Thesis about Poverty: Critical Essay

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Poverty and Homelessness in the United States continue to grow exponentially as more and more citizens’ budgets continue to tighten and more families end up below the poverty line and out of their homes. The issue of Poverty and Homelessness is hard to solve and define, at what point does the middle-class sinkage constitute a homelessness crisis in America? The economy still continues to be affected due to factors such as inflation and employment rates, will this continue to push Americans below the poverty line? These issues all have an effect on our country and are becoming more and more of a widespread social issue than ever before.

Poverty is when a person’s income is so low that they cannot sustain themselves and live properly, this leads to homelessness as these people below the poverty line cannot afford a place to stay. Poverty makes it so many cannot afford the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and savings. For the issue of poverty rates, the United States Census Bureau found that:

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The official poverty rate in 2020 was 11.4 percent, up 1.0 percentage points from 10.5 percent in 2019. This is the first increase in poverty after five consecutive annual declines. In 2020, there were 37.2 million people in poverty, approximately 3.3 million more than in 2019 (pg 1)

The poverty rate has begun to creep up again after a steady decline over the years, many factors such as economy, income rate, and socioeconomic status contribute to these rising rates of poverty because of their effect on the whole country. Job rates decline rapidly and wages also come down with them which puts more people in a struggling state financially and leads to potential homelessness. Poverty rates coincide with homelessness rates the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that “Insufficient income and lack of affordable housing are the leading causes of homelessness: In 2012, 10.3 million renters (approximately one in four) had extremely low incomes” (pg 1). Low incomes contribute widely to the poverty and homelessness issue in the United States, the minimum wage in many states has not coincided with the cost of living in that state, and many who work full-time jobs cannot afford to rent an apartment or buy a home in their area as the cause of housing continues to rapidly increase. Rent increases have had a direct link to homelessness rates, huge cities like Los Angeles and new york have pushed the minimum wage rates up themselves but still suffer from high renting rates that contribute to renters having to spend a majority of their income on housing even if they are in danger of being in the low-income range. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty also found that “After paying their rent and utilities, 75% of ELI households end up with less than half of their income left to pay for necessities such as food, medicine, transportation, or childcare.” (p. 1). Citizens and Families in the United States are being squeezed so hard by the housing rates that they must choose where a majority of their income must be spent on, many who live paycheck to paycheck have also had to decide what necessities they may need to skip in order to pay all their bills for the month. Poverty leads many families to miss opportunities that families with stabilized incomes can enjoy. They cannot afford proper clothes or vacations for themselves or their family, they are forced in many cases to pick over food or pay their bills for the month. Many in poverty also do not receive proper health care due to the jobs they have not provided them, this means an injury or hospital bill may drain all their potential savings and prevent them from saving enough to move up from the poverty line. Poverty cannot be fully blamed on any single factor, while wages high dictate what you are able to afford and if you are able to get proper savings, factors such as rapidly changing bills or issues that come out of nowhere such as school, medical, or transportation costs also greatly contribute to poverty. If the cost of general living is high many more will move to the poverty line. The middle class has shrunk and continued to shrink over the years as things continue to get more expensive. “ The share of adults who live in middle-class households fell from 61% in 1971 to 50% in 2021” (Kochhar, 2021, p. 1). The upper class has risen exponentially in income rates and householding rates while the middle class has consistently gone down, if a majority of the money is going to rich high earning people this causes them to control major aspects of daily life for Americans who make lower income which leads to more in poverty. This shows that the issue of poverty in America is not so black and white, the factors that all attribute to poverty majorly affect people who are struggling with income. Poverty can also be attributed to the direct consequence of the cost of college institutions and loan interest rates, many who go to college are stuck with massively overpriced student loans that can plague them for the majority of their lives, student loan debt is a massive factor in many trying to survive in the middle and lower class, these loans are also stacked on with high-interest rates that keep you in a cycle of forever paying off these loans.

Homelessness is the state of having no home, not having a roof over your head can trap you in a perpetual state of issues socially and economically. Homelessness is becoming a very widespread issue in many ways, housing rates continue to increase exponentially as the housing market is continuing to boom. Citizens or families looking to rent in high-value areas have to deal with high monthly rents and or shortages when these areas fill up. Low-income housing even with renting is becoming harder and harder to come by and there is not enough low-income housing to support a vast amount of Americans who are middle to lower-class. If you are low-income and at risk of losing your house it is harder for you to fight being evicted from your home. Homelessness is a direct consequence of poverty, citizens and families with extremely low incomes are at high risk of suffering from homelessness. If wages in the United States do not improve a homelessness crisis in major cities and across states could become a problem, many people who are not suffering from poverty do give mind to these issues affecting many American and the widespread problem of homelessness needs to be addressed as the economy continues to be affected by inflation rates. “Homelessness alone in New York City has tripled over the last 20 years.” (Sanchez, 2018, p. 2). It’s clear that this issue of homelessness that plagues Americans is not going away, many Americans have also had to turn to shelters for their families which also puts a strain on their local governments to keep facilities that help with the homelessness and poverty issues running to prevent potential casualties from this crisis. Nationally there are about half a million dealing with homelessness every night in the United States, many cannot even think of affording a proper place to stay and most have trouble holding a job. Homelessness also directly pushes up poverty and income issues as not having a consistent place to stay and store items can prevent someone from going to work to earn a living, this causes a cycle of homelessness as they cannot hold a job long enough to make enough income to afford a place to stay.

While homelessness and poverty coincide there are also social issues that directly lead to homelessness and poverty. The social causes that directly lead to poverty and homelessness are vast and detrimental to many. The stigma around poverty and homelessness have to lead many to have trouble trying to seek help for the issues they may have, a person might be too scared of social backlash if they speak out about their struggles with poverty which can lead directly to homelessness. Women in domestic abuse situations can lead directly to homelessness if the abuse of their partner forces them to leave home, many do not have proper support structures they can turn to or may be too afraid to speak out and seek help if they are homeless due to domestic abuse. Mental illness or other medical issues may prevent a person from working enough to provide an income for themselves, even with government assistance they may still end up living on the poverty line and still be unable to afford a place to stay. Drug and alcohol abuse or struggles with addictions such as gambling can cause instability with income that makes someone become homeless, if they are spending a majority of their income on their addiction is not stable enough to provide consistent housing for themselves and in turn, live on the street to fully support their addictions. “The concepts of addiction, family breakdown, government assistance, and mental illness were activated at levels considered sufficiently high to dominate the system leading to certain homelessness” (Mago, 2013, case 1). Social issues like these plague many looking to just have a roof above their heads, the United States does not have proper systems in place to deal with these issues and prevent many of these social problems from causing people to become homeless. The race or color of a person is also a social issue that can massively affect homelessness, disadvantage meant for people of color leads to higher poverty and unemployment rates, and higher incarceration rates can also prevent many people of color from securing a proper job once they leave prison. “, historically marginalized racial groups are far more likely to experience homelessness as a result of segregation and discrimination in employment and housing, among other things.” (State of Homelessness, 2021, p. 1). One aspect often looked past for social issues of poverty and homelessness is Americans living with a disability, while disability assistance from the government does help it does not fully cover expenses for someone who may not be able to work at all due to their disability. It can be very scary for someone that has to live off assistance from the government to properly provide for themselves if these disability programs are not wide enough to cover these people from going into poverty. Injuries from work that land people on disability or assistance from the government may not provide someone with enough income to provide for themselves if they are fully taken out of work. Social issues like this massive plague many trying to get out of Poverty and Homelessness, it not only perpetuates homelessness but mental health issues or struggles with identity also keep many from securing jobs that bring them out of poverty.

There is no clear answer to fixing poverty and homelessness issues in America, but there are solutions that can vastly bring down the rates of poverty that can also cut homelessness for many. The issue of high-income housing is one of the major driving forces behind these issues, by providing and maintaining low-income housing the strain of a majority of a person’s income being spent on housing and utilities can be mitigated. This would allow many to properly start saving up and naturally building enough savings to put themselves past the poverty line. Low-income housing also prevents many from having to sleep on the street even if they do have low income, moving away from the need for homeless shelters and turning them into affordable housing spots that everyone can afford can help many from having to worry about where they may have to sleep. Rent regulation can also help middle-class families from spending outrageous rates on rent, preventing landlords from overcharging rent rates and establishing proper housing for not only low-income families but families who have to spend a huge amount of their normal income on rent every year. The affordability of college, medical treatment, and general living expenses can also be massively tackled to lower the poverty line. The United States is plagued with massive school and medical debt due to the high cost of a degree and insurance for many. If the United States were to provide medical healthcare and college to all for a massively reduced cost this would help many increase their income and savings without having to worry about finding a high-paying job after college to pay off their loans or being one bad medical bill away from losing all their savings. Paving access to affordable healthcare and college institutions does not helps move massive amounts of money into the economy as instead of spending a majority of the money on bills and loans that need to be paid it instead can be spent on necessities and items that boost spending overall which drives American’s economy. The prevention of social issues that plague people who suffer from poverty and homelessness can also be a massive step in the right direction to solve these issues, providing basic mental health and abuse consoling, domestic abuse prevention, removing the stigma around poverty and homelessness also provide many with a safety net that if they do experience these issues they can quickly seek help before things get out of hand and there income or housing comes into jeopardy. Poverty and Homelessness alleviation can be directly contributed to Economic growth, by increasing income and tackling issues such as minimum wage federally and state-side we can directly grow the economy and give many a path out of poverty itself. Economic growth through poverty prevention can also grow the economy directly as the poverty line shrinks more money can flood into the economy and boost it even higher. In Danilo’s article about Economic Security Program, it states:

Economic security programs have become more effective at reducing poverty and racial disparities over the last five decades. In 1970, families’ government benefits and the taxes they paid lowered the white poverty rate by 3 percentage points and the Black poverty rate by 2 percentage points, and left the Latino poverty rate unchanged. In contrast, in 2017, accounting for government benefits and taxes lowered the white poverty rate by 12 percentage points, Black poverty by 16 percentage points, and Latino poverty by 12 percentage points. (pg 1).

Expanding the country's economic security programs such as government assistance and welfare helps lower the poverty and homelessness rate by further securing a safety net for many Americans on the edge, these programs do not waste tax-payer money but are effective in providing enough support to boost families incomes enough to help drive more money into the economy. Government assistance is also a stigma that needs to be pushed past as a solution to many in poverty, taking assistance from the government should not be seen as freeloading but as an essential way to prevent many from going homeless or losing a majority of their income to the cost of living in America. It has been proven these programs not only boost adults who are affected by low-income poverty, but also by providing for children and boost them with school, and general programs they are way more likely to be on a better trajectory for life than with no intervention at all. Programs from the government that directly help people with disability can also massive improve their quality of life and even help them get back into the workforce, expanding the disability program for many who struggle with the ability to properly work or provide for themselves can also show how proper systems in place like social security for people with disabilities can be applied to everyone to also give them a safety net.

While solutions to poverty and homelessness aren’t simple, direct action from the government is always a good step to combating issues for Americans trying to live above the poverty line with a roof above their heads. The United States would not only see a benefit from tackling poverty through the quality of life being raised but would also see a massive improvement in the economy. Early intervention and prevention would help stop many who have low income from skidding below the poverty line and also help combat the social issues that plague many trying to keep their families afloat. I believe that by tackling poverty and homelessness in America directly you will also see a massive benefit in the economy and bring down inflation and rates across the board.

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