Unfortunately, far too many people are only a few missed paychecks away from homelessness. Many cities criminalize activities such as sleeping, sitting, or panhandling in public places. These are all activities homeless individuals must use regularly.
Anti-homeless laws are increasing across the country and have been a topic of controversy and debate for many years. So when is homelessness a crime? Let’s take a look.
What Is Homelessness?
Homelessness is when an individual or a family lacks a stable, safe, and secure place to live. This often results in them sleeping in public spaces, emergency shelters, or transitional housing. There are a variety of reasons why individuals end up homeless. The most common reasons are poverty, lack of affordable housing, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
Homelessness can have serious effects on individuals, families, and entire communities. It’s a very complex issue that many urban areas are battling. Coming up with solutions for affordable housing and access to healthcare or education are just two of the largest hurdles standing in their way.
Why Is Homelessness a Problem in the US?
Some reports estimate there are more than 580,000 homeless individuals in the United States. Many people struggling to make ends meet are having trouble finding affordable housing. The cost of living in many cities and urban areas has increased substantially faster than wages.
Over the last several decades, many large manufacturers have closed factories in cities nationwide. Not only do they take their manufacturing plants with them, but they’ve taken tens of thousands of jobs. While they may save a ton of money on labor costs, they leave a destructive path of poverty behind them.
However, unemployment isn’t the only reason for homelessness in America. Mental illness and domestic violence are two other major factors.
Mental illness can make it very challenging to keep a stable job, which is important considering the increased living costs. Additionally, many people opt to leave violent relationships with no place to go. They’d rather take control of their lives than stay another night in an abusive relationship.
Sometimes though, people can unexpectedly find themselves homeless due to natural disasters. Hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters can rip through areas and destroy entire cities. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford insurance coverage to protect themselves from these situations.
Want to join #VanLife or #RVLife? Find out Is Living in an RV Considered Homeless?
When Is Homelessness Illegal?
Ultimately, being homeless is not necessarily illegal. No law states you must have a home or a physical address. Plenty of nomads travel the country and do so 100% legally.
However, there are many activities that homeless individuals require that cities are making illegal. Simple things like sleeping in public, loitering, or sleeping in a vehicle are all illegal in various areas around the country. While many people may not have a problem with these laws, it’s likely because they impact them.
Even individuals who travel the country in their $100,000 motorhomes must follow some of these rules. You can’t just park your vehicle, even if it costs six figures, anywhere you want. Some locations prohibit overnight parking, leading to hefty fines for violators.
What States Are Homeless Friendly?
Homelessness is a problem in all 50 states, but it’s mainly a problem in some more than others. Some of the states with the most considerable homeless issues tend to do so because they offer a variety of programs and options to help these individuals. Some of the most homeless-friendly states include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington.
Many of these states do more than pass out a free meal or give the individuals money. They look for ways to think creatively and offer programs that help them long-term. They’re offering a hand-up instead of a handout. Providing housing, education, and medical care support is far more helpful than a free meal.
Where Do Most People Experiencing Homelessness Sleep?
People who experience homelessness sleep in a variety of places. Many urban environments have shelters that offer a bed and a place for the homeless to sleep. This can allow them access to food, clothing, and medical in many situations. However, this isn’t the only place homeless people sleep.
Where the law allows it, homeless people will often create camps and sleep in tents. These tent cities allow them to support each other and become communities. They’ll take advantage of streets, parks, vehicles, or abandoned buildings to rest.
Not every homeless person sleeps on the street or in a shelter. It’s not uncommon for many homeless individuals to rotate through friends and family members for a safe and comfortable place to sleep.
However, this is typically only temporary, as many people aren’t willing to host someone permanently. Once they’ve overstayed their welcome, they’ll have to move on to other options.
Where Is Homelessness the Worst in the US?
Homelessness is a serious issue throughout the United States. However, California is by far one of the worst states in the country. An estimated 160,000 homeless individuals are staying in shelters throughout the state.
However, it’s a nearly impossible task to assess the actual number accurately. Los Angeles has a reputation for being one of the worst cities in the country for its homeless situation.
While many dream of living in L.A., the city is not always all it is cracked up to be. Check out these 5 Reasons to Avoid Los Angeles.
How Can You Help Someone Who’s Homeless?
There are many ways that you can help the homeless. However, we want to caution you about handing out cash. Sure, some individuals will use the money wisely. However, many homeless people have found themselves in their situation because of various addictions. There are other ways to help them than offering them money.
Donate to charitable organizations working with the homeless if you feel compelled to give money. They have systems to provide long-term care for individuals who want to claw their way out of their situation. Additionally, you can advocate for change. Talk to your local officials and see where they stand on helping the homeless.
The most important thing you can do is to educate yourself and others about the problem. Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to this massive problem. It will take tremendous effort to come up with an actual solution.
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