Archive for March, 2014
The National Alliance to End Homelessness claims on any night in the United States 640,000 people experience homelessness. To better understand “Homeless” we must first define the term. That is not an easy task because homelessness is a complicated issue. Certain criteria must be met for a person to be considered homeless. To best define the term in simple words, homelessness means an individual or family must sleep in a structure not suitable for human habitation, such as cars, sidewalks, parks or abandoned buildings. This also includes individuals who are scheduled to be released from an intuition, treatment program, or hospital within 30 days and no plan for housing in place. This definition is brief at best. For a more information you can go to the US Department of Health and Human Services website.
We can’t talk about the topic of homelessness without first mentioning the Homeless American Veteran. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development reports close to 60,000 veterans are homeless. Nearly half of them served in Vietnam. Many other homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. At this point in time, younger homeless veterans make up about eight per cent of the homeless veteran population, but that number is increasing.
There are several circumstances that cause homelessness, but those who become homeless fall into one of two categories; transitional and chronic. It’s estimated that the chronically homeless make up the largest portion of America’s homeless population. The majority of these individuals surfer from some type of mental health issue. Mental health also includes addiction.
Those who are transitional homeless are currently experiencing homelessness for the first time and make up smaller number of America’s homeless. On average, they can regain some type of suitable housing within 12 to 18 months. One of their biggest challenges is trying to not look homeless. It is typical for them to bathe in public restrooms to prepare for appointments and job interviews. This segment of America’s homeless population has the ability to be retrained and acquire marketable skills.
While those who are transitional homeless make every attempt to not look homeless, those who are chronically homeless are highly visible on American streets and present with the biggest challenge in attempting to overcome homelessness. These individuals need additional resources that would include some form of treatment to address issues that made them homeless. It is important that our society address the issue of the chronically homeless, but if we also turn attention to the transitional homeless with a different goal in mind, we could reduce homeless statistics and better improve America’s standing in the world in manufacturing and technology.
There is no doubt the United States needs to retrain its workforce. Once a world leader in manufacturing, America now trails behind several other countries. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that America imports more than it exports. America needs to develop and manufacture products the world needs and we have the potential to do that.
Here is just one example of an opportunity the United States has to increase manufacturing and technology within its own borders; Rare Earth Metals are used for making anything electronic from cell phones to TVs. The continental United States has about 14 rare earth mines, some of the largest deposits of rare earth metals in the world are right here. Once we mine rare earth metals, the United States has to ship them to China to be manufactured because we don’t know how. Yet we have so many people who have the ability and desperately want to be retrained and gain long-term employment.
Addressing the Homeless issue in America will require more than a quick fix because it is a complicated issue. However, it is possible to significantly reduce homeless statistics in general if we create resources for those who have the ability to be retained. We can’t expect the government to do all of the work; we must also look to American corporations to institute programs, maybe even with tax incentives, which will hire and re-train the American worker. “Investing in America” is not just a cliché. It appears we have not been doing that lately and look where we are.
This proposal of identifying the employable segment of our population and retraining them with marketable skills is not a new concept; America has done this before with a high degree of success. We must look at our history and examine those programs that did work to re-employ people, update them and make them adoptable to the needs of a modern-day economy, and reinstitute them. When we Americans reduce our homeless population, we will strengthen our middle class and enhance our own sustainably.