The term homeless means just what it says and sounds like, to be without a home. Such a condition is hardly beneficial for anyone and is in fact a growing epidemic that continues to worsen. Many individuals from many different disciplines and areas of expertise have combated this condition for well onto a century and more, but to date it is still a problem within the country that shows no sign of resolution. In the current time homelessness is looked upon almost as an unwanted disease that afflicts society. Being homeless is attributed to several factors, both social and biological.
Biologically speaking homelessness is typically caused by physical ailments that either develop at some point in an individual’s life or are ongoing concerns that have been present all along. Mental illnesses and/or disorders can lead to homelessness, as can physical ailments that force the affected individual to quit their employment. Both factors can include a large variety of ailments that range from mild to severe, but what is seen most often is that the more severe the problem the more likely that it will affect the individual’s life in a negative manner. The real determinant in any and all biological factors that can contribute to homelessness is whether not the individual and/or their families can help in any way to resolve the problem before it goes this far.
Psychological factors are quite often more difficult to deal with as while they are
biological in nature they are notoriously hard to predict and even worse to deal with. The
affected individual could be completely fine until something triggers their ailment, or they could
be suffering from a chronic disorder that, again, when presented with a trigger can grow worse.
Psychological disorders are worse than purely biological problems as they are harder to deal
with, often require intensive psychotherapy, and are not guaranteed to be fixed without proper
An extremely prevalent psychological disorder that can lead and is known to affect the homeless is depression, which is in turn a chemical imbalance in the brain, which therefore also qualifies it as a biological disorder. Schizophrenia is another disorder that is prevalent among the homeless, and without proper treatment can cause many individuals to seem crazed and even unapproachable. Such disorders when left untreated can create a barrier for the affected individuals that keeps them from gainful employment and even a comfortable relationship with family and friends. Without any type of support it is often seen that such individuals will end up on the street, where their problems will only worsen.
Biological factors that can contribute to homelessness could be anything from a disabling injury that limits mobility to chronic illness that puts a stop to even light activities. In such cases individuals and families tend to find that with so little money coming in and so much going out to medical expenses, treatments, medications, and other necessities, it is near to impossible to not find themselves out of a home. Despite the many programs and aid that can be received from government sources a good many people still find themselves on the streets, sometimes splitting up their families so that their young children will have a better chance of being cared for. Others do not take this chance, and are thus relegated to the streets along with their loved ones.
Unfortunately biological and psychological factors such as these can only get worse when
individuals find that life on the streets does not generally afford second chances. A small
percentage of those who become homeless are ever able to climb back to a stable position in life.
Among those lucky few who do only a fraction manage to find a stable balance that will allow them to balance their lives in a manner consistent with what society deems acceptable. The average life of those on the street is a hard and unforgiving existence, making targets of those
who suffer through mental disorders and physical ailments that keep them from getting back on their feet.
Once homeless it is difficult to impossible to regain any type of standing amongst society that might allow an individual to be seen as anything other than a bum, a vagrant, or any other variety of names that are foisted upon the unfortunates who have no home to call their own. In the views of many those who live on the streets, in cardboard boxes, and in other such squalid areas are considered less than human. They are pitied, despised, reviled, and in many cases ignored. While society seeks to alleviate the homeless problem (Petrenchik, 2006) the general attitude of many is that those individuals living on the street are responsible for their own circumstances. Few people take the time to think that the homeless might be victims of anything else but their own failures.
Social factors that are most prevalent in keeping homelessness a very serious issue in any country include the lack of available housing, economic decline, and other problems that can be exacerbated by biological factors already present. With the cost of housing remaining a large and almost insurmountable factor the issue of being homeless remains a constant issue in the USA that seems to have no end in sight. Poverty brought on by economic decline and the risings costs of living (Lee, Tyler & Wright, 2010) are also major concerns that can affect a household and an individual. Combined with poverty, the issue with available and affordable housing are the core reasons why the homeless are unable to elevate themselves from their current position in society.
In larger cities where the issue of being homeless is a much larger probability, many have
become desensitized to the homeless. Individuals will walk by those who are dressed in rags,
pushing heavy shopping carts laden with personal possessions and items scrounged from trash
bins. The general attitude of many individuals is to act as though the homeless do not exist
unless they become an inconvenience. Most people who pass by the homeless do not realize or even want to take the time to understand why the issue of homelessness is so serious or why it continues to exist.
Society is not the main cause of the homeless epidemic, but it is a contributor to why the problem continues to persist (Fowler, Toro & Miles, 2009). The general attitudes towards the homeless are what keep people from attaining a more stable position in society, though the biological factors are a substantial problem as well. Without proper treatment and care many individuals living on the street cannot hope to become productive, functioning members of society. While foundations and organizations do exist to help these unfortunate individuals they are typically underfunded and only create a small amount of public interest in the situation.
The biological factors that affect the homeless are at the core of why individuals become homeless. Often such conditions can be treated but are either neglected or allowed to worsen until there is nothing that can be done. Programs that have been initiated to insure the mental and physical well-being of individuals who are at risk (Tsai, Mares & Rosenheck, 2012)have been ongoing for decades, but have done little more than to alleviate the suffering of a fraction of those who have no home to call their own.
The downward slide that leads towards homelessness does not offer predictability as to
who will become homeless. Even the high-risk factors that affect many individuals in different
ways are not enough to give a fair accounting of how people lose their jobs, their homes, and
eventually everything else. Biological, psychological, and social factors follow several different
patterns that are indicative of how the process occurs, but not why. The reasoning behind how
people become homeless is different for each person, be it economic or mental decline.
Fowler, P.J.; Toro, P.A. & Miles, B.A. (2009). Pathways to and From Homelessness and
Associated Psychosocial Outcomes Among Adolescents Leaving the Foster Care System. American Journal of Public Health, 99(8): 1453-1458.
Lee, B.A.; Tyler, K.A. &Wright, J.D. (2010). The New Homelessness Revisited. Annual Review
of Sociology, 36: 501-521.
Petrenchik, T. (2006). Homelessness: Perspectives, Misconceptions, and Considerations for
Occupational Therapy. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 20(3-4): 9-30.
Tsai, J. PhD; Mares, A.S. PhD & Rosenheck, R.A. MD. (2012). Does Housing Chronically
Homeless Adults Lead to Social Integration? Psychiatric Services, 63(5): 427-434.