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Homelessness and its Initiatives: A Literature Review Amber Ibarra University of Texas at El Paso


ABSTRACT Homelessness is without a doubt a known problem throughout the world. It has multiple causes, countless factors, and people of all ages that are trapped within its holds. This literature review will inform the reader of the knowledge that as a society have on homelessness and initiates that are being done to help lower homelessness. Interviews and statistical data will be used in the research will help to shed light on what can be done to understand the options available to these families as well as what can be done in order to end homelessness.

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES Homelessness and its Initiatives: A Literature Review Homeless is not easily defined in one singular definition. It has multiple definitions as a result of being defined in both federal and state views, but even then each state has a different view on it. In the federal definition, it is viewed as an individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. For the state of Massachusetts homelessness is defined as, an individual who both lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence and who resides in emergency or transitional shelter programs, or who lives in places not designed for human habitation such as cars, abandoned buildings, the woods or the street. McKinney-Vento define homelessness as, individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence including but not limited to, children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, etc., and migratory children. (Statistics and Definitions) These definitions serve to provide a basic ground for what homelessness is but like many other things in the world this is a quickly growing problem. Although are there are different programs that have been created, there are not always guaranteed help that these families will receive. Some of the items out there for families that are in these moments of hardships are shelters, and in the worst cases foster care. In order for people to receive help from these programs or become volunteers for these programs there needs to be better understanding and answers to the following questions: 1. How informed are we as a society on homelessness? 2. In what ways does the government provide assistance? 3. What are the differences between children living in the foster care system and homelessness? 3

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES 4. What are specific requirements that children must be under to be placed in foster care? How informed are we as a society on homelessness? Homelessness much like other large ticket topics like poverty and world hunger is just something that will always be around, as long as there is no help to help find an end to these problems. In order for homelessness being solved there needs to be overall knowledge that we as a society have. From the responses given from a non-scientific survey, there was easy to interpret that there was a lack of overall knowledge homeless children altogether. In this there were one hundred participants that were asked various questions based off prior knowledge. In this question 5% or 4 of the participants knew that there are roughly 1.6 million of children in the United States are homeless. While the majority, 95% or 76 of the participants had no knowledge of this fact (see Figure 1): Figure 1. Is a chart illustrating survey response over the question, Did you know that on average in a year over 1.6 million children are homeless?

Yes 5%

No 95%

Even though these eighty participants came from various backgrounds, the findings of this survey cannot be held to the entire population, what it does is shed some light on our societys lack of knowledge on this topic other than what may be visible. Therefore, leading to inability to help these families get out of their hard times.

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES Homelessness is not a recent problem, what is the most recent is that the numbers of the homeless population are growing a very rapid rates. Not only is this a growing problem in the United States but also in all countries. For the purpose of this paper, I will be focusing on homelessness in the United States. Being one of the worlds larger industrialized country, it also comes into being one of countries with the largest number of homeless women and children. These numbers have not been this high since the Great Depression. (Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness) There are a countless number of factors that play into families falling into homelessness. One of the major factors that is the United States economic crisis. Times are tough enough when a family is faced with other issues like domestic violence, time of war, physical or mental disabilities, etc., but when problems with money also add to one or many of these, managing to live comfortably daily starts becoming a problem. Most of these families that end up living in homelessness are families that are only left with the mother. This is a result of the majority of shelters not allowing men in, forcing a separation when homelessness first begins. (Characteristics and Needs for families experiences of homelessness) In our city of El Paso, Texas, there are at least thirteen homeless shelters. At least three of these shelters are specifically catered to women and children. One in particular that solely caters to women and children, and does not allow men into the home is The Reynolds Home for Women and Children. In Reynolds Home for Women and Children, director of the home Dorothy Truax described the activity that the Reynolds Home sees on a yearly average, on average thirty-five women come to our facilities in a year. Last year we saw our numbers rise when there were at least forty women who came to us. Along with the average thirty-five women, there are on average yearly ninety to a hundred children that are here as well. Although this home does not allow men to be residents, it does not place limits on who can visit, and what the residents can do. 5

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES In what ways does the government provide assistance? Being that homelessness is a growing problem in our country, it doesnt shock that there are various numbers of initiatives that are being done to help these families that are found in homelessness. Figure 2 illustrates a non-scientific survey that was conducted in order to determine the knowledge of the Recovery Act that the government has passed in an effort to prevent homelessness and provide rapid relocation of people who are found in homelessness. Again eighty people were asked to participate, this time 92% or 74 people had never heard of The Recovery Act, while 8% or 6 people had heard of it. The entire question that was asked was Have you heard of the $1.5 Billion investment the U.S. government has made in The Recovery Act in its initiative to help end homelessness while providing rapid rehousing for families found without homes?


Yes No Yes 8%

No 92%

The results of this survey is not a generalization of the entire population. There are multiple factors that can come into play when this question was asked. For example some of the participants that responded with yes, were some military personnel. But that does not mean that only the participants that are in the military.

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES It is not a giant shock to learn that the government is coming up with programs, and providing money to help finding an end to homeless families, and providing them with a way to live in better conditions than what they were previously in. One of these programs of course is The Recovery Act. What this did was provide money for communities that needed money when the economy began to fall causing a big spike in families that were being left homeless. This lead better strategies in the development and initiation of which strategies were the most successful in leading to the reduction of families entering shelters as well as the amount of time that they spend there. There have also been easier ways to receive help and that is through the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and they are used for typically the same thing as The Recovery Act just in a faster manner. (The Federal Governments Role in Ending Family Homelessness) Another initiative that the federal government has participated in is Opening Doors. This program sets an overall goal in ending family homelessness and its importance in doing so. This program is not to find a temporary fix, it has made a commitment to find a permanent solution. This initiative was first present on June 22, 2010, but wasnt adopted until September of that year. The main goals of this program is to not only end children, family, and youth homelessness by the year 2020, but also end Veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015. (Opening Doors) Even with the help from the federal government not all organizations are able to receive it. In the Reynolds Home for Women and Children previously mentioned theyre funding comes from, majority from donations. As of two years ago we were able to start applying for grants, they are community grants not federal grants. Regardless we receive zero federal, state, or city funding, as stated by Thorax. At the Lee & Beluah Moor Childrens Home, they too receive no federal funding. Paul F. Whittler clarified this statement when he said, We are a private organization. We do not receive any money from the state or government. Everything that we have here for the children comes solely from donations. Everything from the clothes to

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES any activities that we are able to provide for the children. We are beginning to apply for grants, in an effort not to solely be reliant on donations any longer. What are the differences between children living in the foster care system and homelessness? In both homelessness and foster care, there are countless number of children that are living in one of these two life styles. But inside of these two situations there are various similarities, but at the same time there are differences. The most common and popular definition of foster care is the placement of a child in temporary care of family other that its biological, due to adversities that are happening among the birth family, or while elements leading to adoption are being finished. The average age of children in foster care is nine years old. Also in foster care children typically stay there on average two years. But in reality the majority of the children stay in foster care five years or more. In some cases of these children are only placed in these homes until theyre parents are able to care for them again. There are two different types of foster homes that they can be placed in. Foster care homes with nonrelatives or relatives. In the non-relative foster care homes the foster parents are individuals that are in charge of maintaining the well-being of the children that are there under care. For each child under care, foster parents are given monthly allowances for that child. An example of this allowance would be: $315 for children up to five years of age, $365 for children between the ages of six and twelve, and $415 for children thirteen and older. (Harris) With children that live in homelessness, there are some similarities to those who live in foster care. There are homes that offer their services to these children, and as well as their mothers. In homes like Reynolds Home for Women and Child, woman and children come to us with all sorts of back stories, says Truax. In this home, all the families live within close proximity to each other. After the first month of moving in here, all things begin to smooth out. The most important things here are flexibility and compliance so that everything runs smoothly, 8

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES stated Truax. Also as stated in the previous section, some homeless shelters are not provided any money from the federal government. Housing is also solely on a space available, if there is not any available housing, then families cannot have a place to stay. These families stay in shelters for six to nine months on average. Shelters do not ask for any money from the residents. Foster care and homeless shelters are not the only two places where child can escape to when there are problems with the family. A place where children can also go is the Lee and Beluah Moor Childrens Home. This home can be described as a last stop before a child is considered homeless. Here children are placed voluntarily, some of the most common reason for placement here, is when a family economic issues, medical problems, or just simply cannot care for them anymore, stated by Whittler. What are specific requirements that children must be under to be placed in foster care? In 2006, the State of Texas had removed over 17,500 children from their homes due to severe neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual abuse, (Foster Care) this fact gives a first-hand view on the amount of children in Texas alone need help. These three things are not the only ways that children are placed in foster care, just the most common. Having a clear definition of these terms helps in the cases of children that are being harmed. Here are the terms with the specific items that child services agents keep in mind when working a case. Neglect means that the birth parent(s) are withholding or unable to provide for basic shelter, sufficient amounts of food and clothing, are not able to insure school attendance, provide medical care, and lack of supervision when a parent is able to. This also includes abandonment of the child, excessive spanking or hitting, misusing drugs or alcohol in order to harm the child. Emotional maltreatment is more commonly known as emotional abuse. In this the child is constantly subjected verbal abuse that is designed to put the child down.

Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES Along with this there is emotional neglect with is lack of physical contact for reassurance of child. This is in rare and extreme cases causes issues with physical and emotional developmental abnormalities. Physical abuse is any contact with a child that is non-accidental that leads to a physical injury. Physical injuries are seen as bruises, welts, broken bones, burns, internal injuries, or death. Sexual abuse is exploitation of child, in means of touching, fondling, intercourse, or pornography. Where children are placed is also taken into account from what they are being taken away from, being whether they be placed with a non-relative foster family or relative foster family. In New York City, a common cause for child being placed in foster care is the simple fact of being born. Children born to a mother who already has children in foster-care (afterborn children) (How Do Children Enter Foster Care?), in order for the child to be taken away from the mother there must be a court order, and not only for afterborn children, but all children. In New York the Administration for Childrens Services (ACS) must file a new petition stating the reasons this child would be in imminent danger if he/she would stay in the care of the mother. Conclusion Children that are found in homelessness are misfortunate. The number of families that are now living in this lifestyle are growing exponentially. Despite the efforts of the federal government to find and end to this problem, there is still one lacking. As a society there should be an overall effort into finding a solution. Organizations such as foster and childrens home are ways that temporary solutions are being satisfied.


Running Head: HOMELESSNESS AND ITS INTAITIVES Works Cited 1. Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness (n.d.). In The National Center on Family Homelessness. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://www.familyhomelessness.org/media/306.pdf 2. The Federal Governments Role in Ending Family Homelessness (n.d.). In United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://usich.gov/population/families/the_federal_governments_role_in_ending_family _homelessness/ 3. Foster Care - Frequently Asked Questions (2010). In Pathways Youth and Family Services . Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://www.pathway.org/faqfostercare.html 4. Harris, T. (n.d.). How Foster Care Works. In How Stuff Works. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://people.howstuffworks.com/foster-care4.htm 5. How Do Children Enter Foster Care? (n.d.). In Child Welfare Organizing Project. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://www.cwop.org/PDF/howdo.pdf 6. Lee & Beluah Moor Childrens Home. Paul F. Whittler. Interviewed March 14, 2014 7. Opening Doors (n.d.). In United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://usich.gov/opening_doors 8. Reynolds Home for Women and Children. Dorothy Truax. Interviewed March 12, 2014 9. Statistics and Definitions (n.d.). In Horizons for Homeless Children. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org/understandinghomelessness/statistics-definitions/ 10. Non-Scientific Survey conducted March 14, 2012 at Target at Bassett Center, Walmart at Cielo Vista, PX on Fort Bliss, and Fallas Paderdes in Fox Plaza.