initiative on Health and Homelessness (IHH) . “Housing is a basic human right, just like food or water or a right to education, a right to health care—people need and should have access to affordable housing. And yet, we know we live in a country and in a world where that’s not always the case.”

Other co-sponsors of the event included the Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab, and the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative.

Howard Koh , Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership and IHH faculty chair, served as moderator.

A multi-system failure

The homelessness crisis is driven by challenges across multiple systems, according to Olivet, who discussed key findings from the HUD 2023 Annual Homeless Assessment Report . Not only is there a shortage of affordable housing, but many people also have trouble accessing physical and mental health care, education, and public transportation.

“When you look at all of those factors, it’s no wonder that we have millions of Americans who experience homelessness,” he said.

Olivet noted that during the first couple of years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government instituted eviction moratoriums and provided emergency housing vouchers, but these protections and resources have since ended.

However, Olivet also highlighted a success: With bipartisan support from Congress, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by more than 50 percent over the last decade and a half.

“It gives us a proof point that when we invest in housing and wraparound health care, that we know how to end homelessness,” he said. “The question is, how do we apply that to other populations? That’s going to take additional resources.”

Collaborative efforts

In addition to the factors that Olivet mentioned, the number of people experiencing homelessness is increasing due to an influx of immigrants from the Mexico–U.S. border, according to speaker Beth Horwitz, vice president of strategy and innovation at All Chicago Making Homelessness History. The nonprofit coordinates the efforts of organizations across the city, as well as government resources, to serve the different needs of the homeless population.

“We found that when we centralize and coordinate resources, we have the greatest impact,” she said.

Horwitz said that All Chicago expanded its efforts during the pandemic by leveraging resources from the federal government.

She added, “We’re seeing increased investments from state and local government to help us continue to serve even more people, so that we can become a country where housing is a human right, and everyone has access to safe and affordable housing,” she said.

Photo: iStock/Brett Wiatre

Human Rights Careers

5 Essays About Homelessness

Around the world, people experience homelessness. According to a 2005 survey by the United Nations, 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing. The causes vary depending on the place and person. Common reasons include a lack of affordable housing, poverty, a lack of mental health services, and more. Homelessness is rooted in systemic failures that fail to protect those who are most vulnerable. Here are five essays that shine a light on the issue of homelessness:

What Would ‘Housing as a Human Right’ Look Like in California? (2020) – Molly Solomon

For some time, activists and organizations have proclaimed that housing is a human right. This essay explores what that means and that it isn’t a new idea. Housing as a human right was part of federal policy following the Great Depression. In a 1944 speech introducing what he called the “Second Bill of Rights,” President Roosevelt attempted to address poverty and income equality. The right to have a “decent home” was included in his proposals. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration also recognizes housing as a human right. It describes the right to an “adequate standard of living.” Other countries such as France and Scotland include the right to housing in their constitutions. In the US, small local governments have adopted resolutions on housing. How would it work in California?

At KQED, Molly Solomon covers housing affordability. Her stories have aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and other places. She’s won three national Edward R. Murrow awards.

“What People Get Wrong When They Try To End Homelessness” – James Abro

In his essay, James Abro explains what led up to six weeks of homelessness and his experiences helping people through social services. Following the death of his mother and eviction, Abro found himself unhoused. He describes himself as “fortunate” and feeling motivated to teach people how social services worked. However, he learned that his experience was somewhat unique. The system is complicated and those involved don’t understand homelessness. Abro believes investing in affordable housing is critical to truly ending homelessness.

James Abro is the founder of Advocate for Economic Fairness and 32 Beach Productions. He works as an advocate for homeless rights locally and nationally. Besides TalkPoverty, he contributes to Rebelle Society and is an active member of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness.

“No Shelter For Some: Street-Sleepers” (2019)

This piece (by an unknown author) introduces the reader to homelessness in urban China. In the past decades, a person wouldn’t see many homeless people. This was because of strict rules on internal migration and government-supplied housing. Now, the rules have changed. People from rural areas can travel more and most urban housing is privatized. People who are homeless – known as “street-sleepers” are more visible. This essay is a good summary of the system (which includes a shift from police management of homelessness to the Ministry of Civil Affairs) and how street-sleepers are treated.

“A Window Onto An American Nightmare” (2020) – Nathan Heller

This essay from the New Yorker focuses on San Francisco’s history with homelessness, the issue’s complexities, and various efforts to address it. It also touches on how the pandemic has affected homelessness. One of the most intriguing parts of this essay is Heller’s description of becoming homeless. He says people “slide” into it, as opposed to plunging. As an example, someone could be staying with friends while looking for a job, but then the friends decide to stop helping. Maybe someone is jumping in and out of Airbnbs, looking for an apartment. Heller’s point is that the line between only needing a place to stay for a night or two and true “homelessness” is very thin.

Nathan Heller joined the New Yorker’s writing staff in 2013. He writes about technology, higher education, the Bay Area, socioeconomics, and more. He’s also a contributing editor at Vogue, a former columnist for Slate, and contributor to other publications.

“Homelessness in Ireland is at crisis point, and the vitriol shown towards homeless people is just as shocking” (2020)#- Megan Nolan

In Ireland, the housing crisis has been a big issue for years. Recently, it’s come to a head in part due to a few high-profile incidents, such as the death of a young woman in emergency accommodation. The number of children experiencing homelessness (around 4,000) has also shone a light on the severity of the issue. In this essay, Megan Nolan explores homelessness in Ireland as well as the contempt that society has for those who are unhoused.

Megan Nolan writes a column for the New Statesman. She also writes essays, criticism, and fiction. She’s from Ireland but based in London.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

How Can the U.S. End Homelessness?

Giving people access to support services and a place to stay can reduce the number of those living on the streets. But can that be done affordably?

why should we help the homeless essay

A&Q is a special series that inverts the classic Q&A , taking some of the most frequently posed solutions to pressing matters of policy and exploring their complexity.

On any given night in the United States, half a million people are homeless. Some of them sleep in shelters, others on the streets; roughly one-quarter are children.

About 15 percent are so-called chronically homeless, which means they haven’t had a permanent home in years, and often cycle through jails, hospitals and homeless shelters in search of a place to lay their heads.

The government has tried to tackle the problem of homelessness on nearly every level, but comprehensive solutions have proven elusive, despite billions spent over time. The federal government has set a series of goals of ending homelessness for veterans by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2017, and homelessness for families with children and youth by 2020. But reaching these benchmarks appears to be much further off.

Seemingly every policy group that works on this issue has ideas about how to solve it for good. But what really works to help people get—and stay—off the streets? And is there any way to do it that wouldn’t be wildly expensive?

Can we count on that as a long-term solution?

Shelters are certainly useful in that they provide beds and roofs to people who don’t have them, especially on cold and rainy nights where sleeping outside could be fatal for some.

But shelters are incredibly expensive to operate. Nationally, the average monthly cost of serving a family in an emergency shelter is $4,819. Providing them with a voucher for housing, on the other hand, is just $1,162. Shelters might be good for emergencies, but does having a bed to sleep in mean that someone has a home?

And quality can be an issue for these shelters: Many homeless people have told advocates trying to get them off the streets that they avoid shelters if they possibly can. They’ve heard about bad experiences there, or have themselves suffered through violence, theft, or other trauma in these ostensibly safer spaces. There were 826 “violent incidents” in New York City homeless shelters last year, including sexual assault and domestic violence, according to the New York Daily News .

People often have to leave food and other belongings behind when they check into a shelter, making it hard to accumulate anything of sentimental or material value. Plus, shelters don’t allow residents to develop a sense of permanency—and it’s permanency that helps people get a job or stay sober, as numerous studies have indicated.

If it were that easy to add more affordable housing , cities like New York and San Francisco would be very different than they are now, and far less expensive. It’s costly to build new apartments and homes in cities where land is pricey, and developers want to recoup their investment as soon as possible, which means they have to charge a lot for rent.

That’s not to say cities, states, and the federal government haven’t tried out a few strategies for hastening the construction of affordable housing. Have any of them been effective?

There are federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits that help certain developers build 100 percent affordable housing. But developers compete for those tax credits, and there aren’t enough to held build affordable housing for all the people who need it, much less for those who don’t have homes in the first place.

Inclusionary zoning policies can help create more affordable housing; in places such as Montgomery County, Maryland, for instance, all new apartment buildings with more than a certain number of units have to set aside a few of them to be designated as affordable housing, priced much lower than market rent. But then developers usually have to pass the costs of that lost rent onto the other tenants, which increases market-rate rent.

In most municipalities, inclusionary zoning is voluntary, which means that developers who include affordable units can skirt some regulations, allowing them to build higher, for instance, or make their buildings denser.

Making this kind of zoning mandatory can be tricky, though, because developers argue that they can’t charge enough for market-rate units in low- and middle-income neighborhoods to subsidize the affordable units. In March, New York City made inclusionary zoning mandatory in some neighborhoods, and developers are already complaining that it’s become harder to build affordable housing in the city.

This is what’s called a housing-first approach, and numerous studies have found it’s much more effective than relying on shelters. Housing-first places homeless people in long-term housing without asking them to get sober or hang onto a job first. After they’re settled in a stable home, they gain access to services such as drug and alcohol treatment, an assigned social worker, or job training. They don’t have to take advantage of those services, but most people chose to do so.

Through housing-first, Utah reduced its chronically-homeless population 72 percent between 2005 and 2014. Just having a roof over their head, a permanent address, and a place to prepare food and store belongings made so much of a difference for people that the director of the state’s Housing and Community Development Division told the Washington Post that the number of chronically homeless was “approaching a functional zero.”

But why should homeless people get a free place to live? There are lots of people who need affordable housing but aren’t currently homeless, after all. And housing-first isn’t cheap—though tenants pay a small portion of their rent, the state or city usually picks up much of the tab. A voucher for a housing program, like Section 8, can cost $1,162 a month , and spending that money means fewer people get rental assistance overall.

When long-term housing is hard to come by, people desperate for help often get abused. As The New York Times pointed out in a heartbreaking story last year, cities such as New York with a large homeless population have seen the growth of three-quarters houses, which cram multiple people into one bedroom while purporting to help them. Often, they’re just collecting these peoples’ money without giving them any services or even a clean place to live.

Not every homeless person will thrive just because they have a place to live. Some have mental or physical problems that make it difficult for them to stay off the streets after getting a home. Others may never be able to support themselves completely without a community to keep them afloat. Jeffrey Nemetsky, who runs Brooklyn Community Housing and Services, says having a social worker knock on the door once a day to say hello can mean the difference between a tenant staying or heading back out onto the streets.

True, permanent supportive housing can be very effective at helping the chronically homeless get off the streets and stay stable. But is it legal?

Many people who need permanent supportive housing are battling mental problems or drug and alcohol abuse, and would have once ended up in institutions. But since the deinstitutionalization movement began in the 1960s and ’70s, the number of in-patient beds at state or county mental health facilities has declined from more than 400,000 to fewer than 100,000.

Though some institutions still exist, the practice of putting the mentally ill into segregated buildings falls into a gray area. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of people with disabilities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though the case was about people on Medicaid, homeless advocates interpreted it to apply to some chronically homeless with disabilities. Isolating those homeless people from the rest of society is akin to institutionalizing them, advocates say, and it violates the law.

That’s why some housing developments provide both permanent supportive housing and low-income housing, so that homes can be made available to a larger swath of the population. This kind of mixed-use housing helps create communities; in one building in Harlem, single moms living in affordable housing helped out the ex-cons living in supportive housing, and vice versa. Though the building’s developers worried that low-income moms wouldn’t want to live with the mentally ill, some 2,000 people applied for just a few dozen units when the building opened. This and other experiences suggest that integrating supportive and low-income housing can be successful.

But still, agencies and advocates all over the country are struggling to serve the homeless people with mental illness and addiction. It often takes years for case workers to get people to try out permanent supportive housing and abandon the lives they’ve known on the streets. Some cities and states have started allowing judges to order people who cycle through the system to receive treatment for their illnesses, an approach that’s controversial.

Across the country, experts on homelessness have solutions they think will work best. The problem is, housing in many cities is getting more expensive every month, and as prices rise, so do the costs of programs to combat homelessness.

Meanwhile, federal funds for affordable housing have stayed at the same levels for years. So as housing costs go up, those funds are spread more thinly and help fewer people.

But if homelessness is really a problem the country wants to solve by 2020, why not increase the amount of money overall that the government spends on programs to help the homeless? Where could that money come from?

Why not stimulate the creation of affordable housing so to assist both the chronically homeless and those who are homeless temporarily?  Such housing could be available to people below certain income levels, and they could qualify whether they are on the streets or are in an apartment they can’t afford.

For some, it’s hard to imagine carving out more money from the country’s budget to address these issues. But solving homelessness can help fix a lot of other problems too, including truancy from schools, food insecurity, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment. Is it possible that directing more resources toward solving homelessness could actually save society money by helping to fix its other ills at the same time?

Maybe there’s an answer we haven’t considered yet. Drop your thoughts into an email to l [email protected] .

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why should we help the homeless essay

Working together to end homelessness

  • Raise awareness  to support the empowerment and full participation of homeless persons in the societies we live in, paying particular attention to family homelessness, women, children, adolescents, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, people living in poverty and people displaced by natural disasters and conflicts.
  • Advocate  for the rights of homeless people to live a dignified life. You can get involved in great initiatives such as the  world’s big sleep out campaign , which was founded by Josh Littlejohn, the co-founder of the charity Social Bite, based in Scotland. Social Bite started as a small sandwich shop in Edinburgh that began offering employment and free food to homeless people.
  • Educate yourself , teach others, and push for policies that help the homeless. There are so many reasons why a person becomes homeless. We need to understand how they got there in the first place to be able to do something about it.
  • Invest in your community , volunteer and contribute to the trusted foundations and charities who are working hard to make change happen.
  • Organize networking events and outreach  activities to show solidarity with homeless people such as  Making Us Count , a campaign powered by the UN Working Group to End Homelessness, made up of NGOs from across the world. The campaign calls on the United Nations to make the voices of homeless people count.
  • Show respect  towards homeless persons and treat them with dignity as you would do with anyone else.
  • Contribute to ending  this global social crisis, which is growing in every country.


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The Homeless in Our Community Essay

The underlying reasons for homelessness emanate from numerous social and economic sources such as poverty caused by unemployment or poor paying jobs, a deficit of affordable housing, and the lack of services for those who suffer from domestic violence, mental illness, and substance abuse. It is these and other factors that contribute to homelessness, a condition that is seldom a choice for people who must live outside the comfort and security of a home environment. This discussion will examine the homelessness issue including why and what type of people become homeless. It will also review agencies and programs offering assistance to individuals and families living on the street.

Thanks to recent public awareness campaigns by private and government agencies such as the National Coalition for the Homeless and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development respectively, long-standing societal stereotypes of the homeless are gradually evaporating. Images of creatively clothed white-bearded old men leaning against an alley wall clutching a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag have morphed into a family living in their car or a single mother and her children living in a shelter. The estimated half a million children that, at any one time, is homeless in America and their mothers represent the “fastest growing segment of the homeless population” (“Face” 2007). According to current research conducted on homeless shelters, single males comprise forty-five percent and single females fifteen percent of the estimated two million homeless in America. Forty percent of the homeless population is comprised of families and a third of them are single parents with children (“Face” 2007).

It is a misconception that most homeless persons prefer that horrific lifestyle after having adjusted to it. Studies show that ninety-four percent of those without a home certainly would not choose to live this way another day if they had an alternative. Another common fallacy regarding the homeless is that they made poor decisions thus are culpable for their fate. In addition to the large percentage of children that are homeless, many others are victims of their circumstances as well. Some veterans suffer from mental and physical disabilities resulting from combat and cannot maintain a ‘normal’ existence. Others were abused as children or raised in homelessness. Still, others fell victims to the addiction of drugs and alcohol which decimated their working and family life. Some have become ‘unemployable for various reasons or can find only menial jobs after being laid-off from a high-paying position. All homeless are victims in the sense that they do not have a place to call home (“Facts and Myths”, 2007).

Twenty-five percent of homeless women are in this demeaning and dangerous situation because they are escaping violence in the home. Predictably, this is not the case for men as only an insignificant percentage cite family violence as the main reason for their homeless condition. Unemployment is men’s most often answered response and the second most for women. (“Women and Men”, 2001). Other than family violence and to lesser extent unemployment, the differences between the stated causes for their homelessness are statistically equal for men and women. A similar segment of both genders cited drug and alcohol abuse, prolonged illnesses or disabilities, and reaching the limits of federal assistance for their homelessness to the same degree. Recent studies and public exposure have helped displace popular gender misconceptions regarding the main cause of homelessness. One of the most prevalent was that a higher percentage of men were homeless as a result of alcohol and/or drug abuse. The two genders become homeless for essentially the same reasons and to a similar extent outside of the extra cross women must bear, domestic violence (“Women and Men” 2001).

Health issues, both physical and psychological, often negatively affect a homeless person’s re-entry into society. Health care services for the homeless are intrinsically inadequate. Persons without homes seldom possess credit cards or even have bank accounts. Those that are homeless have numerous, multifaceted needs, particularly if they have been forced to sleep outside during their ordeal. The number and extent of the problems homeless persons endure only compound over time. It is financially advantageous for the public and politicians to solve the problem. Helping to take someone off the streets and place them back into mainstream society allows them to contribute to the economy rather than continuing to rely on public assistance (Wallace & Quilgars, 2005). Though there are examples of agencies that offer innovative services and have greatly improved the lives of the homeless, the problem surpasses what resources the private sector and government combined are presently directing towards it and this imbalance is growing along with the homeless population.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers four programs to help the homeless. Emergency Shelter Grants provides support services and shelter for homeless persons. It also provides monetary assistance intended to prevent a family from losing their home in the first place including short-term utility bills, rent, and mortgage payment assistance for those in imminent danger of losing their house. The Continuum of Care program helps communities to reduce their homeless population by offering a wide range of options including permanent, transitory, or emergency housing to those in need. “HUD believes the best approach for alleviating homelessness is through a community-based process that provides a comprehensive response to the different needs of homeless persons” (“Resource Guide”, 2007). HUD also operates the Single Room Occupancy and The Shelter Plus Care programs which provide additional services.

The Family & Youth Services Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families operates the Basic Center Program which helps communities fund shelters and free meal centers while establishing programs that serve the needs of homeless, exploited, and missing children. The Transitional Living and Street Outreach programs targets youths age 16 to 21, the ‘at-risk group for homelessness. Other federal benefit programs include “Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Veteran’s Affairs Compensation, Veterans Affairs Health Care, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, One-Stop Career Center System and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)” (“Resource Guide”, 2007). A bill that would have expanded the SCHIP program was vetoed by President Bush this week but is likely to be re-introduced with some possible compromises. The federal government mandates that homeless children be allowed entry and will be appropriately accommodated by public schools, no matter the circumstance.

The resolve of the public and therefore politicians to abolish homelessness will determine how many men, women, and children, most blameless victims of circumstance, will continue to suffer the wretched and humiliating condition of homelessness. Of course, enacting legislation alone will not lessen the number of homeless. Adequate resources must be allocated to produce additional affordable housing units by creating, restructuring, or improving collaborative efforts between homelessness agency services in the public and private sectors. If these agencies can effectively prevent the instances of homelessness before the actual event as well as to adapt to various challenges facing those currently without a permanent residence, such as the Continuum of Care program, the goal of abolishing homelessness will be closer to becoming a reality.

Works Cited

“Do women and men have different reasons to become homeless?” Texas Homeless Network. (2001). Web.

“Face of Homelessness.” City Rescue Mission of Saginaw. (2007). Web.

“Facts and Myths about the Homeless.” A Place to Call Home. (2007). Web.

“Federal Homelessness Resource Guide.” Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2007). Web.

Wallace A. & Quilgars, D. Homelessness and Financial Exclusion: A Literature Review. London: Friends Provident/London Housing Foundation, (2005). Web.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2021, October 28). The Homeless in Our Community.

"The Homeless in Our Community." IvyPanda , 28 Oct. 2021,

IvyPanda . (2021) 'The Homeless in Our Community'. 28 October.

IvyPanda . 2021. "The Homeless in Our Community." October 28, 2021.

1. IvyPanda . "The Homeless in Our Community." October 28, 2021.


IvyPanda . "The Homeless in Our Community." October 28, 2021.

  • Approaching Homelessness in America
  • Homelessness in the US
  • Mumbai Great Problem: Homelessness Problem in Cities
  • Poverty and Inequality in Modern World
  • Poverty and Its Effects on Females
  • Poverty and Its Effects on Women
  • Social Services for the Individual
  • Poverty as a General Problem

‘People say all the time, “I understand.” No, you don’t.’

‘Talk to us about our wants and needs. Talk to us like adults. Like human beings.’

As this country struggles with a growing crisis of homelessness, it’s time to start listening to the people who are living it.

why should we help the homeless essay

A Life Without A

Voices from the tents, shelters, cars, motels and couches of America.

A record number of people across the country are experiencing homelessness: the federal government’s annual tally last year revealed the highest numbers of unsheltered people since the count began in 2007. Politicians and policymakers are grappling with what can be done. But the people who are actually experiencing homelessness are rarely part of the conversation.

Lori Teresa Yearwood, a journalist who lived through years of homelessness, spoke of the ways we discount those without shelter. “Society created a new species of people, and we carefully crafted an image of them: one of broken passivity and victimhood, people in need of constant scrutiny and monitoring,” she said in a 2022 speech. “When we shift and widen the perspective of the unhoused, that’s when things radically change.” Ms. Yearwood collaborated with Times Opinion on this project before her untimely death in September. She understood what many who have not experienced homelessness ignore: that people without shelter have something to say — and often something of great worth — about what it’s like to live inside this country’s cobbled-together solutions.

That’s why we sent reporters and photographers to different parts of the country to meet with people experiencing homelessness in very different ways. We asked them to fill out surveys, take videos, use disposable cameras and have their children share drawings.

Whatever led them to homelessness, the people who spoke to The Times want a way out. As the nation debates how to help them, they shared the solutions they want to see.

why should we help the homeless essay

Chelsie Stevens has been sleeping on friends’ couches while she attends community college.

why should we help the homeless essay

She and her children are some of the estimated 3.7 million Americans who are doubled up, a kind of homelessness hidden in plain sight.

A Is Not a Home

By Linda Villarosa Photographs by Sasha Phyars-Burgess

Crashing at someone’s house, doubling up, couch surfing: It all conjures a rosy scenario in which someone takes in friends or family members who have fallen on hard times, offering them comfort, safety and a roof over their …

Crashing at someone’s house, doubling up, couch surfing: It all conjures a rosy scenario in which someone takes in friends or family members who have fallen on hard times, offering them comfort, safety and a roof over their heads. But in reality, doubling up is a much more complicated, under-the-radar form of homelessness. It may be a temporary solution, a precursor to living in a shelter or on the street, or part of a cycle of housing instability that involves crowded living conditions and a devastating lack of privacy and safety. The Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn’t recognize doubling up as homelessness, which can mean that families and individuals who live with others — by necessity, not choice — lose out on essential government services and benefits.

why should we help the homeless essay

Chelsie Stevens’s sons, 11 and 14, sleeping on an inflatable bed.

But we can have a sense of the size of the problem by looking at the children. Thanks to landmark 1987 legislation, children who share housing because of economic hardship or loss of their homes qualify for benefits through their public schools: dedicated liaisons, free lunch, free transportation to school even if they are living out of the district. In 2022, public schools counted 1,205,292 homeless students, 76 percent of whom were doubled up. We met with four single moms, all of whom were crashing at someone else’s house with their children.

For parents who lose stable housing, options are limited: In many areas, family shelters are few and far between, and motel rooms get expensive. But staying with others comes with its own costs.

Jackie Randolph , 34, is staying with her five children in a bedroom at her ex-partner’s place in Cincinnati : We got to be quiet. We can’t talk loud. We can’t have fun. We can’t do nothing. It’s like living in jail. We got to be sneaky because of the neighbors. They’re really set in their ways and they ain’t trying to have nobody that stay over there that don’t live there.

Chelsie Stevens, 33, has been on friends’ couches with one of her children while the others sleep at their grandparents’ house near Sarasota, Fla . : I met my current host getting cleaning jobs from him. Thankfully he understood my situation because he has been in my shoes and let me pay him $600 a month to stay with him. He makes me feel like we’re welcome to stay in his house but it’s a little uncomfortable because now that I am staying here, our relationship went from a friendship about work to some odd feeling like he likes me or wants to date me. But we have nowhere else to go.

Michelle Schultz, 52, has been staying on friends’ couches with her daughter near Waukesha, Wis. : It can cause a strain on even the best friendships. As much as it's nice that people will do that, it’s a burden for them to take up that extra space.

Lizbeth Santiago, 28, sleeps with her two children on the floor of her sister’s living room in Fort Worth : Living with my sister feels terrible. It’s very tense. My children are very loud and rambunctious while her son is quiet. My sister, having anxiety and paranoia and autism, it’s upsetting for her. So I feel quite bad.

why should we help the homeless essay

Staying at someone’s house makes securing benefits tricky: The government often counts benefits by household instead of per individual family.

Lizbeth Santiago : I don’t have SNAP benefits or anything. My sister gets a Social Security check for my nephew because he’s autistic and that helps them a lot. If they didn’t have that, they also would not be making it. But because I live with them, I can’t apply for SNAP benefits — that would negatively affect her. And would put an even bigger strain on our relationship.

Michelle Schultz : Because state regulations want to include everybody you’re living with in their income, I had to lie this whole 10 years that I've been homeless. If they know what the household income is, I would lose food stamps. I would lose benefits to the point where I’d probably have to pay copay for doctor prescriptions. I just had to tell them I was homeless and I gave them a mailing address of a P.O. box.

Beyond their own day-to-day concerns, these parents worry about how their living conditions are affecting their children.

Chelsie Stevens : They are behaving poorly in school. My oldest is always worried about me and has a hard time focusing. The kids seem depressed more now.

Lizbeth Santiago : I know it affects her. She tries to hide it. She’s a child. I want her to be a child. I don’t want her to worry about why Mommy’s upset. Those are adult concerns. Those are things that she shouldn’t have on her mind. I wish she didn’t have to experience any of that.

Jackie Randolph : My only goal is making sure my kids stay happy so they don’t think about the situation we are in. Every time they start doubting or they get weary, I just say: “This is just going to make us stronger. It’s going to bring us closer together. You could tell your kids about this.” So they could say: “My mom, she did not give up. She did not give up. She kept fighting.” My kids is the reason why I’m not in a crazy house right now. Because I probably should have been years ago.

Jackie Randolph’s youngest daughter, Clinteria.

Chelsie Stevens’s youngest daughter, Faith.

Navigating the bureaucracy of homelessness is difficult for people who are doubled up. Here’s what they want and need.

Lizbeth Santiago : A job that pays enough. But the harsh reality is it won’t be enough. I donate plasma two times a week and I’m still going to continue to have to do that. I also go to a food pantry once a week to get food.

Jackie Randolph : Stop making the process so long. If somebody needs help today, why would you say, “Next week we’ll be here to help you” or “Give us 30 days to help you”?

Michelle Schultz : If I could have had some help with day care to be able to go and look for a job.

Chelsie Stevens : There needs to be something in place for the young kids growing up in poverty, and parents of those kids. To guide them at a young age how to not end up like I am. Not everyone is born into normalcy and structure or love. Until a person is taught, how can they know?

Like so many others experiencing homelessness, Chelsie Stevens found that her situation deteriorated the longer she was out of stable housing.

After staying at her friend’s apartment for several months, she left when her host made her feel uncomfortable. Her children slept at their grandparents’ house while she slept in her car.

Scroll to read what people living in motels, cars, encampments and shelters want others to understand about homelessness in America.

Times Opinion asked people experiencing homelessness to respond to a survey in their own writing.

How has your life changed since you became homeless?

Edward Taylor, 47, has been sleeping in his car for several months.

Chelsie Stevens, 33, sleeps on friends’ couches and in her car.

Since she lost her family home nearly a year ago, Kimberly has been living in a motel.

Terri Ann Romo, 43, sleeps in a car she shares with her elderly mother.

why should we help the homeless essay

People like Kimberly who turn to motels for shelter are often not even counted as homeless.

By Samantha M. Shapiro Photographs by Paul D’Amato

They arrive in cars crammed with the contents of the homes they were evicted from, or by bus, weighed down by bags. They walk over, in wet socks or ruined pants, from a tent encampment nearby when the weather is too rough to be …

They arrive in cars crammed with the contents of the homes they were evicted from, or by bus, weighed down by bags. They walk over, in wet socks or ruined pants, from a tent encampment nearby when the weather is too rough to be outside. They leave their kids sleeping in the queen beds when they go to work the night shift at an Amazon warehouse. Few of the guests at this airport motel arrive on a flight; most are locals in search of affordable shelter. A yellow school bus picks up children outside the lobby and police cars and outreach workers do rounds through the parking lot, but mostly the true role the motel plays is invisible and improvised by desk clerks. The capacity of shelters and subsidized housing hasn’t kept pace with the growing homelessness crisis, so New York and other cities have turned to private motels to house people, and some charities offer emergency vouchers for brief stays. During the Covid pandemic, empty hotels and motels were also temporarily converted into official homeless shelters; most of those programs have since wound down. But even in places where motels are not officially serving as homeless shelters, people who have lost their housing simply pay the rack rate when they have nowhere else to go. Motels offer an option for those who are shut out of rentals because of evictions on their records or for parents who do not want to be separated from their children, as many shelters do not accept families. We spoke with 11 people who are temporarily staying in a motel on the outskirts of Milwaukee.

why should we help the homeless essay

Ashley and her twin children in their motel room.

Paying by the night or week is more feasible for those who struggle to put together enough cash for a security deposit and one month’s rent. But the cost of a room can vary from night to night and the monthly cost of a motel stay is often much higher than rent.

Ashley, 38, has been staying with four of her five children in a motel room for the last several months : This is my first time being displaced from housing. The first two weeks were the roughest. I didn’t know where to go. I’m used to having birthday parties at hotels for my kids — I’m really only in hotels then or if we’re on vacation. I didn’t know you can rent hotels to live. I pay daily at these hotels. It’s expensive. On a good night, it costs $51; with tax, $56. On weekends it’s $73. They usually tell me if something special is going on, because it’ll go up. For the state fair, they actually put all the homeless people out. I was back in my car for two weeks.

Kala, 32, has been battling drug addiction for years. She and her partner stay in motel rooms whenever they have enough money : You are basically on a timer that gives you anxiety and puts you on an edge. I have to figure out how to come up with another 70 bucks in less than 24 hours every day. It’s the same thing as being homeless. Yeah, I can sleep here for 12 hours but in 12 hours I got to figure something out, so I am not doing anything with that 12 hours — just stressing over how I’m going to pay for the next 12 hours. I can’t focus on what I am going to do to move forward. You can’t do that in 12 hours.

Kimberly, 53, sold the family home to a “sell for cash” group when her father became ill : I’ve been here a year in December. It’s an every day struggle trying to pay for everything. That’s why I don’t have food. Room, food, bus. I do plasma. It makes you depressed being stuck in this room 24/7.

Brenda, 53, is staying in a room with her cousin and her 19-year-old autistic son : I have more anxiety. I’m unsure of everything. I’m scared only because of my 19-year-old son. It’s hard to get inside the mind of somebody with autism, but I know one thing for certain is that when his schedule gets disrupted, it disrupts him. And then I feel badly. I tell him things are going to be better, but it’s hard. I tried and failed to make a life for myself.

Just six months after Covid-era moratoriums were lifted, eviction filings doubled in Milwaukee County. With rents rising , even two-income families can easily fall into homelessness, where a constant barrage of bills and bureaucratic hurdles keep stable housing out of reach.

Max, 47, has been staying in motel rooms with his wife and their sons for several months : Our rent went up unexpectedly. We had had a yearlong lease but then the landlord made it month to month. We couldn’t suck it up and pay. The rent was $1,400 and the next month went up to $1,900.

Kimberly : My storage alone is $260 a month because it was a house full of things we left — I even threw out two giant dumpsters — it’s all our photo albums and furniture. I’m over $1,000 behind. There’s interest, late fees. I owe the storage place on the 20th and if I don’t pay them it will go to auction. You can’t pay here at the motel and come up with money to get a place. It’s impossible. And that’s why a lot of us are stuck.

Ashley : I owe the storage unit $100 so they locked it. The twins were supposed to go to the pumpkin farm today for a school trip but the kids’ coats and boots are in there. I knew they were going to be outside all day at the pumpkin farm so I kept them at home. It’s expensive being homeless. It’s expensive being outside. I’ve applied to places, but I have an open eviction right now.

David, 63, has been homeless for about two years : I didn’t receive my benefits one month. I was fighting with the QUEST card people. You get a review every few years to keep the benefits going. Well, not living in a permanent place, I don’t receive my mail, so I missed the review. That’s why my benefits were cut off.

why should we help the homeless essay

People living day to day in motels often are not counted as homeless by HUD, making it difficult for them to get access to the services put in place to help people experiencing homelessness.

Ashley : I called 211 and told them I was homeless and my situation. One night at 3 in the morning, they called me. They said we’re out and about at the address you gave us but we don’t see your car. I’m like, “Well, tonight we got a room” and they’re like, “Well, that’s not considered homeless. When you go back out to that spot give us a call, maybe we can come back out to that spot.” They can help with housing if they can prove that I’m in my car 24/7. But I can’t keep my kids in my car. If I have to pay for a room I will. But they’re saying, “Because you’re inside a hotel you’re not considered homeless.” This doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve never noticed how many homeless people were out here until I became one.

Scroll to read what people living in cars, encampments and shelters want others to understand about homelessness in America.

What is the biggest stress you deal with in daily life?

David, 63, sleeps in a tent behind a motel in Milwaukee.

Rob Travis Jackson, 59, stays in a shelter in Pennsylvania.

Kala, 32, has been sleeping on the street and in a motel when she can afford it.

Haven, 11, is sleeping on couches with his mom and siblings near Sarasota, Fla.

Sage and Fiona Reuscher and their son have been homeless since May.

why should we help the homeless essay

The Reuschers are among the over 19,000 people in Los Angeles living out of their cars.

By Christopher Giamarino Photographs by Ricardo Nagaoka

When Americans lose their housing, their cars are often the first place they turn. The federal government doesn’t collect data specifically on vehicular homelessness, but recent studies show that over 40 percent of unsheltered …

When Americans lose their housing, their cars are often the first place they turn. The federal government doesn’t collect data specifically on vehicular homelessness, but recent studies show that over 40 percent of unsheltered people in Los Angeles County live in their vehicles — cars, vans, campers and R.V.s. The cold reality: Finding a safe place to park is a challenge, made worse by a web of complicated ordinances that in much of the country make sleeping and living in your car illegal , with towing and expensive tickets a constant worry. The Los Angeles area is home to the nation’s largest population of “vehicle dwellers.” One nonprofit, Safe Parking L.A. , has set up in parking lots across Los Angeles in response, allowing people to stay in their cars during the night when businesses are closed, providing amenities like restrooms, security guards and sometimes even financial services and opportunities to find shelters and housing. We spoke with people in one such parking lot, sandwiched between the Los Angeles airport runway and industrial land. The people staying there shared why they’re living in their cars, and what they need to get back into housing.

why should we help the homeless essay

Chloe Heard by the car where she sleeps.

An empty parking lot, even one with planes blaring overhead every 90 seconds, provides a degree of safety for people who have been sleeping in their cars on streets and in parks.

Chloe Heard, 36, has been homeless since August 2020 : Before this lot, I was parking by the beach. I was really unsafe. The police were coming to my car, and I was scared. My main concerns were if someone was going to walk up to my car and bust my windows, or if the police were going to arrest me for trespassing. You don’t really rest because you’re constantly jumping up to look around to make sure you’re not going to get in trouble for being there. I’d be getting tickets for parking on streets, sleeping in my car. Sometimes, street sweeping has come before you wake up and you’ve already gotten a ticket before you noticed the person.

B.A., 52, works as a bus driver at the airport and lives out of his car : Living in my car is hard. I don’t have any electricity. I always have to run the car. That’s wasting gas. I feel like I’m not safe wherever I sleep — these lots or wherever I sleep on the street.

Edward Taylor, 47, lives in his car with his husband after they lost their apartment in 2022 : The way that parking on public streets impacted us was just sleep. Being here in a safe zone that is monitored and secluded from what’s happening on the other side of these barricades allows you to get sleep. It allows you to sleep a little bit more peacefully than if I have to worry about other homeless people. Sorry, I forgot I am homeless now.

Curtis Lynch and Edward Taylor

Juana Zabala in the car where she sleeps.

Living out of your car might seem like a good way to save money when you’ve lost your housing, but often, a vicious cycle of bills and bad credit causes a temporary sleeping situation to stretch into a months-long ordeal.

Chloe Heard : How do they expect people facing homelessness to have 700 or 800 credit scores? Or have co-signers? People don’t even trust that you can make it on your own, let alone use someone else’s assistance to get there. How in the heck could someone vouch for you to maybe help ruin their credit?

B.A. : On a big lot like this, they should just let people park there all day and all night. With Safe Parking I don’t like that you have to leave, come back, leave, come back. I want to just leave my car here and then I could just take off somewhere or walk. But instead, I got to drive, waste gas, come back. I spend more money on gas than I spend on anything.

Edward Taylor : I have an income. I have money saved. I tell people I have enough money to pay them three times the deposit. But even right now that is not acceptable because your credit score is not good or you have an eviction on your record.

The longer homelessness stretches on, the harder it is for people experiencing it to recover.

Fiona Reuscher, 43, lives in her car with her partner, Sage, and their teenage son : Once everything is taken from you, it becomes how much more do you have to give up? We’ve had shelters that have said, “We can take you, but we don’t allow dogs.” We’ve already given up everything. You’re not going to take away our best friends. These are our dogs. These are our emotional support animals. These are our protectors. They’re like our kids. You can’t do that. But they expect you to do this. They expect you to give these things up. They expect you to be happy with a doghouse because you’re in your car. No, we want housing. What’s good for you should be good for me. If it’s not good for you then why are you trying to pawn it off on me?

Edward Taylor : I am not grounded in some place to update my résumé and have access to the internet to look for jobs and network. I’m not able to access my full belongings to get into my full self to go out to places to network with people.

Chloe Heard : People think that because you don’t have a home that you’re dirty, you may stink, that you’re crazy for sleeping in a car. I told my friend that I sleep in my car. She said: “You sleep in your car? What’re you talking about?” It makes me refrain from telling people because then they’re looking at me in a judging sense like I’m lesser than. It makes me feel like less of an active citizen in society because people look down on you.

why should we help the homeless essay

Fiona and Sage Reuscher prepare their car to sleep for the night.

The people sleeping in the lot have ideas on ways their homelessness could have been prevented, and how aid programs, including the Safe Parking program hosting them, could better meet their needs.

Curtis Lynch, 38, lives in his car with his husband, Edward : The eviction moratorium should have lasted longer. There should have been a proper system in place where the government helped pay during that process — like, pay back 30 percent of what you owe, and your eviction could be withheld. There’s a better system they should have worked with.

Terri Ann Romo, 43, lives in her car with her mom, Juana : It would be nice if you could shower. We went a whole month without showering until recently.

Frankey Daniels, 32, has two jobs and has been homeless since July : Create more housing programs for people who work and are going through homelessness. It takes some time to really figure it out and do your research when you have to go to work, and some people are working two jobs.

B.A . : At the Convention Center, they had plugs. They had bathrooms that you could walk into with a private sink and toilet. They use port-a-potties here. They need to be cleaned out every day.

Fiona Reuscher : Having weekly meetings so that the people who are the decision makers out here talk to us on the lot. We need better transparency. If you’re not talking to the people that you’re serving, then you’re not serving them.

Scroll to read what people living in encampments and shelters want others to understand about homelessness in America.

Do you think the government, or either political party, is doing enough to help you?

David, 62, with his partner, Terri. He uses a wheelchair and sleeps in a tent in Nashville.

Chloe Heard, 36, has been homeless since 2020.

Bobby Conner Jr., 29, lives in an encampment in Nashville.

why should we help the homeless essay

Tyrese Payeton has been living in an encampment for several months.

why should we help the homeless essay

He is one of hundreds of people living in tents and other temporary shelters in Nashville.

By Wes Enzinna Photographs by Tamara Reynolds

Less than a mile from Nashville’s bustling tourist district, the Old Tent City homeless encampment lies in a forest hidden between the banks of the Cumberland River and the shadow of a steep, dusty bluff. At the top of the bluff …

Less than a mile from Nashville’s bustling tourist district, the Old Tent City homeless encampment lies in a forest hidden between the banks of the Cumberland River and the shadow of a steep, dusty bluff. At the top of the bluff is a new condominium building where two-bedroom units with panoramic views of the downtown skyline sell for $1.2 million. The sprawling shantytown below is home to dozens of people who live in tents and makeshift abodes — the winners and the losers of the new Nashville economy live in one another's shadows. Tent cities, which often include other shelters like wooden sheds and R.V.s, have become a common feature in the landscape of American cities. In Nashville, one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States, 17 percent of people who are homeless are living on the streets and in encampments. According to service providers, there are dozens of encampments spread out across the city and the surrounding county. The people living in them often aren’t included in decisions over their fates, even as the city has made closing the camps a key part of its larger fight against homelessness for the last year. We spoke to residents of Old Tent City and four other encampments in Nashville. Most of them want to be off the streets. All of them want a system that better supports them.

why should we help the homeless essay

Wade in his “tiny home,” a temporary shelter the size of a shed.

Some people who live in encampments worry about their safety, while others say they provide a sense of community and security hard to find elsewhere on the street.

Fred Moore , 57, has been homeless for about 12 years : I love the homeless people that’s out here. Most of them that’s new don’t know how to live being homeless. There are so many different tricks and ways around it that people just don’t know how and when you got somebody that’s already been out here, they know the ways to do things and help pass information.

Cynthia Gaddis, 35, ended up on the streets several months ago : I’ve learned you can depend more on the homeless people than you can with the people that have everything.

Bobby Conner Jr., 29, who has been homeless since he was 13, was struggling with addiction when he arrived in Old Tent City : Any time I ever need a place to come, just lay low and just crash, and need a family, I know I can always come down here. When I came down here, I looked at them, I was like: “I want off of that. I want to start my life new again . ” They were like: “You really want to do it? You’re more than welcome to bring your stuff down here. Set up your spot. We’ll make sure you stay off of it.”

Casey Guzak, 47 , became homeless two years ago after a rent increase : I don’t think Hoovertowns are appropriate unless there’s a major depression. Shantytowns accumulate hostility, disease, and everyone’s calamity is amplified.

But even as encampments provide stability to some residents, the unique challenges — financial, mental, physical — of living there can also make it harder for residents to eventually find their way out of the camps and back into housing.

New York is an Army veteran living in a tent in Old Tent City : I can afford to pay the rent. I just can’t afford the deposit. And being out here kind of messed up my credit. But now I’m paying three credit fixers to fix my credit. Nobody in my family knows I’m out here. I’m too embarrassed to reach out and say something because they’ve never seen me. When I was out there, I had an apartment and a house and had two cars. I was making good money. So it’s a pride thing.

Terri Masterson and her partner lost their home of 23 years just miles away from where they stay on the street now : I am ashamed of it. I’m ashamed that I’m ashamed, but I truly am. You know, I am an old-fashioned girl. This is not how I was raised, as my grandmother would say.

Fred Moore : It’s hard for me to hold down a job because I can’t concentrate on what I’m doing. I’ve been down here trying to get signed up on disability and try to give my brain time to rest and really see what’s going on.

Jacquelyn Manner, 61, lost her job and her home after a debilitating brain injury : I’m a pretty healthy person, but I’m also 61. I can’t eat a lot of the stuff that they have out there. I need fresh vegetables. I have food stamps, but I didn’t have a place that I could eat fresh vegetables and yogurt. It’s going to be pasta, rice. A lot of sugar and a lot of salt. It creates health problems.

Riley, 23, moved into an encampment to try to save money : I was living in a motel. I was making $600 a week doing day labor, and the motel was so expensive. I had the idea: I'll come out here and I’ll stack some money up for a few weeks. Thought I’d be able to get back up on my feet in no time. I had to be at the day-labor office at five in the morning, so I was buying Ubers, spending like 40 bucks in the morning. And then I’m getting off work at rush hour. And the prices go up. I’m spending another $30 to get home. It’s 70 bucks. I made $125 a day, so I got 55 bucks left. I got to eat, so I bought a camp stove. I just stopped going to work after three months.

Casey Guzak

Brandi and her boyfriend, Robert.

According to one nonprofit group, over the last two years at least 25 encampments in Nashville have been cleared. In July 2022, Tennessee became the first state ever to make camping on public property a felony . So far, no one has been prosecuted under the law, but numerous encampment residents say that the police have invoked it to intimidate them.

Casey Guzak : They use the landscapers to cut trees around you, expose you. Then they tell you you need to get everything in your tent — there’s too much stuff out here, too much litter. I agree! But they take your tent when you’re not there. They figure if you’re exposed, you’ll be embarrassed. We weren’t. We just sat there. You know, who are we going to be embarrassed by? Their message is, “We got to clear this place out for gentrification . ” It’s about to happen here. It’s happening all over Nashville. It’s like a war.

Wade lives in a 60-square-foot shed in an encampment in the backyard of a church : When I was homeless, and I mean homeless — no housing, no nothing, bushes and trees right behind me — the police, they say, “Oh, you can’t sleep here.” And you’re sitting there saying, “But that ain’t fair.” They don't care. If you’re not doing anything and you’re not causing any disturbance why come over and harass you? They’re not doing what the police are supposed to do. They’re supposed to protect and serve.

C.J . has lived in an encampment for four years and worries he and his fellow residents will be evicted soon : All you’re going to do is bust up a nest, and that nest is going to spread out somewhere else. When you bust it up, the ones that are scattered are going to find somewhere else and then you got another problem. … I’m going to go to another area, find another spot, set up another camp and start the process all over again.

The people living in tent cities want to have a say in the policies that affect them.

Jacquelyn Manner : I need to get permanent shelter and I need to get a good job. And I can’t do that unless I have an outfit. Unless I have a place that I can shower. Unless I can have a place where I can keep my clothes decent, and know that I can wear some decent clothes to work.

Clyde Hohn, 52, and his wife, Norvalla, have been residents of Old Tent City for about a month : We should have security guards in the encampments. We got people firing off firearms. Somebody ran a knife through my tent. There are noises all night, people arguing. A security guard would help us keep safe, help us sleep so we can go to work in the morning and get ourselves off the street. She’s a cashier at a gas station. It’d be a lot worse if she lost her job.

Mama V : A goal of ours is to find the land and make it where the homeless can have somewhere and nobody can tell them, “Hey, you’ve got to go.” I tell everybody, you never know when you're going to be one paycheck away from where we’re at right now.

why should we help the homeless essay

Jacquelyn Manner in front of the tiny home where she sleeps.

Scroll to read what people living in shelters want others to understand about homelessness in America.

Could the government have done anything to prevent your homelessness?

Terri Ann Romo, 43, lost stable housing after an eviction in 2022.

Clyde Hohn, 52, lives in an encampment and hasn’t had stable housing since 2022.

Fiona Reuscher, 43, fell into homelessness after a workplace injury and layoff.

Cynthia Gaddis, 35, lives in an encampment in Nashville.

why should we help the homeless essay

Levon Higgins lost his housing after expensive surgery. He lives in a shelter, sharing a room with dozens of men.

why should we help the homeless essay

Every night, some 445,000 Americans stay in shelters like the one where he sleeps.

By Matthew Desmond Photographs by Adam Pape

The shelter comes after it all. After the pawnship and plasma donation. After the diagnosis, the divorce, the eviction, the relapse. After the final family member …

The shelter comes after it all. After the pawnship and plasma donation. After the diagnosis, the divorce, the eviction, the relapse. After the final family member says no. Emergency shelters provide a place to sleep — even if only a mat on a floor — and meals. At some, you can get clean socks, a haircut, a tooth pulled, even therapy. The shelter represents the last stop from the bottom, a bulwark from the street, but it can also represent a chance: to leave your abuser, to earn your G.E.D., to make a new start. Homelessness is highest in cities with exorbitant rents, but small cities and rural communities are not shielded from the housing crisis. Some small towns have eviction rates that rival those of big cities. Because rural America lacks many social services, like free clinics, soup kitchens and shelters, the rural homeless often make their way to places like the Water Street Mission . A Christian rescue mission in Lancaster, Pa., a city of roughly 57,000, it has been serving the hungry and homeless since 1917. We spoke with several people staying at the Water Street Mission, some of whom were there for the first time and some who had sought refuge there many times before.

why should we help the homeless essay

James Costello

Because there is no single agency or governmental organization that oversees America’s shelter system, shelters can vary as much in funding — some private, some religious, some public — as in the kinds of services and amenities they offer.

James Costello, 58, lost a leg to diabetes complications, then his job and housing soon after : When I first came here, we were sleeping on the chapel floor here on “boats.” They were like hard things, maybe about a foot high. And you threw a mat on it and that was what we slept on. And they said: “This is not good for the people. They’re losing dignity.” That’s the one thing here. They want you to have dignity; you’ve lost everything else. So they don’t want to take that from you either. Yeah, you’re in your room with 45 other guys, but you still feel like a person. You don’t feel like cattle being shoved in and shoved out of a room.

Tamekia Gibbs, 48, arrived at Water Street after surviving domestic violence : Knowing that you have a place to lay your head and knowing you’ll have food in your mouth, that’s a good thing. It’s everything else that comes along with it, especially if you’ve never been in that predicament — sleeping in a room full of women, you just never know how strange, how stressful that is. You have to get used to different things. You got to get used to having to get used to it.

Shawna, 44, is recovering from an addiction and has been in and out of homelessness for over a decade : You don’t have to go, “Well, why are they throwing God in my face all the time?” Just sit down, listen. Maybe that lesson was meant for you and that’s why you’re getting mad. I just go, I listen. If it’s for me, I sit and listen. If not, I play with something on my phone.

The resources dedicated to helping people who have lost stable housing in rural communities are more limited, but the causes are often the same as in major cities.

Levon Higgins, 50, has been staying at Water Street for the last six months : I just couldn’t afford to live where I was. Rent went up to $1,500 a month. For a two-bedroom. I just couldn’t do it. When the pandemic first started, I had a savings account, had a SIMPLE I.R.A. Over the past year, things just got worse. Your rent just keeps going up and going up and going up.

Shawna : This is my fifth or sixth time back. This time I decided to come back just so I could get away from my drug of choice and being out on the street and not feeling safe. My daughter came here after me. This would be her second time back with my grandbabies. We stayed here a couple of times together when it was just me and her. It’s just like I’m reliving everything over again. I know something has to change.

Tamekia Gibbs : I endured a lot of physical, emotional and mental abuse. I just got to the point where I lost me completely in that relationship. I said: “This is enough. I got to find somewhere else to go.” So when I did that, of course, it got physical because they didn't want me to leave. I had my son come get me and I took what I could carry. And I’ve been homeless ever since.

Tamekia Gibbs

Rob Travis Jackson

Securing a spot in a shelter isn’t always straightforward: There are far fewer beds available than people who need them . And for those who get in, adjusting to life in the shelter is its own process.

Evelyn, 39, is a mother of two staying in the family section of the mission : When I first got here, I was so mad, so angry, so hurt that I was even put in this position. To be a single mom and have two kids and be out on the streets, it’s very worrisome because they tell you if you don’t have a place, then C.Y.S. [Children and Youth Services] can take your children. Even going to them for help it was like: “Well, if you don't have a place, then we can’t do anything for you. But legally we can take your children.” And it was like: “No, I don’t think so. You’re not taking my children.” So I was scurrying around trying to find shelter for them.

Jennifer Berrie, 45, was staying in an overnight-only shelter before Water Street : I miss little things you don't even think of. People complain like I used to about cooking, but then you can’t do it for a while and you miss it. Going to bed when you want, not having a curfew, just, you know, living your life. The freedom.

Tamekia Gibbs : There are the ladies that are talking about each other. They’re just doing a lot of backbiting, and when you have that in a community, it causes a lot of friction and tension. I try to stay away from it, I hunker down, do what I’m supposed to in my classes. I stay busy. I tell the ladies: “I came here broken. If I can do it, you can do it.”

In addition to addressing the housing crisis and deepening investments in mental health and drug treatment services, the residents of Water Street believe it is critical to treat people in their situation with dignity and empathy.

James Costello : This is a human condition. Humans have to solve it. Politics can't do that. And that’s the main problem. With the government it is not going to happen. They’re always going to be wanting money. “Where are we going to get the biggest buck?” And as long as that goes on, this problem is going to get worse.

Rob Travis Jackson, 59, became homeless after a financially draining divorce : It’s a little scary to think about what life might be like for any of us after we leave Water Street. If you’re here for a year, you’ve had three meals and three hot meals available through the seasons of the year. And what does my life look like after I leave?

Levon Higgins : Some people who come across hard times, it’s because they maybe lost a job or some mental issues that happened. But that’s not how the world sees it. When they see, they automatically assume: “He’s a drug addict. He’s an alcoholic. They don't want to work. They don't want to do nothing.” And that can’t be further from the truth. They just want some help. People get scared to ask for help because they’ve been denied so many times.

why should we help the homeless essay

Scroll to read what people who are living through homelessness actually want.

If you were in charge, what would you do to stop homelessness?

Clyde Hohn, 52, lives in an encampment in Nashville.

Layla, 9, a fourth grader who is navigating homelessness with her mom and three siblings.

Frankey Daniels, 32, lives out of his car in Los Angeles, where he also works two jobs.

Tamekia Gibbs, 48, hasn’t had stable housing since 2016.

We kept in touch with some of the people we met through our reporting. During the months of producing this project, we heard about their triumphs and their setbacks. Fred Moore was on the verge of receiving Section 8 housing when we met him in Nashville. After 12 years of homelessness, he moved in last September. “I’m still not adjusted to it. I’m like a baby in a crib. It seems easier, but really it’s a lot harder,” he said recently. “At the apartment, I get cabin fever staying in it so much. I miss being outside a lot because you get fresh air. It gets summer time, I might throw up a tent around town and stay there a few days out of the week. It’s hard to pull away from this kind of life, being homeless.”

In October, after Mr. Moore moved into his apartment, the encampment where he had lived was razed by the city. That same month, Nashville provided transitional or permanent housing to 191 people who were once on the street— and 373 people became newly unhoused.

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Our Father's House Soup Kitchen

Top Reasons Why We Should Help the Homeless


The person is helping people experiencing homelessness.

Published October 13, 2023

When you see homeless people on the street, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Are you one of those people who think they deserve it for making bad decisions in life? Or do you stop and ask yourself how you can help them?

Admit it or not, most of us do the former. We blame the homeless for their plight instead of trying to help them get back on their feet. As a society, we’re wired to distrust people we feel are not contributing well to the community . In the news and even in some movies, homeless people are often portrayed as criminals and spreaders of diseases.

Yet, few people realize that most of us are just one paycheck away from living on the streets . It only takes one failed relationship or the death of a loved one to turn someone’s life upside down.

Even the most level-headed person can lose everything with no one to turn to. So it’s not really about the decisions they make. It’s mainly about the circumstances that they found themselves in, to which there is no easy way out.

Thus, instead of blaming them for things beyond their control, we need to help them. If you’re still not convinced, read along.

Reasons Why We Should Help the Homeless

1. they are humans, just like us.

No matter their skin color, religion, or gender identity, we all belong to the same race: humankind. We share the same experience. We all get hungry, feel cold, and need someone to understand us . This is basic for all humans. The only difference is you don’t have to worry about where to get your next meal. Or where to lay your head for the night .

2. They Need Our Help

We need to help the homeless because they need our help . It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter whether they can return the favor or not. You shouldn’t need any reason to help someone other than they need help.

3. When We Do Good, We Feel Good

Have you ever noticed that when you help others, you feel different happiness? It’s like this warm feeling spreading all over you that’s difficult to put a name to. That, my friend, is a rare kind of satisfaction that no amount of material wealth can buy.

4. We Are In A Position To Help

That homeless man you see on the street probably didn’t have the same opportunities that you had. That single mother living in the shelter didn’t have the same support system you had. We need to help them because we are blessed to not be in the same situation that they are in. We have the resources that they don’t. In short, we are in a position to help, and so we should.

5. It’s Our Chance to Make a Difference

Nelson Mandela once said:

We can change the world and make it a better place. It’s in your hands to make a difference.

Homelessness is a global human tragedy. But if we work together, we can make the world better for everyone. No matter how small the effort is, it can make a difference. You don’t have to be a billionaire to inspire change. We can all help end homelessness in our own little ways.

6. It’s Our Moral Obligation

As human beings, it’s our moral responsibility to help the most vulnerable members of our society. Even if your moral compass isn’t that strong, common decency dictates that it’s the right thing to do .

7. What Goes Around, Comes Back Around

You may have a stable job and a roof over your head right now. But there is no guarantee that you’ll still have them tomorrow. Most homeless people had jobs and didn’t imagine finding themselves sleeping on the streets. But then, in the blink of an eye, everything can change. Such is life, and that doesn’t exempt you.

This is why we need to help the homeless because what goes around, comes back around. When the time comes that we’ll be in their shoes, we can hope that someone will be willing to help us, too.

8. You Can Help Them Have a Brighter Future

In a commencement address, Steve Jobs revealed that he was once homeless. Steve Harvey, Jim Carrey, Halle Berry, James Cameron, and many other famous people were once homeless. 

But they rose above their circumstances and became the successful people they are now.

You see, most of the time, homelessness is just temporary. Sometimes, they need someone to help them get back on their feet. Contrary to popular belief, some of them are trying.

Thus, we need to help them become productive members of society again. That homeless kid living from shelter to shelter could be the next U.S. president or the next most notorious criminal in the country. It all depends on you.

Practical Ways You Can Help the Homeless

1. volunteer at homeless shelters or soup kitchens.

Offer your time and skills to local organizations that provide essential services to the homeless. You can volunteer to serve meals , organize donation drives, or provide support in any way you can.

2. Donate Essential Items

Many homeless individuals lack basic necessities. These can be warm clothing , blankets, toiletries, and food . Consider donating these items to shelters or outreach programs. Make sure they directly assist the homeless population.

3. Support Job Training and Education Programs

Help homeless individuals get the necessary skills and education to find stable employment. Support organizations that offer vocational training, job placement services, and educational opportunities.

4. Advocate for Affordable Housing

Advocate for policies and initiatives focusing on affordable housing options for the homeless. Support local and national organizations providing safe and affordable housing for those in need.

5. Raise Awareness

Use your voice and platforms. Raise awareness about homelessness and its underlying causes. Share stories , statistics, and personal experiences. This will help break down stereotypes and foster empathy and understanding.

6. Offer Supportive Services

Many homeless individuals have mental health issues or substance abuse problems. Support organizations that provide counseling and rehabilitation services. As well as access to healthcare for those in need.

7. Engage with Local Government

Contact your local representatives and express your concerns about homelessness in your community. Encourage them to divide resources towards homelessness prevention programs and supportive services.

8. Foster Community Connections

Loneliness and isolation are common challenges for the homeless population. Take the initiative to engage with homeless individuals in your community. Listen to their stories and treat them with dignity and respect.

The couple take the initiative to engage with homeless individuals in their community.

Effects of Homelessness on the Economy and Society in General

The economic consequences of homelessness are significant. When you are homeless, it will be challenging for you to find employment. This results in decreased productivity and loss of potential contributions to the economy.

Homelessness also often leads to increased healthcare costs. This is because they struggle to access adequate medical care, which falls on the government and taxpayers.

The social consequences of homelessness are profound. The homeless face many challenges that can add to their vulnerability. Lack of shelter exposes them to harsh weather conditions. This leads to health issues, including hypothermia and heatstroke.

Homelessness can also increase the risk of substance abuse. As well as mental health disorders and criminal activity. These factors can also contribute to social instability and strained community relationships.

Homelessness places a significant strain on public resources. Governments must divide funds towards emergency shelters, outreach programs, and healthcare services for those experiencing homelessness . This diverts resources from other essential areas, such as education and infrastructure.

Homelessness can strain public safety systems. This includes petty theft, loitering, and public disturbances.

Donate To The Poor & Homeless Of South Florida

Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen has fed the poor and homeless in South Florida over 900,000 hot meals since 1993. Our tax deductible non profit organization also accepts and distributes donations such as clothing, toiletries, shoes, bicycles, and more. You can donate to help the poor and homeless through our website.

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About The Author

Judy Ponio is a professional writer and devoted Christian. She has a passion for writing about topics related to morality and helping the poor and homeless. She is the lead author for the Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen blog.

Correct Digital, Inc is paid by private donors to provide website digital marketing services to this non-profit organization.

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Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Homelessness — Causes and Effects of Homelessness: A Complex Societal Issue


Causes and Effects of Homelessness: a Complex Societal Issue

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Published: Aug 31, 2023

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why should we help the homeless essay

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Many charities advise against handing cash to rough sleepers. If you’d prefer not to, you can offer food or drink instead – but ask what the person would actually like.

Homelessness is now part of all our lives. Here's what you can do to help

As someone who has experienced homelessness, here are my tips on what you can do (and what you should avoid) if you want to help someone on the street

B ritain’s homelessness crisis is out of control, with the numbers of homeless people and rough sleepers at their highest levels since 2010. Every day on the commute to work, the school run or shopping trips we pass the tent cities, flattened cardboard boxes lining doorways and paper cups resting on pavements. Homelessness is now part of all our lives. It leaves many of us feeling compelled to help, but unsure of how to do it in the right way.

I’ve experienced homelessness. I slept rough in a campsite and on a bridle path for three weeks before living in hostels for more than 18 months. These experiences haven’t provided me with any special wisdom on the matter. In fact I’m probably just as unsure as most of you are. But one thing I am sure about, and that my own experiences underlined, is that homeless people are just that – people. Take that as your starting point: treat them as you would want to be treated if you ever found yourself in that situation.

What is 'The empty doorway' - the Guardian series on people who died homeless?

726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, according to the latest ONS figures. Over the next few months, G2 and Guardian Cities will look behind this statistic to tell the stories of some of those who have died on Britain’s streets . We will tell not just the story of their death, but the story of their life – what they were like as kids, what their dreams were, their hobbies, what people loved about them, what was infuriating. We will also examine what went wrong with their lives, how it impacted on their loved ones, and if anything could have been done differently to prevent their deaths. 

As the series develops, we will invite politicians, charities and homelessness organisations to respond to the issues raised. We will also ask readers to offer their own stories and reflections on homelessness. We want the stories we tell to become the fulcrum of a debate about homelessness; to make a difference to a scourge that shames us all. 

It is time to stop just passing by.

Here are my thoughts on what the rest of us – the passers-by, the lookers-on, those who feel anxious and powerless – should do. Some of my suggestions are controversial and, as I said, I don’t feel I’ve got all the answers, but I’ve tried to be honest about the way I feel and about the lessons I learned from being on the streets and from talking to other people in a similar situation then and since, as part of my work with Simon Hattenstone on The Empty Doorway series.

What should you do if you see a rough sleeper whose immediate welfare you are concerned about? In England and Wales, the official advice is to inform StreetLink , the national referral service run by St Mungo’s . This seems like a no-brainer: contact StreetLink and they will send an experienced person along who will attempt to get that person off the streets. But even this isn’t straightforward. St Mungo’s, in co-operation with the government’s hostile environment policy , were found to be recording the details of those they help and passing that information to the Home Office .

This was stopped in 2017, but rough sleepers still don’t trust them. Many of the rough sleepers I’ve spoken to, even British citizens, refuse help from StreetLink over privacy concerns. This lack of trust is having a big impact in stopping rough sleepers getting the help they need. It’s vital that homelessness charities demonstrate their independence from government and start winning back trust.

We also need to better understand what the practical results of referrals to these types of services are. There is evidence that a large proportion of the people referred are already known to the authorities, which suggests that the services to which StreetLink are supposed to refer them are already failing.

It also proves difficult in many instances for StreetLink to identify or locate the person who has been reported. That’s why it’s crucial, if you have decided to report, to give as accurate and detailed a description of the person and their location as possible.

If you are worried that a homeless person is in immediate danger, perhaps suffering from hypothermia or the effects of drugs, then you should call an ambulance or contact the police. That is doubly true if the person is under 18, as StreetLink only deals with adults. If you are reporting someone to the emergency services, it is best to stay with or close to that person until the police or ambulance crew arrive. But if your anxiety is more generalised or if, as is often the case, it is someone you see on your street frequently and whose condition is perhaps deteriorating, engage with them. Try to understand their situation, see if they want to be referred – give them as much agency as possible. Help that person make informed decisions; don’t try to impose your decisions on them.

It can be daunting to approach someone on the street you are worried about. One thing that irritates homeless people is when you talk to them as though they are children. There is nothing more humiliating than having someone stooping over you, literally talking down to you. Sit down, share a drink or fag or bar of chocolate with them; tell them about your day; ask them about theirs, whether they’re getting enough help and if there’s anything else you can do. Obviously use your judgment. If they don’t seem receptive to conversation don’t thrust it on them. Maybe just give them a few quid and get on with your day.

The big homelessness charities are almost unanimously against people handing over cash to rough sleepers. The argument for this is perfectly cogent: a lot of rough sleepers suffer with substance dependency, and giving them money allows them to buy more drugs and alcohol, which makes their lives worse. But put yourself in their position. Do you reckon you might want a wee tipple to take the edge off sleeping rough? Of course you would, so why shouldn’t they? In fact why not share a can or two with your new homeless mate? Remember, they’re just people after all.

If you’re really worried about donating a fiver that turns out to be lethal, you can always offer to buy them some food or drink. Don’t pre-buy these. Ask the person what they want. It’s nice to be given choices when you feel like your life is out of control. It restores your humanity.

Campaigning is one way to help find long term solutions to the homelessness crisis.

And of course if you don’t want to donate directly to someone on the streets, charities will be happy to take your money (and will argue that donations, particularly regular ones, help them to plan and provide longer-term support). Their shops are also very pleased to receive good-quality products they can sell on. And as temperatures start to drop, there will be plenty of one-off appeals for you to donate a warm coat you no longer need, for example.


If you’re convinced that handing over cash is not the way, you can volunteer for one of the many homelessness charities . For a start, there are outreach teams you can join, where you’ll work with like-minded people to distribute food, drink and clothes. Lots of people volunteer for Crisis at Christmas, and that’s great, but this is a year-round emergency . Charities are always looking for long-term volunteers to work in their shops and fundraise but also to act as mentors and night shelter workers. They will usually try to make use of any particular skills you have – cooking, IT, advocacy and legal knowledge.

More challengingly, some charities look for hosts who are willing to give short-term emergency accommodation to homeless people, especially young adults. This will not be for everyone and demands a high level of commitment on the part of the volunteer, who may often have social work or other relevant experience, but the success of the Nightstop UK scheme shows what can be achieved.


If your concerns go beyond what you see on the streets and you want to help find long-term solutions to this mounting crisis, you could always write to your MP with your suggestions, or join – or better still, organise! – a campaign aimed at putting pressure on the government or your local authority.

One of the most worrying things I discovered when I experienced the care system and homelessness was the fact that many of the essential services tasked with helping people had been outsourced by local authorities and were now the remit of the third sector. Although there are many good third sector providers, including charities and voluntary organisations, they all have their own philosophies and practices, making the quality of support pot luck from region to region.

These organisations often fall outside statutory regulation, meaning mistakes go unreported – and as a result we learn nothing from them. Also, because they are not public they don’t have to be transparent and can ignore things like freedom of information requests. For this reason I’d suggest that returning many of these services to public hands and giving them proper investment should be the focal point of any campaign to combat homelessness. If you agree, make some noise about it.

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  • Mar 10, 2023

5 Reasons Why Volunteering is Essential to Helping the Homeless in Our Communities

why should we help the homeless essay

Are you looking for a way to make a positive impact in the world and give back to your community? Volunteering is a powerful way to help others, including those who are homeless. Not only does it benefit those receiving assistance, but it also provides personal rewards for volunteers, such as feeling valued, gaining perspective, learning new skills, and meeting amazing people. In this post, we will explore 5 reasons why volunteering your time at local homeless organizations can make an incredible difference in our communities.

Increase Awareness of the Homeless Population

Volunteering at non-profits can raise awareness of the level of homelessness in our communities and inspire others to join in helping. It encourages more individuals and organizations to become involved and work together to improve the lives of those in need. When more people volunteer, more resources become available for causes that can have a long-term impact on reducing homelessness, such as providing housing or funding education initiatives. Volunteering can also be an incredibly rewarding experience as you build relationships with members of your community and develop even facing hardship.

Form Relationships with People in Need

Through volunteering, we can build relationships with those who are homeless and learn more about their stories and needs. Volunteering is an invaluable way to help those who are homeless in your community, as it empowers us to form meaningful relationships with people in need. Connecting directly to their stories and needs allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of supporting our local communities - the importance of lending a helping hand. It’s through these relationships we are reminded that those who are homeless need love, care, support, and kindness. It also gives us the opportunity to come up with clever ideas and meaningful solutions that best fit their current situation.

Utilize Your Skillsets

Volunteering helps us put our skills to use, whether it's cooking meals for a shelter or teaching classes on resume writing for job seekers. Volunteering is an incredibly important way to help the homeless in many communities. It can help us utilize our own individual skill sets for the greater good and provide aid to those in need. By utilizing our distinct set of skills and experiences, we can lend a helping hand and create meaningful connections with those around us.

Create a Supportive Community

By working together with other volunteers, we create a community of people who share the same values and outlook, which is critical for positive change in our community. A strong sense of togetherness and support can’t be understated. Volunteering generates an atmosphere of unity, connection, and support and helps us to achieve more than what one individual can do alone. By pooling our efforts, resources, and skills, volunteers build meaningful relationships that create a thriving network of fellow supporters as well as a safe space for those who are struggling; this is especially true in tackling homelessness.

Make an Impactful Difference

No matter how small your donation or service may be, every little bit helps! Every time you volunteer, you are making a difference in someone’s life, and that is invaluable. Volunteering at non-profits is a great way to help strengthen your local community. By doing so, you are actively making an impactful difference, no matter how small that difference may be. By giving your time and resources, you can help significantly with the challenges faced by those in need — such as the homeless in our communities. It’s vital to showcase why helping out through volunteering matters! As someone who wants to make a positive change, you are providing support in the ways of food, shelter, emotional connections, and more.

Volunteering can be a fulfilling way to give back to the community and help those who are most vulnerable. When people donate their time and energy towards causes, they are passionate about, it provides tremendous resources for those in need. When volunteers come together, it creates an unbreakable unity dedicated to achieving long-term change in our local, national, and global communities. As a volunteer, you don't have to limit yourself to any one type of homeless organization or approach; by engaging with them all, you have the opportunity to make a larger impact than you ever imagined. And in turn, that impact not only betters the lives of others but your own as well! Whether it's helping to hand out food packages, organizing a meetup for the chronically homeless population, providing free recreational activities for kids living in shelters, or something completely different: there's no wrong way to get involved when volunteering your time to assist those facing homelessness.

If you're looking to volunteer in the Milwaukee area, here are four organizations that can help you get started:

The Guest House of Milwaukee: The Guest House is an organization that provides shelter, housing, education, and support to Milwaukee's homeless population. They offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities, including meal service, facility maintenance, and administrative work.

Milwaukee Rescue Mission: The Milwaukee Rescue Mission is a Christian-based organization that provides food, shelter, and support to the homeless in Milwaukee. They offer volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, including meal service, donation sorting, and mentoring.

Hope House of Milwaukee : an organization that provides emergency and transitional housing, case management, and support services to homeless families and individuals in Milwaukee. They offer volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, including meal service, donation sorting, and childcare.

Port of Missions Outreach Ministries: an organization that provides food, resources on shelters, clothing, and personal care items, to those facing homelessness in the Milwaukee area. They offer volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, community charity events, donation sorting, and outreach programs.

In conclusion, volunteering at local homeless organizations is an incredibly important way to help those in need and strengthen our communities. Through volunteering, we can raise awareness of the level of homelessness in our communities, form meaningful relationships with those who are homeless, utilize our skill sets for the greater good, create a supportive community, and make an impactful difference in the lives of those who are most vulnerable. So why not take the first step today and reach out to one of these organizations to learn how you can get involved? Together, we can make a difference and create a brighter future for all.

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Michael Smolens: State may expand rental assistance, San Diego considers cutting it

The California State Capitol building at dusk.

Lawmakers appear enthusiastic about creating an emergency rental subsidy program, but the proposal comes as the state, like the city, is looking at a difficult budget year

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San Diego could be the site of a new state program using one of the most cost-effective homelessness prevention practices.

The county is one of a handful potentially targeted for a pilot program that provides short-term grants to people struggling to stay in their homes.

It’s not a new concept. At least two local agencies — the San Diego Housing Commission and the county of San Diego — already provide so-called “shallow” subsidies, generally ranging from $500 to $700 per month.

The county approved its pilot program for older adults in 2021 and last year more than tripled the number of recipients to 220. The commission’s Housing Instability Prevention Program assists several hundred households of broader age groups.

While data is still being collected on such programs, studies have shown these efforts are among the most cost-efficient ways to keep people from falling into homelessness. However, officials stress the need to create more affordable housing is paramount.

The state subsidy legislation comes amid intense debate over proposed cuts to the Housing Commission budget in Mayor Todd Gloria’s budget that would likely reduce such subsidies, along with longer-term rental assistance, and potentially limit space in existing homeless shelters.

Several members of the San Diego City Council last week appeared unwilling to embrace Gloria’s latest proposals for two new large shelters in the face of possible cuts to existing programs, according to Blake Nelson of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Gloria wants to use land known as H Barracks , the site of a former U.S. Navy facility near San Diego International Airport, as a place for homeless people to sleep in vehicles. Last month, he announced plans to convert a building at Kettner Boulevard and Vine Street into what would be the city’s largest shelter.

There’s no disputing that San Diego has a shortage of shelter space. While adequate shelters are necessary, some officials note the cost per bed for an individual is significantly higher than rental assistance that can keep a family housed.

Once a person becomes homeless, the cost to get them shelter or housing grows significantly. An overriding issue is that shortchanging rental assistance can lead to more homelessness. It would be difficult if not impossible to provide enough shelter beds to keep up.

A study by UC San Francisco conducted in 2021-22 concluded an extra $300 to $500 in rental assistance or income each month could have made the difference in keeping many people in California from becoming homeless — or could have helped pull them out of it.

The Housing Commission is looking at a reduction from $48 million in the current fiscal year to $27.9 million in the next one. Commission staff has said $52 million is needed to maintain its existing level of services.

Discussions about adjusting the Housing Commission budget proposal are ongoing, but Gloria is dealing with a significant budget shortfall. The mayor is looking to balance the $2.15 billion budget with $100 million in various program cuts along with canceling $30 million in scheduled reserve contributions and borrowing $25 million from infrastructure projects, according to David Garrick of the Union-Tribune.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a huge budget problem — a $27.6 billion deficit after already cutting $17 billion. Newsom’s proposal calls for cutting more than $1 billion in affordable housing and homelessness programs in the $288 billion budget.

That reality hovers over what otherwise appears to be enthusiastic support among lawmakers for Assembly Bill 2498, which would establish an emergency rental subsidy program.

The bill, carried by Assemblymember Rick Zbur, D-Los Angeles, was approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on a 7-0 vote on April 24.

The committee chair, Democratic Assemblymember Chris Ward of San Diego, was among several committee members and people testifying who heartily endorsed the bill.

“A lot of these studies have been able to show that just a little bit of subsidy, that little bit of assistance, keeps people stabilized and housed, (and) stops adding to the numbers experiencing homelessness on our streets,” Ward said during the hearing .

One group was on record opposing AB 2498.

“While acknowledging the importance of preventive measures, the exorbitant expenses associated with this initiative could exacerbate the state’s financial challenges rather than address them,” said the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business group in the San Fernando Valley.

The bill doesn’t have an overall dollar figure for the program and leaves it up to the Legislature to determine funding. The measure does say that one-time subsidies or per-month grants should not exceed $2,000 per household over the duration of the two-year pilot program.

The subsidies initially would be limited to six counties — one in Northern California, two in the central region of the state and three in the south. At least one of those three counties would have to be San Diego, Imperial or Orange.

The bill does not have a fast timeline. After a handful of steps to organize the program, counties would be required to begin distributing subsidies by Jan, 1, 2027.

Various other state and federal rental assistance programs already exist. An analysis of AB 2498 said the subsidies are insufficient to meet the demand.

“Only a fraction of renters that need assistance receive it, and this housing assistance gap is expected to worsen,” the analysis says.

The average wait time for a federally funded Section 8 voucher in San Diego is 12-15 years , according to the Housing Commission.

As the bill notes, the need for rental assistance is growing.

More than 80 percent of extremely low-income San Diegans — earning $31,850 a year for an individual — were paying more than half their income on rent in fiscal year 2022-23, according to a report by the nonprofit California Housing Partnership released Thursday.

The organization gave the region poor marks across the board for everything from homeless housing to subsidized rentals, according to Phillip Molnar of the Union-Tribune, and expressed concern about decreasing funding.

There are many spending priorities competing for tight budget funds in the coming year. Effective programs that help keep people from living on the streets should be at the top of the list.

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