Why is homelessness a problem?
Homelessness is a problem because it impacts on the individual which, in turn, has an effect on the wider society. First of all, according to the charity Homeless Link, being homeless causes an individual to feel isolated and depressed. Homeless people are also more likely to use drugs and/or alcohol. As a result of these health problems, homelessness places a higher burden on public services (often funded by the taxpayer), like hospitals. For instance, four out of ten homeless people have used an accident and emergency service in the last six months, at a significant cost to the taxpayer. (See the first reference link provided).
In addition, according to Crisis, homeless people are also at an increased risk of physical assault. Specifically, they are almost 17 times more likely to have experienced violence than a non-homeless person. This not only contributes to a rise in the prevalence of anti-social behavior (which impacts social cohesion and the well-being of our communities) but also requires resources from the police and court systems. (See the second reference link provided).
There are two main types of reasons why homelessness is a problem. One set of reasons has to do with the impacts on the homeless themselves. The other has to do with their impact on society.
Of course, the main reason why homelessness is a problem is because it is harmful to the people who are homeless. Homeless people are likely to encounter many problems. They are likely to become the victims of crimes. They are likely to have health problems. It is difficult for homeless people to get jobs. Homeless families are not likely to be able to provide a stable environment in which their children can grow up. All of these are serious problems for the homeless themselves.
Homelessness also hurts society as a whole. The homeless, while often victims of crimes, can also commit crimes themselves. Homeless encampments can be unsanitary and can cause health problems. Homeless people in downtown areas can drive away potential customers or tourists from those areas.
Homelessness, then, is a problem for both the homeless and for society as a whole.
First, let's examine the effect of homelessness on the homeless. These people are more likely to experience violent crimes or turn to drug use. They may also engage in theft in order to secure food. The homeless can be victims of crime, or they may be the perpetrators of crime. Many people feel as though it is society's responsibility to take care of the homeless—to turn them away is a violation of the social contract.
Secondly, homelessness is a societal problem. In many urban areas it is illegal to panhandle, because it is considered a detriment to tourism. Children of homeless people tend to do worse in school. These children cannot concentrate due to anxiety over housing or hunger. These children are more likely to grow up without the advantages of someone with a stable housing situation. The homeless are the most in need of social safety nets which all taxpayers fund.