Joanna of IPHUSA – Homelessness is not a lack of housing, it is a lack of housing stability.

by Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following, our interview with Joanna of ICPHUSA about homeless people in the USA and their problems. For ProMosaik, homeless people are part of our society and have one and the same dignity as all human beings have. So we have to struggle for their inclusion and against their discrimination. Solving the problem of homelessness is a complex work we have to manage all together. And exclusion is the wrong way to face this challenge.
What are the main problems that homeless people face within society?
Homelessness is a very complex issue. It is not a lack of housing, it is a lack of housing stability. In the U.S. today, housing costs have skyrocketed while wages, especially for jobs on the lower end of the scale have not kept pace. But that only compounds the problems that families face. One in four homeless families becomes homeless due to domestic violence. Many have mental health or substance abuse issues, as well. Most don’t have enough education or work experience to get jobs that would enable them to support their families on a long-term basis without additional training.
According to your experience, what are the most common prejuduces about homelessness that can negatively influence the process of reintegration?
There is a perception that homelessness is a lack of housing, and that if you put people into a home, you will solve the problem. Homelessness is not a lack of housing, it is a lack of housing stability. In a minority of cases, families have had a catastrophic set back such as a serious illness and help finding an affordable home will, in fact, get them back on their feet. In the majority of cases with homeless families, however, there are other barriers. Those other barriers must be addressed in order to help the family toward a stable situation.
What are the most common risk factors, particularly for youngsters?
Children are disproportionately impacted by homelessness. The children are often moved to different schools in the middle of the school year, without sufficient support, and it negatively affects their long-term educational outcomes. We know from our research that the effects of homelessness are felt by children far into the future, even after they have regained stable homes. Often, they are put into a shelter or temporary housing situation that is far from their schools and they have trouble traveling to school, putting them at risk for chronic absenteeism. They do not have easy access to the school health service. As teens, they are more likely to engage in high risk behaviors, such as drugs or alcohol or having sex at very young ages. They are more likely to experience violence from a dating partner. They are more likely to drop out of high school. If they have special education needs, they are less likely to obtain an early diagnosis and to access remedial educational services early, when it is most effective.
What are the trends about homelessness of the last years?
Family homelessness is increasing. In the U.S., there are more than 1.3 million homeless public school children and it is estimated that there are more than 600,000 additional children younger than five years of age. It has been a growing number.
I have seen that you provide materials in order to raise awareness about this issue. How do you prepare these materials? Do you cooperate with any kind of social institution?
The Institute’s research materials are free to download from our website. The material is pushed out to elected officials and policy makers, homeless advocates and distributed at professional conferences.