How Homelessness Affects Millions of People Globally

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In the world today there is an abundance of global issues that affect thousands if not millions daily. The most prevalent and important issues to me are homelessness, climate change, and racism. The topic I am choosing to research is homelessness. Cultural anthropology can help me research all the different aspects of homelessness and why the rate continues to rise globally.

Homelessness is defined as “when a person lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, and if they sleep in a shelter designated for temporary living accommodations or in places not designated for human habitation.” Seventeen out of every 10,000 people in the united states alone are experiencing homelessness every night and the main question I want to ask why does this rate continue to grow and what are the statistics of homelessness across America. In Los Angeles, California 66,000 people do not get the luxury to go home to a warm bed, a place where they can prepare their meals, and just have space where others can come. That number is growing at a staggering rate, especially with the issues in today’s society regarding the covid-19 pandemic the number of people that are without shelter continues to rise.

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It is very effortless to judge people from the outside especially since we cannot live a day in someone else life or in their shoes but the sad reality is some people are genuinely dealt the short end of the stick. Yes, some individuals end up becoming homeless due to careless decisions and mistakes that they end up making but that is not the case for everyone. There is a very serious problem in recognizing homelessness in America with people growing up constantly being desensitized to the matter because it is seen on the daily. I hope to learn how can more fortunate individuals effectively give back that is the most beneficial for themselves and the people they are helping.

Cultural anthropologists are “interested in learning about the cultural aspects of human societies all over the world. They usually focus their research on such things as the social and political organizations, marriage patterns and kinship systems, subsistence and economic patterns, and religious beliefs of different societies. Most cultural anthropologists study contemporary societies rather than ancient ones. Through the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, the peoples who primarily interested cultural anthropologists were those who lived in small-scale, isolated societies with cultures that were very different from those of Europeans and European Americans.” I would use cultural anthropologists to help me further my understanding of the economic and social aspects of homelessness. What is the main reason why people end up being homeless? Are there similarities other than not having a home or adequate income that link homeless individuals together?

The population I would plan to work with would be the city of Los Angles in California. As I stated early there are 66,000 individuals who are considered homeless. That may not seem like a huge number to some but the number of homeless and rate of homelessness to population increases every single year. A study was done in 2019 that from the previous year the city saw an increase in homelessness by 12.7% and in 2020 that rate grew to a 14.2% increase. My plan of action would be to go around the city visit homeless shelters and just talk to the individuals and hear about their life stories. I would want to record some of the information I would hear to see if there were social or economic variables that linked individuals to another. At the end of the day, 99% of individuals do not live their life and plan to become homeless or without any source of income. I feel that in some instances there are definitely scenarios where drugs and alcohol play a role in contributing to the homelessness rate. But there are also factors that contribute to homelessness that are out of a person’s control such as mental illness or economic issues. A person could have a severe mental illness and not have any family members to help guide them which in return could prohibit them from getting a job and being able to house themselves. In “Braving the Street: The Anthropology of Homelessness” Irene Glasser and Rae Bridgman discuss how anthropology studies have helped people further their understanding of homelessness.

In chapter 4 the authors state that “anthropology's greatest contribution to our knowledge of homelessness has been a description and understanding of the methods of adaptation and survival in the life on the streets and in the shelters. Anthropologists see the street in a metaphorical stance as one if he sites for the kinds of adaptations to contemporary life that some homeless people make.”

Homelessness affects millions of people globally and has many negative stigmatizims regarding the topic. Ultimately no one asks to become homeless or wants to not be able to go to a warm house at night. I feel if more people asked questions that had positive intentions regarding the situation more could be done to help people with their challenging situation. Anthropology helps allow us to go deeper into this problem and understand different variables and scenarios that contribute to the global issue that is homelessness.  

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