One community stepped up and took bold steps to house the homeless. When they saw this population grow, they bought a hotel to turn it into a hostel.
In 2019, the statistics estimated that the homeless population in the United States was close to 570,000. This number has undoubtedly increased since that time, and especially during the pandemic. One community found a creative way to help house the homeless in their area. It is inspiring how Hennepin County showed concern for this often forgotten population.
Who are the homeless in America today?
Today’s homeless people are a large and diverse group representing different ages, family situations, and health issues. There are more homeless families in certain parts of the United States. One study found that more two-parent families live in the western and southern parts of the country. Many of the homeless still comprise people looking for a job or working low-wage jobs. They cannot earn enough money to pay for all the costs of living, such as rent, clothing, food, transportation, and medical care.
The homeless of today are exceptionally different compared to the homeless of the past. Studies found that today’s homeless population includes:
- 56% are men.
- 25% are women.
- About 20% are teenagers or families with children.
- Many suffer from chronic mental illness.
- Many of the women are victims of physical or sexual assault.
- The average age is 34 to 37 years. Homeless women are several years younger than the average age of men or are elderly.
- Homeless adults are rarely married.
- In cities, minorities represent the largest population of homeless people.
- 49% of homeless adults have a high school diploma.
- A large number of homeless veterans.
- The number of homeless older people has increased over the years.
Today’s homeless population is considerably more diverse than the homeless population in the past. There are more teens, families with children, young adults, and older people.
What a county did for its homeless population
Hennepin County, located just 25 miles north of Bloomington, Minnesota, has taken a dramatic step to house the homeless population in its area. When the pandemic hit, the county leased two Holiday Inns for homeless shelters. But the county has decided to buy an Extended Stay America hotel on American Boulevard and Lyndale Avenue in Bloomington to house the homeless.
After buying the hotel, they plan to move the occupants of a Holiday Inn to this Extended Stay America. Extended Stay America is a chain of budget hotels that offers apartment-style rooms for travelers. With a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, the studio apartment will give the homeless everything they need to have a home.
The county will begin moving the homeless to the hotel, simultaneously stopping use of the hotel. Hennepin County plans to host two main groups of the homeless population: the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk for Covid. They will continue this throughout the pandemic.
Of course, Hennepin County is committed to getting the approval it needs from the City of Bloomington to make sure they are complying with the laws and policies related to this project to house the homeless. They are using money from the CARES Act for this purchase. Through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the CARES Act provides financial fees to state, local, and tribal governments to assist with the impact of the Covid pandemic. By June 2021, the county plans to consolidate all shelter residents in one place.
What are the main causes of homelessness?
Homelessness is a growing problem in the United States. There are a number of common causes, including:
Lack of affordable housing:
Median home price can be more than three times median income. Without affordable homes in your area, people will have fewer options for where to live. They often end up choosing a location that is not safe or close to their work, resulting in a long and expensive journey.
Although the cost of living has increased for many people, their salary has not. Because of this, it is difficult for people to cover their daily living expenses and save money for emergencies. If they have an unexpected emergency, it can wipe out everything they have. This makes them potentially vulnerable to homelessness.
As wages decrease, unemployment goes up. The pandemic has contributed to unemployment, but the homeless face even more trouble getting a job. Reasons for unemployment include things like
- No permanent address. Employees require a permanent address.
- It is difficult for unprotected people to properly prepare for a job.
- Gaps in the work history of homeless people scare employers.
- The lack of a cell phone means that employers cannot call them.
- Car-free, so getting to work on time can be difficult.
People with mental illness are also more susceptible to homelessness. Not having a stable lifestyle often makes your mental health problems worse. If these people do not get the treatment they need, their disease can get worse.
Like mental illness, substance abuse drives people to the streets. It is often the reason someone has lost their job or home, giving them little choice of where to go. Unfortunately, without proper treatment, if a person suffers from substance abuse, this can lead to a crime, which can land the person in jail.
Domestic violence or physical abuse:
Violence against women or children often leads them to flee home with nowhere to go. They can live in shelters, in a car, or, as a last resort, on the street. Experiencing the trauma of abuse can have a cyclical effect on these individuals, leading to substance abuse and homelessness later in life.
There is a higher rate of homelessness in the number of people of color. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), blacks in the United States they are three times more likely to lose their home.
Which states have the most homeless people?
The ten states with the largest homeless population are as follows:
Homelessness is a growing problem in the United States. There are various reasons why people end up homeless, but the pandemic has made the situation even worse. It’s inspiring to hear how one county has found a way to care for people struggling with homelessness. Hennepin County has shown how to accommodate the homeless, especially the elderly and people with a pre-existing condition, with the purchase of an Extended Stay America hotel.
Hopefully, Hennepin County’s creativity in fighting homelessness will inspire other communities to do the same. Homeless people deserve the opportunity to get the help they need, whether it’s affordable housing, better job opportunities, or help with mental illness. Let’s work together to solve this difficult problem that affects so many Americans today.