The life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years old.
The life expectancy if you're homeless in the United States is 50 years old.
Almost thirty years less. THREE DECADES!
It's even less if you're living on the street. You're more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. You're more likely to become a victim of a violent crime. You don't have access to regular meals. The food you do get isn't as healthy.
To get people off the street, we need:
. More shelters, not less of them
. Larger shelters. There aren't enough beds to go around
. Facilities that are capable of taking care of homeless families
. More facilities that don't discriminate against the LGBTQ community
Here are some scary statistics:
. 184,661 people in families, including children, experienced homelessness on any given night.
. 86,962 single individuals with a disabling condition experienced chronic homelessness.
. 40,056 veterans experienced homelessness.
The first question is why do these numbers exist? The main reason is simple. Homeless people can not find a home they can afford. Yes, there are other issues that play into this, such as physical and mental health problems, domestic violence and lack of jobs that pay a living wage, but affordable housing remains the biggest problem.
The second question is how do we solve homelessness? The main answer is we need more affordable housing. In Illinois, by law, every city is required to have a certain amount of affordable housing. Check out the suburbs of Chicago and see how many of them either don't have any affordable housing or have laws that let them get around this.
We also need to have more facilities that provide physical and mental illness help to homeless and low-income people. Perhaps the incoming Governor and his new administration will work on this instead of the cutbacks to these clinics that we saw over the last four years. They said they would. They campaigned on this. We'll soon find out if it's just talk.
How can you help? It's as simple as putting a dollar in someone's cup. That single dollar might be what it takes to get a homeless person on the street some food. It might be what it takes to get them on a train where they can get out of the cold for a night. It might be what it takes to get them a bed for night for the first time in what seems to be forever. It's the holiday season. Open your heart to someone who needs it.
In spite of how all of this sounds, we're doing better with the problem of homelessness in 2018. But we can do much better going forward. The question is will we?
This part of the ongoing series Faces of Homelessness
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