68% of U.S. cities report that addiction is their single largest cause of homelessness.* A formerly homeless addict is likely to return to homelessness unless they deal with the addiction. (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Substance Abuse.)
2. Domestic Violence
Nationally, 50% of homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.* If she stays in the home, she’ll be beaten again. If she leaves, she’ll have little means of support. Choosing homelessness over abuse is both a brave and frightening decision. (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Domestic Violence.)
3. Mental Illness
6% of the American population suffers from mental illness. In the homeless population, that number jumps to 20-25%.* Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self care and household management. Without assistance, these men and women have little chance of gaining stability. (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Mental Illness.)
4. Job Loss and Underemployment
Many Americans are underemployed at wages that can’t sustain them. Layoffs and job cuts leave individuals and families in desperate circumstances. Unemployment benefits and savings run out, leaving people facing homelessness. (See: National Coalition for the Homeless – Employment.)
From 2008 to 2009, foreclosures jumped by 32%. A 2009 survey estimates that as many as 10% of people seeking help from homeless organizations do so due to foreclosure.* (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Foreclosure.)
6. Post-Traumatic Stress
On any given night, as many as 200,000 military veterans sleep on the street.* Adapting to “normal life” back in the U.S. is proving to be extremely difficult. Struggling to cope, some choose to leave homes, loved ones and jobs behind for homelessness and/or addiction. (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Veterans.)
7. Throw Away Teens
Homeless teens often become so due to family conflicts involving issues of drug/alcohol addiction, physical abuse, or teen pregnancy. Mental illness can also play a significant role. Teens in foster care often end up on the street after they “age-out” of the system at age 18.
8. Relational Brokenness
A homeless person is most often a deeply hurting person and has likely burned through every supportive relationship possible. Friends and family are no longer able or willing to help. A significant barrier to recovery often lies in the ability to restore trust and maintain healthy relationships.
Struggling to deal with the death of a loved one or other significant trauma results in grief, and people will numb their pain in addiction. Addiction and apathy lead to the loss of job and home. They simply stop caring if they live or die. Grief becomes a roadblock to living.
The longer men and women are homeless, the more difficult it becomes to combat the lies they hear in their heads. They believe there’s no way out. They don’t deserve another chance. They’ll never break free from addiction. They’ll always be a failure. More than anything, these men and women need hope.