The Truth Behind Homelessness

By: Steven Rodriguez

Imagine waking up from eight hours of sleep on a soon-to-be lazy Sunday morning. The house temperature is set to 72 degrees, and you walk out of your room to watch the upcoming NFL games with your significant other making breakfast.

Now imagine not having that. You wake up outside on the cold concrete during a freezing December day — having only an hour of sleep and nothing but a shopping cart filled with everything you own. You are also wearing a coat that hasn’t been washed in months. Homelessness is one of the worst tragedies in today’s world.

 

 

Sgt. Steven Bergen, creator of the Lubbock Police Department Homeless Outreach Team, said he encounters the homeless population on a daily basis, which has made him an expert when it comes to the causes of homelessness.

Sgt. Steven Bergen. Lubbock Police Department and creator of the Homeless Outreach Team.

“Once you don’t get that paycheck and you can’t make your rent or that car payment, things kind of spiral out of control,” said Bergen.

There are more than 100 million homeless people in the world, with more than 500,000 in America alone.

Living in an area heavily populated with homeless people,Texas Tech student Clay Jinks said he has not had any problems, however, they can be startling — especially when walking to and from campus at night. He states they need to be better informed about programs that are meant to help them.

Clay Jinks, Texas Tech University student and resident of Lubbock.

Where does the problem start? A look at the data behind homelessness shows big cities are simply too expensive. Taking the top ten largest cities by population in Texas, there are about 1.87 homeless people for every 1,000 citizens. While that may not seem like a lot, Texas has nearly 27.9 million people.

The numbers get worse as you look at the most expensive cities. Studio apartments in the five most populous cities in Texas average at about $820 dollars a month. To afford rent, a person earning minimum wage would have to work nearly 15 percent of a month, almost 110 hours, to make ends meet. Adding the recommended amount of sleep per night, almost half of the time is dedicated to sleeping and working to pay the monthly rent — food, school, transportation, or supporting a family is not included.

This task may be impossible because the workload is too much to handle. Even those who are barely making it can run into issues like keeping a job or fighting addiction.

For Bergen, he states substance abuse and mental health are at the top of the list for reasons why people become homeless in the first place.

Is there truth behind the alcohol and drug dependency?

The answer is yes.

A research study conducted by the University of Victoria compared the homeless population to the general population in Canada. During this study, researchers came to the conclusion that the homeless population consumes more alcohol than the general population. Some of the homeless were found to be so reliant on alcohol, they would consume alcohol in disastrous ways such as drinking mouthwash and hand sanitizer.

During this study, there were underlying factors in determining which homeless people were most heavily influenced by alcohol. Those who had the most severe alcohol abuse problems have been classified as homeless for the longest period of time and have never lived in conventional life.

A second study conducted at the University of California-San Francisco showed nearly half of the homeless population suffered from a variety of health issues ranging from arthritis to heart disease.

The UCSF research, along with a third research study by the University of California-Los Angeles, concluded the average age of homeless people has increased. The UCSF study showed people have entered homelessness late in their lives due to tragic events including loss of a job, death of a spouse, and increasing health problems.

Doug Morris, Executive Director for Family Promise of Lubbock.

Doug Morris, executive director of the Family Promise of Lubbock, works with the homeless for a living, while trying to find new companies and non-profits to help create programs to help the homeless.

Recently teaming up with Judge Jorge Hernandez of the Lubbock Municipal Court, the two started what they call “Homeless Court” to help homeless people get back on their feet and resolve their warrants. The “Homeless Court” provides a helping hand while providing activities such as AA meetings, literacy classes, and help searching for employment. The program also assists in providing shelter to those accepted into the program. Morris describes the South Plains to be in a crisis when it comes to homelessness.

“We see kids that are living in cars with their parents,” said Morris.

A lot of players are involved in taking a homeless person back to living a normal life. Volunteers are needed at various shelters and soup kitchens, along with mentors to help push and inspire people in the right to direction.

About JOUR 4350

JOUR 4350 is the multiplatform news delivery class, which is the capstone class for journalism majors within the College of Media & Communication.

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