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Homelessness in the US and India

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For many centuries, people have experienced numerous social issues, which they have been continuously struggling against. Poverty, crime, violence, suicide, climate change, homelessness, terrorism are supposed to be the most common societal problems worldwide. Usually, each of the mentioned issues has negative consequences for individuals that can be explained by the fact that they experience an undesirable condition that they believe should be fought through collective social action. Consequently, any kind of the aforementioned problems must be studied from the perspective of their adverse impact on the community. Furthermore, their reasons have to be studied as well, and they can vary depending on the country. Speaking about the most widespread social issues that need thorough examination, one can name homelessness. With regard to it, the United States and India are countries where it remains to be unresolved. Therefore, its primary reasons and consequences should be studied and compared thoroughly.

Definition of Homelessness as a Social Issue

As stated above, homelessness is one of the most spread social problems over the globe, and, nowadays, this issue has reached astonishing proportions. Homelessness can be considered as a social condition, the main feature of which is lack of appropriate or even any kind of shelter. In other words, homeless people suffer from the absence of regular access to housing. Usually, the problem is experienced in a dysfunctional society where individuals are not provided with dwelling opportunities.

The nature of the issue is considered to be complex. To begin with, chronic nature of homelessness is characterized by the fact that people suffer from long-term housing problems (Definitions of Homelessness, 2012). Besides, such members of society are usually mentally or physically disabled, abused or unemployed. One can also name transitional homelessness that refers to people who become shelterless for some period of time (Definitions of Homelessness, 2012). It may happen if they temporarily lose their jobs, suffer from some health issues or get divorced. Similarly to transitional nature of homelessness, the episodic one is also associated with becoming homeless for a short term (Definitions of Homelessness, 2012). Traditionally, young people who have not decided on their future might face it.

While studying homelessness as a social issue, both individual and structural causes should be identified. Thereby, substance abuse, unemployment, low income, victimization, physical or mental disability refer to individual reasons of the problem. The structural ones include the lack of affordable housing and insufficient minimum wage. Obviously, each country deals with its own roots of homelessness in order to help its citizens to solve or eliminate this social issue.

Homelessness in the United States and India

Homelessness in the United States

Over the last decades, the issue of homelessness has become one of the most intractable and persistent in the country. It is caused by different factors that include unaffordable housing, lawful evictions, divorces, violence, and mental illnesses. Some secondary factors may also be regarded such as negative cash flow, lack of income, unemployment, low paying jobs and physical disability. Consequently, a wide range of population groups is affected by the problem and numerous statistics demonstrate that with every passing year, the rates of homeless people continue increasing. Furthermore, there have been no reforms and acts aimed at dealing with homelessness in recent times. Hence, it requires urgent actions and implementation of preventive measures.

In the United States, the issue of homelessness has a great historical background and dates back to 1640 (Fischer, 2011). In the times of the Industrial Revolution, Civil War, natural disasters such as the Great Chicago Fire, the numbers of individuals who lost their homes because of economic and social reasons rose (Fischer, 2011). The 1980s experienced HUD cuts that exacerbated the problem (Fischer, 2011).Overall, the given issue is a deep rooted one, and its history has to be considered to opt for the best means to solve it.

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As for the individuals who suffer the most from the issue, one has to say that every year, one out of fifty children becomes homeless. As a result, in 2013, the number of homeless kids increased to 2,5 million (Toro et al., 2007). Veterans are another population segment significantly affected by the problem. Moreover, it has been observed that men face homelessness more often than women, and out of a total number of the homeless, seventy percent are males. As a result, it is obvious that the number of houses and shelters should be increased in order to eliminate the issue.

As it was aforementioned, the number of individuals without homes continues rising. According to Wihbey (2014), a recent study suggests that it is difficult to quantify an actual scale and nature of the issue. This can be explained by the fact that it has a large number of deep and hidden causes (Wihbey, 2014). In order to measure a true size of the homeless population and assess the pervasiveness of the problem in the United States, the federal government decided to make an annual report on homelessness statistics. As a result, it was estimated that in 2010, there were 1,6 million of homeless people who were provided with a shelter (Wihbey, 2014). In 2013, the Department of Housing and Urban Development of the United States also considered the issue analyzing both sheltered and unsheltered citizens (Wihbey, 2014). Sheltered people are those who stay in different kinds of shelters or safe havens. Those who spend a night in a public or private place not designated as sleeping accommodation, streets, vehicles, parks, and stations are considered to be unsheltered population (Toro et al., 2007). This survey, performed on one night, is believed to be one of the most accurate. As for the results, it was found that in 2013, almost 620,042 individuals were homeless (Wihbey, 2014). However, taking into consideration the statistics of 2007, its rate decreased by 4% (Wihbey, 2014). In addition, the report of a single night in 2016 shows that more than 549,928 people were suffering from homelessness in the United States at the time (Henry et al., 2016). All of the mentioned researches demonstrate that the issue of homelessness continues to appall the population of the United States, and a radical policy dealing with it has to be designed by the government. Nevertheless, it can be seen that every year, the rate of homeless population decreases; however, more efforts have to be taken to tackle the issue.

Homelessness in India

Similarly to the United States, in India, the issue of homelessness is one of the most painful problems of the society. Comparing to the situation in the United States, throughout its history, Indian population has also experienced the same raising trend of homelessness with every passing decade. For instance, both countries saw an extreme exacerbation of the situation between the 1960s and 1970s. However, after the 1990s, the numbers began to decrease in both the US and India (Sattar, 2014). Nevertheless, in 2001, for example, the number of houseless individuals remained rather high in India accounting for more than 2 million people according to the Census 2011 and 78 million based on the information provided by the Action Aid (Sattar, 2014). It is also worth noting that studies have demonstrated that in rural areas of India, the rate of homeless people was higher until 2011, when it significantly fell (Sattar, 2014). Currently, however, mostly urban areas are associated with rising homelessness rates in India (Sattar, 2014). It happens due to the fact that people from rural areas travel to big cities in search of well-paid jobs and, and as a result of the lack of appropriate knowledge and skills, they cannot find them and experience unemployment and houseless. The given situation is similar to the one in the US.

If to compare the two countries under consideration, it is obvious that they experience homelessness today. A large number of homeless citizens stay in the big cities of the United States and India. Furthermore, the population segments facing the issue are also similar and are represented by women, children, and the elderly as they are the most vulnerable social groups. Very often, females become beggars when they lose their houses because of divorce or are physically or mentally disabled. Interestingly, most homeless people are not beggars and have jobs; however, their salaries are not sufficient enough to get an appropriate income and afford housing. Overall, the presence of the issue of homelessness is quite obvious. Sadly, while it is considered by the government of the United States, the Indian authorities do not pay much attention to it in the majority of cases.

The Causes of the Issue

Causes of Homelessness in the United States

The issue of homelessness in the United States has become more crucial over the past several decades. Consequently, in order to eliminate the problem of homelessness, it is essential to primarily consider the reasons that lead to it. A recent study (Crane et al., 2005) has suggested that there exist structural and individual factors which account for the homelessness in the United States. The researchers also state that there are two main explanations of the issue (Crane et al., 2005). Firstly, causes of homelessness are associated with economic and political processes in the country. From this perspective, one can name lack of employment, poverty, and a shortage of affordable houses for rent as possible reasons. Secondly, some researchers associate homelessness with personal incapacity, vulnerability, and individual behavior. As a rule, some of the mentioned above causes are combined, and it usually happens when a person experiences negative life events and is unable to cope with them and, in addition to this, they do not have enough resources to pay for the housing. As a result, they begin to suffer from homelessness.

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In addition, considering the situation of homelessness in the United States, several more factors contributing to this issue can be determined. In particular, one has to name a quick rise of accommodation costs and changes in the national housing market. Many people cannot afford to buy or simply rent the house because the prices are very high, and their financial income is not sufficient. Another reason relates to the governmental inability to provide homeless people with the efficient policy that would regulate this problem. Numerous individual factors are also associated with the situation and include alcohol and drug abuse, different kinds of mental and physical illnesses, the rise of single-mother families, and general lack of initiative among many population segments (Crane et al., 2005). All in all, numerous primary and secondary causes of homelessness should be considered while designing an appropriate policy to fight it.

Causes of Homelessness in India

Similarly to the USA, the issue of homelessness in India is caused by a number of factors. While in the United States, the main reasons of homelessness are unemployment and high costs of housing, factors contributing to the problem in India are poverty and governmental failure to implement the housing supply system. A recent study (Rathod, 2012) suggests that despite the fact that for the last decade, India has grown in terms of economy development, many of its citizens continue to experience homelessness. One can infer that the situation here reminds the one in the USA, as despite being a well-developed country, the population of the United States continues to suffer from different cases of homelessness. Other causes of the issue in India include lack of affordable housing, economic changes, individual physical or mental problems, substance abuse, domestic violence, and job loss (Sattar, 2014).

Nevertheless, one factor that makes India different from the United States with regard to the problem under analysis is the much higher number of homeless children. While the majority of homeless population of the United States is represented by adults, in India, it mainly consists of the young ones. The main reason for such a phenomenon is believed to be the fact that many children suffer from domestic abuse (Rathod, 2012). Consequently, they leave their homes and go to the streets. Another cause of childrens homelessness is child labor (Rathod, 2012). Many of them are sent by their parents to work at the very early age. However, low wages cannot provide them with appropriate housing conditions, and they must stay in the streets. Such a situation does not consider the population of the United States so much as in India. One more cause of homelessness that differentiates India from the United States is gender discrimination. In India, women experience extreme discrimination (Rathod, 2012). As a result, they do not get education and freedom, and they often abandon their homes because of domestic violence and abuse (Rathod, 2012).


To sum up, homelessness remains to be one of the most crucial social problems of the modern world. It influences a large number of countries, and despite the fact that it is considered and struggled against in many states, it continues to affect many people. In the United States and India, homelessness is an issue that is appalling to a wide range of the population. In order to deal with this problem, its causes should be primarily studied and eliminated. The majority of the reasons of homelessness in both countries are similar, but some of them remain to be different.

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