Homelessness in Houston
By: Lindsay Green
I wanted to research homelessness in the City of Houston. Everyday on my drive to and from work, I notice several individuals lingering around freeway on-ramps and feeder roads, with signs asking for money or food. My heart always aches for them, and I often try to scrounge up some spare change in an effort to help out. I am astounded by the constant presence of these individuals, and can't help but wonder how many of them reside along our city streets. Furthermore, I question what kind of help, if any, is offered to help get these people off the street?
According to the 2014 Houston Homeless Count, "...on a given night there are approximately 5,351 homeless persons in our area according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) definition of homelessness..." This includes the 2,291 people living unsheltered and 3,060 living in sheltered facilities. While this may seem like a lot of people, this number has gone down 37% from 2011. In addition to this number, there were also 1,525 individuals who self-reported as homeless that were in the Harris County Jail on the night of the count, which brings the total number of homeless individuals in the region to 6,876 (Coalition for the Homeless).
How do people become homeless?
After reading about the tremendous number of people that are homeless in the City of Houston, I couldn't help but ask myself why that happens. How do so many people meet this awful fate? According to HomeAid America, "Homelessness is, in fact, caused by tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes. Other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities are also responsible for a large portion of the homeless. Many factors push people into living on the street" (HomeAid). It is hard to imagine that after suffering from trauma such as those stated above, that one could withstand having to live on the street. Unfortunately, many people have a misperception of why people are homeless.
What can be done to help?
According to the City of Houston Website, "On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes $1.5 billion for a Homelessness Prevention Fund... The City of Houston, through its Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD), is scheduled to receive $12,375,861 in HPRP funds and will work in partnership with City Departments and the Child Care of Greater Houston, Inc. to distribute the program funds" (City of Houston). While this may seem like a lot of money, please keep in mind the sheer number of individuals who are homeless in our city. These people need food, shelter, clothing, medical care, rehabilitation, and help obtaining jobs so they can eventually support themselves. Only being able to provide some help will not fully solve the problem. Thankfully, programs non-profit programs like Star of Hope exist. According to the organizations website, "The key to the success of Star of Hope Mission is its comprehensive approach to addressing the diverse issues, both immediate and long term, that impact homeless individuals and families" (Star of Hope). This program aims to help people in all areas of their lives and helps them to address any issues that may prevent them from being successful. Personally, I think we need more programs such as these. I see the value in homeless shelters, however I see more value in this type of assistance and intervention.
"Building Hope and Homes for Houston's Homeless Families, Children and Veterans." HomeAid Houston. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.
"Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program." Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. City of Houston, 2015. Web. 07 May 2015.
"Houston Coalition for the Homeless." Houston Coalition for the Homeless. Coalition for the Homeless, 2014. Web. 07 May 2015.
" Star of Hope." Star of Hope Mission: For Houston's Homeless. Star of Hope Mission, 2015. Web. 07 May 2015.