The Growing Problem of Homelessness in America

America prides itself on being a place of innovation and success. The American dream is about pursuing a career that can allow a person to support a family and enjoy life. However, that dream is not possible for many Americans. Homelessness is a growing problem in America. It is estimated that there are currently about 578,424 individuals without a place of residence. Those numbers are an estimate. It is possible that there are many more cases of homelessness that have not been discovered. After all, people do not always tell other people when they get evicted or can no longer live where they previously did. While there are many different factors that contribute to homelessness, low wages are one of the main problems. Raising the federal minimum wage is a practical way of reducing homelessness in America.

Cheaper housing is not an effective solution to the overall problem of homelessness. Lack of affordable housing contributes to homelessness (Betar). Many people are unable to afford their housing situation for the long term. Although they may temporarily get by with credit cards and short-term fixes, the real problem is that they cannot afford the cost of living in a certain area. It would appear that providing cheaper housing would solve the problem. However, there are many other variables that play into the equation. The cost to live in a particular area involves more than just housing costs. It involves food, transportation, and shelter. Even if housing costs are lowered in an area, it is still possible that many people will not be able to afford living there. Many people are ineffective at budgeting their resources. Since housing is only one cost out of several, lowering it is not likely to make a big difference unless the other costs are also addressed. Rather than addressing each cost associated with living in a particular area, it makes more sense to raise wages. People pay for things with money. Rather than having to lower housing costs, lower food costs, and lower transportation costs, it is more efficient to raise wages. People would have more money and have an easier time handling the costs of living. Raising wages would also make it easier for people to transition out of homelessness. Transportation costs can often play a big role in how homeless people live. If housing is cheaper in a different state, but they cannot afford to travel there, then it does not benefit them. If wages are raised, then people will be able to cover transportation costs. It is reasonable to assume that there would be fewer homeless people if the federal minimum wage was higher.

Another benefit of offering higher wages is that it can potentially reduce stress. Stress has been linked to crime. When individuals cannot afford their rent and are at risk for eviction, it is likely to impact their mental state. They are more likely to do something illegal out of desperation. In contrast, people that make enough to comfortably afford their housing may never experience the same level of stress. Another factor that contributes to homelessness is drug abuse. However, drug use is more common in poor areas (Artello & Williams). It is possible that many people use drugs as a way of coping with difficult life circumstances. For example, imagine a single mother that is forced to work 2 jobs in order to support her children. She probably will consider using some sort of drug to allow her to continuously work long hours every week. Stimulant drugs can often seem like an attractive idea to people that have physically demanding jobs and long hours. It is also possible that stressed out people turn to other drugs as a way of relaxing when they are at home. Stress can be hard to deal with because it is constant. At times, people may feel that their only escape is through alcohol or other drugs that decrease their feelings of stress. By raising the federal minimum wage, working citizens would not have to stress as much about their finances.

Opponents of raising the federal minimum wage may say that homelessness is a result of laziness. They may blame homeless people for their poor habits with money and their frequent drug use. However, all of those things are related to stress. People have a much more difficult time peacefully living in a society if they must work two full-time jobs in order to barely get by. Drug use and crime can often be the result of prolonged stress and low wages. Also, there are now more homeless children than there previously were. Quindlen states the issue concisely: “Twenty years ago New York city provided emergency shelter for just under 1000 families a day, last month it had to find shelter for 10,000 children in a single night.”  This shows that the issue of homelessness is about much more than just laziness.

Many people are unable to support themselves and their families with the wages that they are offered. In addition, their employment options are also limited if they cannot afford to travel to a different area. There are many different factors that contribute to homelessness in America. Past efforts have focused on providing affordable housing and offering rehabilitation programs for drug addicts. However, another important aspect of the problem is that some states offer low wages. By raising the federal minimum wage, many different aspects of homelessness can be addressed with one policy change. An added benefit is that it may also reduce crime and improve the quality of life for people in America. Obviously, there will still be some homeless people that cannot obtain work. It is not always possible to solve for every single instance of an issue. Rather, it is helpful to find solutions that will work for most people. Raising the federal minimum wage is a practical way of reducing both homelessness and chronic stress in America.

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