Causes of homelessness

Homelessness is usually a gradual process, unless a person’s house is destroyed by fire or other calamity

Clearwater Homelessness Partnering Strategy

How do people become homeless? It certainly is not because they choose homelessness as a good way to spend their lives. Homelessness is usually a gradual process, unless a person’s house is destroyed by fire or other calamity. Even people who are employed can be just one or two paychecks from being homeless.

Normally it’s not just one factor involved in causing homelessness; rather, it’s usually a combination of factors that brings someone to that point. Some of these factors include poverty, senior citizens on fixed incomes who face a rent or tax increase, and serious mental illness which can create barriers to both employment and housing. The closing of Riverview Hospital several years ago put a large population of the mentally ill into communities where services to help them may be few and far between.

Lack of affordable housing and jobs has created an interesting conundrum in Clearwater. In the summer there are more jobs but fewer places to live because of an influx of summer residents. In the winter there are more places to rent as the summer crowd has moved to warmer climates but without jobs, many people can’t take advantage of the availability of housing.

There are also social reasons for homelessness. Domestic violence and divorce drive many people out of their homes and, with children involved, it can be very difficult to find other affordable housing. A traumatic event such as the death or illness of a family member can also put a family at risk of homelessness, possibly due to losing a wage earner or if too much time is needed to care for a sick family member to hold down a job.

Addictions to substances, alcohol or gambling, especially when coupled with poverty, make it difficult to find and maintain appropriate housing. However, studies have shown that the high rate of addictions among the homeless may be more of a method of coping with their situation rather than a cause.

Young people have some unique causes for homelessness. These causes can include the family not accepting the youth’s sexual orientation, physical, mental or sexual abuse that drives them from the home, unsuitable foster care, abuse of alcohol or drug abuse by one or both of the parents, and pregnancy. Even working youth can be homeless as wages for young people are often very low.

As discussed in last week’s article, for most people who become homeless, it is just a temporary situation while they sort out the problems that brought them to a state of homelessness. For others such as our seniors or those dealing with mental illness,  it can be a chronic issue but either way we need to understand the causes of homelessness in Clearwater in order to create solutions to the problem.


For more information call Charlotte or Wendy 250.674.3530.