This is a difficult subject to write about because I don’t want to stereotype a group of people nor do I want to oversimplify an issue. The causes of homelessness are complicated to say the least. When you look at someone who is homeless and living on the street keep in mind that you are looking at the end result of a long list of events that have led up to what you see. In other words, you see the cover of the book but it is what is inside the book that you really need to see.
To start with the basic cause of homelessness is lack of income to support a home or apartment. This is simple. The harder question is why is a persons income too low to afford basic shelter. Sometimes the reason is the loss of a job. In a bad economy this happens quite often. Sometimes it is a mental breakdown or a handicap. Abuse, natural disasters and sickness also displace people from their homes. If these things are a persons only problem then they will normally only be homeless for a short time. Lets call this short term homelessness.
How about long term homelessness? What causes people to be on the streets for months or years? I wish this was not true but in many cases the reason is “addiction”. Addiction destroys everything it touches and is in my experience the number one cause of long term homelessness.
To be addicted simply means that you can’t stop doing something. Some addictions are worse than others and some people can function with an addiction while others are consumed by it. Suffice it to say that when you add a substance abuse problem to other issues, the result often lands you on the street. Once you are there, an addiction will do everything it can do keep you there.
Here is the problem. It is easy to turn your back on a person because they are an addict. It seems like the obvious solution to their problem is to simply stop drinking or stop taking drugs. I will tell you a secret. That is exactly what most addicts want to do. They just do not know how. People with addiction problems need a friend and they need help. Most need to be in a program to get clean and get their life back on track. I have found that many people have given up trying to get better and have resigned themselves to a life of misery. I believe that God is able to give a hopeless person hope and is able to do the seemingly impossible. But he wants and needs you and I to reach out on his behalf to the hurting of this world. If we don’t then who will.