The Psychology Behind Homelessness and What’s Being Done To Fix It

Homelessness is a global problem. In the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, is no stranger to the struggle of its citizens having no place to call home.

Policy leaders, officials and activists have been searching for the solution to this level of poverty for decades, and many measures have been taken to fix this problem.

We’ve tried preventative measures, direct aid and after care, but we’ve yet to truly make a significant change.

For the past decade, however, one government has made effective change through a strategy that may be catching on. The state government of Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78% since 2005.

How? According to NationSwell, Utah implemented a new policy that gives apartments to the homeless and “asks questions later.” They found that the cost of supplying homes to the homelessness was actually cheaper than the costs associated with prison housing and emergency room stays.

But they don’t just provide the apartment. Each person is also assigned a social worker (the cost of which is still factored in the comparison above) who helps them become self-reliant. Even if they fail, they still keep the roof over their head.

At Thriveworks, many of our counselors have found that one of the underlying problems behind homelessness is that they need professional guidance. These social workers have proven to be an invaluable resource for people who need help putting their life back together and moving out of homelessness for good. Of course, results may vary.

This housing program is quickly being admired by other states who want to house the homeless, but will it work for everyone? The debate is just getting started. Before we can come to a conclusion, there are several things we need to acknowledge about the psychology behind homelessness.

To be certain, generalizing the condition of the homeless will lead to false assumptions. Many people become homeless for myriad reasons, and it is essential to know the following:

1. Not every homeless person wants to be homeless.

A popular assumption is that most homeless citizens don’t want to get out of it. Only a very small percentage of them prefer this lifestyle, especially when you consider the long waiting lists for low-income housing.

2. There are many possible causes of homelessness.

We typically assume that poverty is the singular reason behind homelessness, but that is not the whole picture. Most of the homeless population are in their situation for more than just one reason.

About 26% of the homeless are mentally ill, and another 34% suffer from substance abuse and addictions. Domestic abuse, overwhelming medical expenses and a difficulty adjusting to the responsibilities of adulthood.

Many of the homeless are also made up of former convicts. In fact, a former bandmate of Carlos Santana (a famous guitarist) became homeless after finishing a sentence for manslaughter decades ago. They recently reunited.

3. Many of the homeless are in transition.

It’s important to note that a vast majority of the homeless are either in transition or experience “episodic” homelessness.

With these facts and figures in mind, do you believe that Utah’s solution could create a real change for the millions of homeless people in the United States? Feel free to weigh in below.

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