Homelessness – What is it, definition and concept

Homelessness is a situation experienced by a person, characterized by not being able to afford the most basic needs, mainly with regard to housing, food, water and sanitation, among others.

That is, the person who suffers from indigence, the indigent, cannot provide himself with the goods that we understand as the most basic. These are housing, food and clothing. These people, in the best of cases, survive thanks to alms. Or also by different charity organizations such as soup kitchens or hostels.

Broadly speaking, we can say that indigence is synonymous with poverty. Although each of the terms refers to different things and full of nuances. Two great details must be highlighted in the definition of indigence.

In the first place, the fact that a person cannot afford the most basic goods to live on does not automatically make him or her indigent. They may be provided by someone else. This is the case of a large percentage of the population, above all, of those people who do not have a job even though they are within the active population. In these situations, it is the individual’s partner or parents who can afford their day-to-day life and more basic goods, such as shelter or food.

The other great nuance is that indigence is usually distinguished from poverty mainly in developed or developing countries. In a third world country, it is common for the majority of the population to be below the poverty line, leading a very rudimentary lifestyle. On the other hand, in countries with a certain standard of living, the small percentage of people living in extreme poverty is found without a roof under which to take refuge. Thus, the homeless normally live on the streets, parks, bridges and other public places.

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How is homelessness measured?

The organisms in charge of measuring indigence do it through different ways. The first thing to keep in mind is that, for its measurement, indigence is equivalent to extreme poverty, with which we have to look for the meters of the latter.

On the one hand, we have the MPI (Multidimensional Poverty Index). This not only uses income, but also includes other basic aspects in the development of any person, such as education, health and standard of living.

On the other hand, there is the AROPE indicator, but this does not directly measure poverty or indigence, but is dedicated to the risk of poverty or suffering social exclusion. That is why in developed countries this index is higher than the previous one. This index is divided into three sub-indicators: at-risk-of-poverty rate after social transfers; severe material lack of assets; and households with very low labor intensity.

Causes of homelessness

Homelessness, defined as we did at the beginning, as a situation suffered by those people who cannot afford a minimum standard of living in developed or developing countries, has various causes; from structural family problems to individual situations.

It may be that the standard of living of the family of the indigent was so low that it could not provide them with studies or any type of access to life in society. This can happen in these types of families or in the case of orphans or homes with a lot of domestic violence. Or it may be that the parents and their close family were convicts, people with drug addiction problems or another type of unfavorable situation.

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But, not only is homelessness suffered for these reasons, the person in question may have had a bad time in life for other reasons, having access, at the time, to all the available tools. This may be due to family problems, gambling, drug issues or not finding a position in the job market.

Measures against homelessness

To alleviate the serious situation in which the homeless find themselves, there are some mechanisms, just as other types of policies could be promoted. There are soup kitchens and hostels to spend the night. All this promoted by organizations such as Cáritas or other religious initiatives. Also, the States have some income and aid for insertion, such as housing rental aid.

Other measures could also be developed to facilitate these people’s access to the labor market, which is how the indigent could truly leave this situation. Along these lines, in Spain, two young people had the idea of ​​creating a social network that would connect entrepreneurs with homeless people, thus helping some people to change their lives.

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