The city streets of America’s urban metropolises have remained crowded with homeless men and women for decades. Government agencies, religious organizations, and community outreach programs have aided in the health and welfare of the homeless but none have solved the problem or offered any long-term answers to homelessness. At the root of the issue lie mental illness concerns, government bureaucracy, and humanitarian apathy towards a national problem that is often easier to turn away from than to look straight in the eyes of the homeless for the answer. The solution appears to lie somewhere between the hands of the caring and the powers of government. An unprecedented trend is emerging in America to merge the division between church and state and work towards the mutual goals of solving social problems as a united force.
The magnitude of the problem of homelessness in America is incontrovertible. According to the Homes for Homeless organization:
- The typical homeless family is a 20-year-old mother with children under the age of 6 (in the early 80's it consisted of a middle aged woman with adolescent children).
- Today's homeless mother has probably never been married, has an incomplete education, and has never been employed.
- 22% of homeless mothers grew up in foster care.
- 22% reported they lived in shelters as a child.
- 80% of homeless families moved two or more times before becoming homeless.
- 63% doubled up with friends or relatives before becoming homeless.
The need for affordable housing reaches into the middle class, as the line between poverty and survival becomes blurred. Take for example the cost of housing in San Francisco. The Bay Area is a classic example of the need to serve people above and below the poverty line. According to Davis, federal guidelines assert that no more than 30 percent of a person’s income should go for housing. A household earning $18,000 a year would then spend $450 a month on housing. However, the median rent in San Francisco is $700, illustrating the need for affordable housing above low-income standards. These numbers cut across race lines and also illustrate the state of homelessness among racial discrimination lines. According to U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness (based on statistics from 26 cities between November 1, 1992 and October 31, 1993) and data from Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the homeless.