What Is Homelessness? - Definition, Causes & Effects

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  • 0:01 Homelessness Defined
  • 0:51 Causes of Homelessness
  • 3:42 Effects of Homelessness
  • 5:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Janell Blanco

Janell has an MBA.

Homelessness is explained in this lesson. We will cover the definition, as well as the causes and effects, of homelessness. A short quiz will follow the lesson.

Homelessness Defined

Sally has lost her job for the third time in as many years. She can no longer afford the apartment she lives in with her young son, Johnny. She has been widowed for five years, and her only income was from her job. Slowly, Sally packs up her and Johnny's clothes. She has sold nearly every item of value to keep them in their apartment as long as she could. Tonight, Sally and Johnny will be staying at the Good Samaritan Shelter. As of 3pm, Sally and Johnny will be considered homeless.

Homelessness is defined as not having a permanent home or place of residence. Sally lost the home she shared with her young son. The cause of Sally's homelessness was the loss of her job, which was her main source of income. In this video, we'll learn more about the many causes and effects of homelessness.

Causes of Homelessness

There are several situations that can lead to an individual or a family becoming homeless. Let's take a look at some of the most common causes. A frequent cause of homelessness is when a family or individual experiences loss of income. When there is a decrease in income in the home, the individual or family may not be able to afford their housing costs any longer. The loss of income in the home can also lead to living in poverty.

While the definition of poverty varies from country to country, in the United States, an individual is considered to be living in poverty if he or she has an income below the poverty threshold, which is often between $10,000 and $15,000 for a single individual. Remember, that's only the number for a single person supporting themselves. Families and couples have higher poverty thresholds, which reflect the need to support more people on that income. Poverty and homelessness have a direct link. People who live in poverty are unable to pay for the everyday items they need to survive, such as food, housing, childcare, education, or health care.

But homelessness may be a concern even for families that do not fall below the poverty line, if they can't find affordable housing. Affordable housing is limited in cities and states across the United States, especially in major urban areas where rent is higher and property is less available for sale. When people like Sally and her son are forced to stay at a shelter, they are considered homeless. Sally has been placed on a waiting list for low-income housing.

Low-income housing are units in which the rent is subsidized or lowered. Many cities and states have housing available with lowered rent rates. The utilities are also subsidized so that the family or individual can afford to pay for everyday items. However, there are typically limited units available, and the funding for the units may also be limited.

Homelessness also has a direct connection to violence in the home. Men, women, children, and the elderly can be subjected to different types of abuse. This can include sexual, psychological, or physical abuse. In the case of children or the elderly, it can also include neglect. When a person is the victim of any type of violence, they are often faced with the choice of staying in an abusive environment or leaving the home. When the victim leaves the home, they often have nowhere to go and become homeless.

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