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Homelessness Information

Homelessness refers to the condition and societal category of people who lack fixed housing, specifically a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The definition also includes a person who has a primary nighttime residence that is in transitional housing or a person who spends most nights in a supervised public or private facility such as welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill, or in an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or in a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

Most researchers attempt to make a distinction between: 1) why homelessness exists, in general, and 2) who is at-risk of homelessness, in specific. Homelessness has always existed since urbanization and industrialization.

Factors placing an individual at high-risk of homelessness include:

* Poverty: People living in poverty are at a higher risk of becoming homeless.

* Drug or alcohol misuse: It is not uncommon for homeless to suffer from a substance abuse problem. Debate exists about whether drug use is a cause or consequence of homelessness. However, regardless when it arises, an untreated addiction "makes moving beyond homelessness extremely difficult." Substance abuse is quite prevalent in the homeless population.

Serious Mental Illness and Disability: It has been estimated that approximately one-third of all adult homeless persons have some form of mental illness and/or disability. In previous eras, these individuals were institutionalized in state mental hospitals. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), there are 50,000 mentally ill homeless people in California alone because of deinstitutionalization between 1957 and 1988 and a lack of adequate local service systems. Various assertive outreach approaches, including a mental health treatment approach known as Assertive Community Treatment and the Path Program, have shown promise in the prevention of homelessness among people with serious mental illness.

* Foster Care background: This population experienced rates of homelessness nearly 8 times higher than the non-foster care population.

* Escaping domestic abuse, including sexual, physical and mental abuse: Victims who flee from abuse often find themselves without a home. Abused children also have a higher chance of succumbing to a drug addiction, which contributes to difficulties in establishing a residence. In 1990 a study found that half of homeless women and children were fleeing abuse.

* Prison discharge: Often the formerly incarcerated are socially isolated from friends and family and have few resources. Employment is often difficult for those with a criminal record. Untreated substance abuse and mental illness also may put them at high risk for homelessness onced discharged.

* Civilian during war: Civilians during war or any armed conflict are also are at a higher risk for homelessness, because of possible military attacks on their property, and even after the war rebuilding their homes is often costly, and most commonly the government is overthrown or defeated which is then unable to help its citzens.

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