Archive for the ‘Homelessness Articles’ Category

I am still reading today, but when I look up now it is to glare at the gargantuan American flag that hovers over an abandoned Humvee and hundreds of homeless people lying on rows of thin foam mats. A scoff escapes amidst this star spangled hypocrisy. I didn’t recall all this poverty being in the Baby Boomer brochure, and I wanted a refund.

My job at “The Armory” is to help the families. Night after night I witness fresh families walking through the doors with a different version of the same unspoken thought: how did I get here? Their expressions are tapestries of human emotion, weaving every facial fiber into silk-screens of denial to puffy curtains of despair to elegant robes of optimism. I have wiped away tears while playing mom, dad, sister, brother, son, daughter, and grandparent to one if not all who’ve sat before me. Their stories defy fiction and deserve cinematic and literary contribution, but instead I will send them off to a motel where they and their families will at least have a roof and a chance to climb out of what is anything but a fictional situation.

Where did they all come from? Everywhere. I’ve met families who have never been homeless a day in their lives; some have literally been forced to abandon everything the night they walk in to see me, their belongings stuffed into their cars for an uncertain journey and an even more uncertain future. Others have lived this type of transient existence since childhood: roaming from one motel, friend’s house, family member’s apartment, jail cell, hospital, church program, shelter, and street corner to another. They’ve known nothing else and have either never had the opportunities to improve or had no desire to do so. A few are obviously homeless, while others seem more stable than you. It is certain, however, that as the economy worsens, those that you call neighbors, friends, and family might enter through these doors.

The kids are the hardest. Babies in broken strollers, toddlers in rags, and teenagers dawning third-hand donations are the truest travesties. Some are aware of their predicament while others innocently play and laugh in blissful ignorance. It doesn’t take much to make them smile, but it can make all the difference. Oddly enough, many have cell phones, but when life can pack up and move within an afternoon, a phone will help insure the lambs are not left behind. I’ve met the sharpest little girls and boys destined for greatness should they be given the chance, and I’ve attempted to understand the unique struggles of their youth but realistically can only barely comprehend a glimpse. Their lives are a test of unconventional savvy and smarts, an obstacle that can shackle them to the system or liberate their potential to unknown heights.

My job is to help them help themselves; my goal is to make them laugh. A human being can suffer unspeakable hardships but rise again and conquer a new day as long as there is laughter close behind. I sense a glimmer of hope and happiness despite the inevitable sorrows.  It can be found beneath the footsteps of a man dancing a clumsy jig for a crowd of gap-toothed spectators; in the music of the slow but persistent slides of canes and cripples; the high-five of a five year old; the warmth of circles where street stories are traded with smiles and plastic bags are bartered among friends; and in the aroma of a hot meal steaming with gratitude. The high-flying flag is false, but its authentic spirit soars beyond its duplicity. The American people have historically defined themselves by their houses, so who are we when those four walls disappear? America has uprooted for unknown frontiers in search of a new shelter to store its dreams. Let us build it together.

Chris Ponzi is a Case Manager helping homeless families for Mercy House, a non-profit organization devoted to preventing and ending the growing homelessness in Orange County that receives many families on exodus. He is also a recent Literature Graduate from UCLA and a freelance journalist.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on for a very long time now. And, other wars like World War II, Vietnam and Korea that happened long before I was born. Veterans come back from these wars and they have a hard time fitting in again to the world we live in and some end up on the streets as homeless veterans. This is a big problem and it’s getting bigger as the war goes on. Because so many of the homeless veterans come from poor families to begin with, there are not enough support systems in place for them when they get home.

In case you were wondering about why homeless veterans are such an important topic, 23% of homeless people are veterans according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. They also say that 76% of these veterans have drug, alcohol and mental health problems. This means that most of them cannot help themselves even if they want to because they are having such a hard time. It may seem like a really huge problem and that you can’t do enough to help because you’re only one person and don’t have unlimited money and time.   But you’re wrong. There are some very cheap, easy things you can do to make a big difference in the life of a homeless veteran and show them your gratitude for their service. Four of these include:   -Hygiene kits – These are easy and cheap to assemble. Homeless people don’t have what they need to stay clean and assembling hygiene kits with basic items like soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush and shaving items can make a big difference for someone with nowhere to live. Keep them in your glove compartment and give them out as you see homeless people.

-Make sense of your spare change – It’s just collecting dust in your house, so why not collect all that spare change and donate it to a veterans’ homeless shelter or use it to buy hygiene-kit items?

-Say “hello’ – Most homeless people are almost always harmless. They’re also lonely and sad and wish someone would notice them. Even if you can’t do anything else, a simple “hello” can mean a lot to someone with nothing.

-Last and certainly not least, if you see homeless veterans say “Thank you for your service.”   To all those that have served and that are currently serving our wonderful country, thank you so much for your service.

Cerelle Gooding
2514 Jamacha Rd # 502-76
El Cajon, CA 92019

Sample Essay

Words 1,545

The old stereotype of homeless persons in America was that of a middle-aged white single male alcoholic. Although this may describe a majority of the homeless populations before the 1980s, the current homeless populations in the United States is younger, includes a large of number of families comprised mostly of women and their children, are more severely poor, and are becoming increasingly ethnically diverse.

African Americans are over-represented in all subgroups of homeless persons including homeless adults, families, and adolescents. Those who identify themselves as African Americans represent 12% of the United States population. Despite this, African Americans are over represented among homeless persons and represent 50% of the homeless population in the US. In some US cities, African Americans make up an even larger portion of the homeless population.

For example in Buffalo, New York, African Americans comprise 68% of homeless adults and in Detroit, Michigan; African Americans comprise 85% of the homeless population. African Americans appear to be most heavily over represented among homeless adults and families, and somewhat less so among homeless adolescents.

Explaining the Over Representation Existing social inequities the growing numbers of persons in poverty, the lack of affordable housing, and the loss of well-paying unskilled jobs are all factors that have been attributed as causes of the surge of homelessness that began in the 1980s. However, additional historic and structural factors that may be unique to African Americans, including racism, discrimination, and a lack of access to higher education, can be seen as contributing to the disparity between the overall percentage of African Americans in the US and the percentage of African Americans who are homeless. Research also suggests that African Americans are more likely to become homeless as a result of external factors, including chronic and pervasive poverty, while European Americans more experience homelessness due to internal factors such as mental illness, family dysfunction, and substance abuse.


Being homeless does not really mean living without a house. It has nothing to do with an absence of a shelter.  It is actually a certain state of a particular individual, where in one’s family member or relatives are no longer connected or attached to that individual.

Homeless persons are usually seen at the street, on the malls, or everywhere else. They love most to just spend their whole day at the street, than to spend their time at their house. It would be difficult for them to live alone on a good shelter but has no one to share it to become a home.

Most common individuals, who may encounter this state, are the elders. Homelessness in elders may be triggered by some events such as widowhood, divorce, domestic violence, or deteriorating life or death of a person who used to look over them. They feel similar things like what a street person feels. They usually suffer from abandonment and loneliness which made living their life at home more difficult.

Often homeless elders are found to be invisible. This invisibility may be due to a fear and avoidance to people that may see them. Aside from suffering loneliness and abandonment, it would also hard for them if they continue to age and no one would be there to take good care of them and assist them. Life-long problems or late-life onset of serious mental illness may increase the risks of an elder to homelessness. This may lead them to not able to take care of them and to dangerous self-neglect.

In this event a homeless elderly may need someone to help them in performing activities and someone to take care of them. They may choose to live either at a retirement community nursing care home or an assisted living facility which is much cheaper.

When the elder moves into an assisted living facility, they would be aided in performing activities of everyday life and may be receiving the care they need.  Aside from this, the homeless elders may also find and secure a permanent home in this facility.

Other homeless elders who have conditions that need medical attention and medical assistance may move into a nursing care facility. Similarly with the assisted living facility, they would be assisting the elderly in their activities. Unlike in an assisted living, the homeless elder that will reside in an aged care home will be receiving a twenty-four hour care and assistance from the health team.

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Unemployment is the highest it’s been in three decades. The housing mortgage fiasco has contributed to the dramatic growth of homelessness. Tent cities across the United States are growing and are populated not only by the chronically homeless but also with educated and middle class citizens who have lost their jobs and/or lost their homes.

The number of homeless veterans is growing, too, with 200,000 currently “on the streets.” As the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is growing in recognition, treatment is not keeping up with the need. When these walking wounded return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the stigma associated with PTSD as well as the lack of compassionate and therapeutic care abandons them to find their own way down a hopeless street. Many commit suicide. Others join the chronically homeless.

Reminiscent of the Great Depression and the era following the Vietnam War, the stories of America’s middle and working class and its returning veterans are resurfacing as exercises in frustration and defeat although the heart of America still beats with hope.

Like John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Travels with Charlie, and more recently like the stories of Charles Kerault, there are stories to be told about the American people who are daily struggling to live and re-establish their dreams. They are important stories to be told, not only to re-ignite compassion and understanding but, like post 911, to inspire America’s heart as a nation to work together in assuring a quick recovery to a state of greater strength, mutual support and decreased greed.

Books about the general concept of homelessness have been written such as the three-volume Homelessness in America, by Robert Hartmann McNamara, published in 2008. However, to my knowledge, no books have yet been published focusing on individual stories, especially from 2009. The dramatic increase in homelessness as a result of the economic recession is still too new.

You-Tube holds a great number of videos about tent cities and the subject of homelessness but does not chronicle the depth of each individual story. Print articles may appear in local papers, however only the result of homelessness is typically covered rather than the individual stories. When written with a constructive objective rather than simply reporting, these stories could help rebuild lives.

With regard to homeless veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the issue but cannot keep up with the influx. According to National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson, “We saw thousands of Vietnam veterans who ultimately became homeless, and we may be facing a new national crisis with the veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In 2006, one in four homeless were veterans. That number has climbed.

As the trend in increased unemployment and homelessness lags the projected economic recovery, there are many stories to be discovered and told in 2009. As this trend continues, the number of people who know or who have a degree of connection to the issue is dramatically increasing.

The current coverage of the issue of homelessness in connection with the economy takes national attention. Good Morning America has it AmeriCAN series to highlight people who are taking action to help others. Each day, snippets of stories are seen in the media. However, few are in depth.

The publication and distribution of a series of books can take an important step. It can record, in greater depth, these unseen and unheard stories of individuals who have experienced the worst and who survive. It can provide a written history giving their plight a sense of purpose by calling the nation together to help one another. In the end, hopefully, it will provide future generations inspiration and pride in their heritage rather than shame.

As a source of inspiration for future generations as well as a sobering history to ground the nation’s leaders in the reality experienced daily by the people, this book series is important. These stories can generate a timeless image of our nation by having not only the heart but also the courage to take action by finding and telling these stories.

There is a need for the nation to unite in a national movement to Employ The Unemployed. With the American people addressing the issue of unemployment head on, without waiting for legislation and political process, the economy will immediately improve.

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