General Question

Emeraldisles5's avatar

How is homelessness a choice?

Asked by Emeraldisles5 (160 points ) December 8th, 2013

I am curious to see those who think it is a choice when it can be circumstance. Why do people think there are lots of resources out there, when there aren’t?

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30 Answers

Seek's avatar

In some instances it is a choice, but that choice is based on treatable mental conditions.

For example, some Vietnam Veterans came home with PTSD so severe it gave them extreme agoraphobia and they could not bear to live indoors. I saw a documentary in which they interviewed a couple of guys who lived outdoors in a Canadian forest because anything with walls scared the hell out of them.

They were college students drafted into a war they didn’t agree with, forced to experience horrors beyond all imagining, and sent home afterward with no support, their lives permanently destroyed before they were old enough to legally buy a beer.

People like to think there are resources because it makes them feel better. If they keep telling themselves that the guy panhandling for quarters chose to be homeless, chose to be an alcoholic, and that his mental illness is a result of drug use and not genetics or illness, they feel justified in not providing the help they would hope for themselves, were they trapped in such a hopeless situation.

Even when some people contribute money for charitable causes, they don’t give to those who need the help – they give to a large, well funded organization with massive overhead costs, that may distribute some of that contribution to smaller organizations with massive overhead costs, and hopefully enough of that contribution will trickle down so that the poor panhandler’s kids can get a used jacket in time for the winter snowstorms. Maybe.

BosM's avatar

If someone really believes that then I have to believe it’s their conscience rationalizing it to alleviate feelings of guilt or helplessness. Shelter is a basic human need, rationalizing it away does not solve the problem.

Coloma's avatar

Agreed with both of you ^^^^.

How is losing ones job, falling ill or having no family to help a “choice?”
No, most homelessness is economically driven and/or due to mental illness that prevents someone from keeping a job. This economy has flat lined me the last 3 years and believe me, if I end up homeless it will not be a choice, it will be because I can’t find decent paying, sustainable work and my savings are exhausted.

This is the economic shit storm a lot of people are weathering this past number of years now.
5–6 years ago I had 2 jobs I loved, zero debt and 130k in the bank.
Now I have zero savings, 13k in debt and am making ⅓rd of what I was. I am turning 54 in a few weeks and homelessness is indeed, a very frightening possibility for me.
Right, I chose to lose my jobs, live off my savings for the better part of 3 years and can’t wait to be homeless in my middle age. How fun will that be! Pffft!

tomathon's avatar

Homelessness is a choice because all humans are conscious. As a conscious person, you make your choices. Those choices lead you to take some type of actions. Your actions created certain foreseen/unforeseen events. The end result of those events determines whether the choice and action you made was good or bad. The intention is meaningless.

DWW25921's avatar

I personally know a guy who left his wife to go live in the woods about a town away. It really depends on circumstances and things. I don’t believe it’s a choice for most people but I wouldn’t generalize as I reckon some do choose to go that route.

lynfromnm's avatar

I work for a non-profit agency that advocates for the rights of people who have disabilities. A while ago, a man who had been in detox called us. The hospital wouldn’t release him because he had no home and it was cold weather. Our advocate went to check it out, and the man was correct that the facility had no right to keep him against his will. The man explained that he doesn’t want a home, and turned away our offers to connect him with various social services agencies to provide housing, clothing, meds and so on. He insisted he wanted to leave and the facility had to release him. It was entirely his choice, as it should be. People have the right to ask against their own best interest.

lynfromnm's avatar

Oops. *act against their own self-interest.

1TubeGuru's avatar

I would venture to guess that the percentage of homeless people who make a conscious choice to live without the benefit of shelter is very low.

Coloma's avatar

I agree it CAN be a choice, but in my case, I did not choose the collapse of this economy, I did not choose the dwindling interest rates, losing my jobs due to the economic collapse, but yes, I did choose to not go seek work at fucking McDonalds. I did choose to hold out for something that was a refection of my intelligence, talent, experience and better pay than minimum wage.
So shoot me! lol

Seek's avatar

Besides, working at McDonald’s isn’t going to keep anyone from homelessness.

Coloma's avatar

^^^ Exactly!

emjay's avatar

Presently I identify myself as homeless. I did not choose to be in this situation, but I am doing everything I can to find a home ASAP. IT IS, the result of choices that I made that did not achieve the end result I had planned on. Life happens, and some times not the way we want it to. It may not always be your choice to BE homeless, but it might be your choice to STAY homeless.

Coloma's avatar

@emjay Well said, good luck in pulling yourself out of the hole.
I agree we all make certain choices that lead to end results, but, I also agree “shit happens” regardless of the best laid plans.
I had a great plan in place and it was working for me just fine until the economy tanked.

MadMadMax's avatar

Mental illness aside. I know that is an issue but:

I also know that there are homeless families – both parents work at min wage jobs – and they seek shelters to stay at night because rent for even modest apartments is beyond their means.

I am not talking about living in huge urban centers like NYC where the rent is out of this world – I’m talking about little cities in New England.

The working poor are a reality and there are married working poor with one or two kids who just can’t afford the cost of food, reasonable expenses AND pay for rent.

stanleybmanly's avatar

BosM hit the nail on the head. The argument is convenient for those without a conscience, and really handy for those who would prefer to ignore what smattering of a conscience might yet remain. It would be rather convenient lf we as a society can be led to accept that rampant poverty in this country is one of those circumstances (like bad weather or lightning strikes) over which we can have little control. Those of us here of a certain age can remember an era before the Reagan administration when armies of homeless people didn’t roam the streets of the nation’s cities. Back then there were skid row districts of winos and punch drunk ex-boxers, and most middle and working class neighborhoods might possess one or 2 derelicts that residents and merchants alike would loosely look out for and even look after. Ronald Reagan began the trend of boarding up the nation’s horror show state mental institutions while governor of California. He did so with the promise of community based small occupancy homes for those not judged dangerous, a promise quickly dropped at the earliest opportunity. It was a template followed nationwide by state and municipal governments, and on his accession to the throne, Reagan wasted no time getting down to the business of slashing federal housing subsidies for the mentally disabled. So now we live in a nation of vacant eyed abandoned souls wandering our streets and talking to parking meters. And sure enough, after forty years, we’ve come to accept that this is “just the way things are”. No one even bothers to wonder or speculate on the question of why it should be necessary for legions of homeless people to wander the streets in a nation with the wealth of the United States.

Emeraldisles5's avatar

Debt is prison and yes on all accounts.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

If by choice you mean, everyone makes choices in life that lead them down certain paths and those paths eventually lead to something, such as homelessness, then yes it’s a “choice”. I think many things can be avoided with proper planning but there are always some unfortunate circumstances that leave someone with very limited choice.

My family is currently faced with a choice. My boyfriend lost his job very unexpectedly. We have no savings. He’s applied to many jobs with no luck yet. We now have a choice. We either stay in our house until we get evicted, become homeless, or we move in with my mother until we are back on our feet again. We are choosing my mother. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have family to rely on. So if we had absolutely nobody to help, I suppose we would have to stay until we were evicted. And if we still had no income at that point (doubtful), I would look for shelters or government help. Becoming homeless with a 2 year old child would obviously be the last resort. I feel I would do almost anything to avoid that situation.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I was homeless, and it was not by choice. The help available at the time had waiting lists years long, and much of it was only available to those with criminal records. There was no healthcare available at the time, so even if I was mentally ill, there wasn’t anything. It was very hard. It changed the way I perceive the world forever.

josie's avatar

If you have no home, nor means to achieve one, what other choice is there?

Smitha's avatar

Staying homeless is not always a choice A very small percentage of people who choose a life freedom have infact decided to remain homeless by choice, because shelters provide all their needs. Majority are people who do not consciously choose to be homeless. It is a result of situations where they don’t know how to get themselves out of it. A great number of homeless people have mental illness. Many of them have even tried to get themselves back on their feet.

YARNLADY's avatar

Even low wage earners can easily find a place to live by sharing an apartment or renting a room in a home.

Out of the thousand chronically homeless in our city, there are many dozens of people who choose to live outside, or homeless.

johnpowell's avatar

I found myself in a hole that spiraled. Shoes with holes, no clothes for job hunting, no real place to take a shower, no phone, no address. This can make finding a job nearly impossible. And then toss in the hours spent a day just trying to come up food. I couldn’t afford food, I wasn’t going to waste what little money I had on bus fare to apply at places that would toss my application before reading it because I looked and felt like shit.

It is easy to hit a point where McDonalds won’t hire you. Why should they, a pretty blonde in high school just applied too.

YARNLADY's avatar

@johnpowell My brother manager to support himself and give to others throughout his life in spite of being schizophenic. His personal appreance and bechavior was far from socially acceptable, yet he found a way. He picked items out of the trash and stood on the street and sold them for money. He picked food out of the trash, or asked merchants for left over/outdated food and fed himself and many other people.

My Uncle lived off the land (in the 1950’s and 1960’s), fishing, growing a small garden and living under the bushes, in the Arizona mountains.

I had a roomer who glued pieces of tires he found on the road to fix the holes in his shoes. He got the glue by asking (begging) for it. I personally have put duct tape on the soles of my shoes to make them last longer.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

There are choices, and then there are choices of another sort. When a teen is nearing their high school career, and choosing which college to attend, well now, there’s delicacy. There are lots of good choices. Things to be considered are; how the school handles your chosen major, on campus housing availability/suitability, types of entertainment offered by the surrounding community. Upon graduadtion, perhaps the choices include jobs which pay well, but exist somewhere which does not appeal. Whatever you choose, you are happy, until…. now you are faced with another sort of choice. Maybe you are expected to do something illegal, or against your basic moral upbringing. Maybe your boss wants sexual involvement, or you will face termination, discredit, even more. Your choices lead you to a point where you are unemployed, and unhappy, but you are proud of having taken a stand, and deep inside you believe your next job will be suitable for just the sort of person you are. Weeks become months. Bills have piled up, and your kids are mad because they get teased at school about wearing $3.00 shoes you got lucky enough to find in all their sizes at a grocery store. You c an’t face them when they get home today, because you will have to tell them the power was shut off and you got an eviction notice. You ask your mother if you and the kids could stay with her for a while until you can find another job. She starts right in with, “Well, I knew something like this was coming. You had a perfectly good job which you saw fit to leave. I know what you said about the boss, but you had a choice you could have just said no.” You know you don’t want to take your kids to a shelter, but you sure don’t need to have them hearing lots of bad attitude about you every day from someone who is supposed to believe in you. CHOICES!
People don’t exactly choose homelssness, they choose to survive, in spite of all the things which led them along to this awful set of choices. Is homelessness a choice, almost always. did the homeless person have a choice, almost never. When we can make sense of that, we might start doing the right thing for homeless people. Are there people who take advantage of what does exist for help? Sure. There are opportunists everywhere, at every level and faction of society. Cutting aid because of them is what we call throwing the baby out with the bath water.
People who are no longer homeless should not be ashamed for what they’ve been through, but rather, proud of what they managed to accomplish since.
The sixties saw a variety of demonstrations, enacted for the greater good; sit ins, sleep ins, marches. Nowadays, it’s the same thing, except not organized in groups,and instead of being called sleep ins, it’s called sleeping out. It is a testament to our persistence in ignoring the true lack in our social and financial structuring. Turning a blind eye to our country’s social ills causes things to burp, and leave decent people struggling to feed themslves and their children. When asking someone why they are homeless, almost all of them say, “Well, it was a chain of things.”

johnpowell's avatar

@YARNLADY .. I’m not really sure why you replied to me. I was pretty much talking about getting out of the homeless trap and you seem to be talking about dealing with it.

YARNLADY's avatar

@johnpowell My point is that people make choices about their life every day, some choose to believe they are helpless and some choose to help themselves.

trailsillustrated's avatar

It’s really random. Maybe in some parts of the US you can pick stuff out of the trash and sell it, and get out of date food without getting chased off or arrested. In some parts of the US, you cannot do this stuff, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways. I was homeless, and have written here about my experiences. It’s not always by choice, and in some places you must be a very hard nut to survive it. Very hard, indeed, Until you have personally experienced it, it’s really hard to discuss whether or not it’s a choice. The homeless discussion will go on and on, and it’s complex and the word’ choice’ doesn’t really matter.

WestRiverrat's avatar

For a period in my life my home was a lean to over a sleeping bag in a national forest, it was by choice. I didn’t consider myself homeless, but the government did.

snowberry's avatar

I just noticed this question, and I’m not reading the many comments above, but No discussion about homelessness would be complete without reading The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Glass_Castle_Study_Guide/Glass_Castle_Walls_Summary01.html

ISmart's avatar

being homeless is not a choice but living homeless is. I know a few people that by choice they want to live on the street to avoid responsibility for bills.

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