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What is the biggest cause of homelessness?


Sleeping on paper and pavement in 40 degrees. Photo Graf Spee/Foter/CC BY

Sleeping on paper and pavement in 40 degrees. Photo Graf Spee/Foter/CC BY

It seems we regularly hear calls by activists and politicians to end homelessness and frankly governments have been trying to do it for years, without success. To effectively deal with homelessness, you have to find its cause and cut it off at the root.

I was surprised, and then I wasn’t, when I read Emma Woolley’s article on her thoughts on the reasons for homelessness. Woolley writes for the Canadian arm of Homeless Hub that looks for solutions for homelessness.

Many people point to the obvious — job loss, drug and alcohol addictions and mental illness as key reasons for homelessness — and though these are major contributors, oddly those who specialize in the care of homeless people do not consider them as the number one reason for homelessness.

In her article What are the statistics on homelessness due to divorce?, Woolley pointed to two organizations Homeless Link and Crisis who both stated divorce or relationship breakdown was the number one cause homelessness. This can be between spouses or children and the family resulting in one or more members living on the streets.

Woolley also pointed to a study by the government of Canada stating divorce is one of the “key factors” contributing to homelessness. And that study cited stats that after a divorce 40% of women are poorer and three times more vulnerable to becoming homeless.

In particular those over 65 were susceptible to homelessness if divorced. A study conducted in 2004 in the United Kingdom showed that divorce was  a major contributor to homelessness for people over 50.

Though job loss is obviously a major cause of homelessness, if a family is still intact they can usually hold it together.  Unfortunately, divorce is a two-headed monster. Not only does it affect a person’s economic well being, but has a traumatic emotional impact as well and together these two can trigger a life on the streets.

And in instances of remarriage we often hear of conflicts with children and step parents leading to separation.

Though there are a many contributing factors to homelessness such as job loss and addictions — alcohol or drugs — one needs to wonder if divorce in any way impacts these areas as well?

Several studies suggest it does:

Divorce and alcohol

A study out of England showed that the chances of teenage girls from divorced or single parent families having an alcohol problem were nearly double those coming from families with both biological spouses present — 17.6% compared to 9.2%

Divorce and drugs

Another study, Teenage Family Life, lifestyles and life chances, revealed that boys aged 15 from single-parent or divorced homes are over twice as likely to have problems with drugs than those from intact families — 22.5% compared to just 10.8%.

Divorce and education

Other causes of homelessness includes lack of education which affects job opportunities. The same study out of England mentioned in my previous point showed that 16-year-olds  from divorced or single parent homes are twice as likely not to finish high school than those from families with both biological parents present.

Divorce and joblessness

Of course job loss and lack of work is another major cause of homelessness. What is disturbing is that a study out of England, The legacy of parental divorce, showed that by age 33 men from divorced homes are twice as likely to be unemployed than those who came from homes with both parents — 14% compared to 7%.

Divorce and mental illness

A study out of Sweden revealed that divorce increased a person’s chances of having mental health issues by 56% and a second study out of England said that nearly 25% of children from divorced families will suffer prolonged emotional and behavioral problems compared to just 10% of adult children from families with both parents.

These numbers are staggering. What are the chances of children of divorced or single parent homes not being affected by at least one of the major areas contributing to homelessness.

When God looks down on the streets of North America, Latin America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia we can better understand His thundering denunciation in Malachi:

 “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel (Malachi 2:16 NASV)

Sources:

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3 Comments

  1. Erik w. says

    This is utterly tragic. Divorce causes such carnage. Of course, the most effective way to avoid divorce is to avoid marriage in the first place.

    Like

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