Are you homeless, sleeping rough, in a refuge or couch surfing? You are not alone. In January of 2015, the last time a count was completed of the homeless in Georgia, it was determined that there were 13,790 homeless Georgians on a single night — 1,518 of them being veterans. Although the homeless number is still significant, there has been a 19% decrease in homelessness since 2013. Of the nearly 14,000 homeless in 2015, research suggested that 42% were unsheltered.
What is homelessness?
Any person who does not have a stable, secure and private home is considered homeless; this includes any persons living temporarily in supported accommodation, with friends or in other temporary living arrangements. People who are experiencing homelessness may also be staying in improvised dwellings such as boarding houses, tents or in severely overcrowded dwellings.
Who is at risk?
Americans of any age or background can become homeless but there are particular groups of people that are more vulnerable to becoming homeless than others:
- People experiencing domestic violence: many of women accessing supported accommodation cited domestic violence as the primary reason they were forced to flee the family home.
- Males: many of homeless people over the age of 18 were men.
- Families suffering housing crisis: housing crisis occurs when a household in the bottom 40% of income earners is allocating more than 50% of their take-home pay on housing costs.
- Young People: many of the people who sought help from a specialist homelessness service were under 25.
- People affected by mental illness: they are more likely to become homeless or without suitable housing at some time in their life.
Causes of homelessness
People become homeless for many reasons such as relationship breakdowns, unemployment, domestic violence, loss of income, alcohol, financial stress, mental health issues or gambling.
Homelessness can be the result of economic, social and health-related factors and can be experienced due to years of poverty and ongoing mental health issues, or it can affect someone that has just been thrown off course, which sets off a chain reaction, leaving people without a place to live.
Unfortunately, homelessness can wreak havoc on a person’s health, increase social isolation and keep them out of work. This exacerbates an already difficult situation.
Where to go for support?
Some people facing homelessness may be having thoughts of suicide. If you are thinking about suicide:
- Talk to somebody — contact a helpline, your doctor, a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist, a hospital emergency department, teacher, minister or anyone you trust.
- Call 911 if your life is in immediate danger.
How to support someone who is homeless?
- Check on their immediate needs, ask do they have a safe place to sleep tonight?
- Help them to access relevant services.
- If you are concerned about their level of coping, ask about suicide.
- Be available to talk about how they are coping, but remember they may not want to talk so it is important not to force them.
- Ensure they have emergency assistance numbers.