Homelessness is coming under increasing pressure at federal, state, local levels. Unfortunately, cities are enforcing bans on what they consider public camping. In the United States, 100 cities said it’s illegal to sleep in public. Panhandling is illegal in about 27 cities. There are forty cities in which it’s illegal to live in vehicles. For the homeless, there are no alternatives or creditable solutions other than living in a car or sleeping outside.
Rew and Horner (2003) suggest that resilience is common and possible in the vulnerable population of homeless adolescents (Rew and Horner, 2003). With risk comes the opportunity for growth. Multiple health-related factors such as finding meaning in one’s struggles and negative experiences to bring about growth rather than developing pathology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) as well as their ability to bounce back or adapt to stress (Smith, Tooley, Christopher, & Kay, 2010). Homeless adolescents reported feeling less lonely and less hopeless if they perceived themselves to be resilient (Rew and Horner, 2003). Often suffering from higher rates of stress, aggressive and violent interactions, and depression (Kennedy et al., 2010). Unfortunately, having an episode of homelessness increases the likelihood of homelessness and negative life events in the future; it’s a vicious cycle (Haber &Toro, 2009).
Additional research regarding mental wellness was conducted by Shelton and Colleagues (2009) who examined factors associated with a lifetime experience of homelessness among young adults. Their study consisted of 14,888 young adults, where a total of 682 respondents were classified as ever being homeless. Contributing factors included childhood experiences of poor family functioning, socioeconomic class, and improper attachments were associated with their homelessness (Shelton et al., 2009). The findings underscore the relationship between specific indicators of adversity in childhood and the risk of homelessness and point to the importance of early intervention efforts (Shelton et al., 2009).
As stated above homeless youth experience a multitude of negative life events, which contribute to psychological distress A large body of research indicates that a high percentage of individuals experiencing homelessness report that traumatic experiences precede homelessness, indicating that at least one major trauma was endured prior to being homeless (Haber &Toro, 2009). There is also research to indicate that homelessness itself can be traumatic based on the things individuals are exposed to during homelessness. The trauma that one may be exposed to during periods of homelessness is bullying, isolation, assault, loss of possession, fear, and lack of basic resources. Solórzano (2014) conducted a study that showed that over 50% of participants almost always evidenced current trauma and past trauma in the population of homeless individuals that they work with. However, most of the homeless population is not being treated for the trauma they have endured throughout their lifetime (Solórzano, 2014). Solórzano suggested that homeless women are “exposed to many of the precursors to PTSD and are rarely treated for their traumatic experiences show that they are utilizing their resiliencies” (Solórzano,2014). Therefore, individuals experiencing homelessness are said to have several opportunities for a positive change as a result of the struggle with distressing life circumstances.
Positive psychology is the study of happiness optimal well-being. Positive psychology utilizes interventions to promote the well-being and character strengths of people living in poverty (Biswas Diener, & Lehman, 2012). From a theoretical perspective, involves empowering individuals to reach their full potential. However, poverty is an obstacle. Poverty is defined solely by an individual’s economic situation; in conjunction with positive psychology, these individuals could possess strengths like hope, motivation, and happiness (Biswas Diener, & Lehman, 2012). Positive psychology is said to be associated with better coping against adverse conditions such as poverty and other stressful life events (Biswas Diener, & Lehman, 2012).
Positive psychological traits on shelter usage have two fundamental implications for stakeholders. The ability to identify households is less likely, causing individuals to spend longer time in the shelter; appropriate interventions need to be used for this vulnerable population. Homeless shelter providers, social workers, and case managers lack resources to make plans for shelter stayers and shelter re-entry. To extend their understanding of positive psychological traits and shelter utilization to promote the likelihood of early and stable exits from the shelter.
There is little research that examines the association between hope, resilience, or self-control directly to homelessness, psychologists, and policy researchers. All three traits are associated with improved coping in stressful circumstances. Campbell-Sills, Cohan, & Stein, (2006) found resilience positively associated with problem-solving that might help individuals find housing. “Higher levels of self-control are a strong predictor of employment seeking and income, which can facilitate shelter exit and reduces the likelihood that a family return” (Weinreb et al., 2010).
The impact of permanent supportive housing on the use of acute care public health services by homeless people with disabilities or limitations (Martinez & Burt, 2006). Their sample consisted of 236 single adults who entered supportive housing. Eighty percent of the participants had a diagnosis of dual psychiatric and substance use disorders (Martinez & Burt, 2006). These researchers compared service use during the two years before entry into supportive housing with service use during the two years after entry. Eighty-one percent of residents remained in permanent supportive housing for at least one year (Martinez & Burt, 2006). Housing placement significantly reduced the percentage of residents with an emergency department visit, providing permanent supportive housing to homeless people with psychiatric and substance use disorders reduced their use of costly hospital emergency department and inpatient services, which are publicly provided (Martinez & Burt, 2006).
Resources for individuals with serious mental illness often are unable to access community-oriented care, resulting in repeated hospitalizations and incarceration (Smith & Sederer, 2009). The ‘medical home’ concept was developed in primary care to provide accessible and accountable services for individuals with chronic medical conditions (Smith & Sederer, 2009). Smith and Sederer also suggest developing ‘a mental health home’.The model of care incorporates will give access to and coordination of services, integration of primary and preventive care, adoption of recovery orientation and evidence-based practices, and family and community outreach. Barriers to and strategies for implementation of mental health homes are discussed (Smith & Sederer, 2009).
Popular resources for mental health concerns are Faith-based providers; these providers are often overlooked but are extremely beneficial (NAEH, 2017). Faith-based providers of services are willing participants who have effective resources to bring change. The National Alliance to End Homelessness (2017) is comprised of Faith-based organizations that provide a significant amount of emergency shelter services and permanent housing interventions (NAEH, 2017). Faith-based providers around the country indicate a shortage in the availability of affordable housing is a both driver of and an impediment to addressing homelessness (NAEH, 2017).
Faith-based organizations play an active role in local planning and Continuum of Care governance activities, including serving as leaders in implementing a systemic approach to ending homelessness and participating and leading coordinated entry in their communities (NAEH, 2017). Faith-based organizations that have been implementing Housing First programs have found it to be an effective approach for ending homelessness as well as compatible with their beliefs. Faith-based organizations are critical, but in some ways underutilized partners in ending homelessness due to their strong connections within the community, faith-based organizations have a strong volunteer and advocacy base and flexible donor funds (NAEH, 2017).