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Reasons Why We Should Help the Homeless

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Society’s harmful stigmatization of homelessness is evident in everyday life, including avoidance of homeless (Phelan et al., 1997). The public majority assume the reasoning behind homelessness is due to factors including substance abuse when the public does not understand or empathize with alternative underlying causes. The homeless are therefore socially excluded from society. The importance of this research is to understand how this negative stigma impacts an individual’s psychological well-being and whether this is a barrier to reducing homelessness.

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It is evident Noah is emphasizing how society’s negative perceptions lead to mental instability, which can lead to homelessness. Kidd (2007) supported this statement, implying psychological well-being is damaged by negative judgment. Noah states how the negative treatment the public place on homeless victims minimizes their hopes of being given another chance. The evidence from Noah suggests a continuation of this discrimination is a barrier to reducing homelessness as it prevents access to services that could help them get back on their feet. Furthermore, it appears many people initially enter street life with poor psychological well-being, demonstrating the difficulty escaping once they fall into this repetitive cycle. The Difluences of ‘uhh’ suggest the damaging impact on his personal mental health. There is an indication of anxiety and great difficulty in articulating his emotions, alongside reflecting on past experiences of discrimination and feeling mentally unstable. Fichter & Quadflieg (1999) showed anxiety was higher in homeless alcoholics. This suggests alcohol is used as a means of coping with stress, however damages their mental health over time and therefore is a barrier to seeking help. Furthermore, suggestions of emotional suffering leading to poor psychological well-being, such as low self-esteem, explain why he is still homeless. The Equity theory (Walster, Walster & Berscheid, 1978) implies self-esteem can be negatively affected by social stigmatization. Therefore, the rates of increasing homelessness could be due to society’s discrimination leading victims to feel less motivated, preventing them from improving their lives.

Nathan’s realization of society’s discrimination is apparent. Although Nathan relates it to being ‘garbage on the streets, there is an element of uncertainty – he knows his thoughts on homelessness are true yet seeks reassurance as he understands his perceptions are uncommon with the public majority. Research associated with this demonstrated when individuals are stigmatized for factors like substance abuse, a more deteriorating effect occurs on mental health due to being stigmatized for something uncontrollable, for example, different race (Schmitt, Branscombe, Postmes & Garcia, 2014) as they perceive it to be more genuine (Rodin, Price, Sanchez & McElligot., 1989). This results in creating personal negative perceptions and thus leads to poor psychological well-being (Rodin et al., 1989). Using language like ‘you know’ indicates he is trying to raise awareness of misconceptions surrounding homelessness and how many homeless individuals are good people, suggesting he is struggling mentally by using this as a cry for help. Furthermore, the evidence implies he is reflecting on unpleasant past experiences, which has led him to back down and accept them. This suggests his lack of confidence in escaping homelessness by trying to convince himself, however understands society’s view will never change. Therefore, the way he perceives life is very doubtful, leading him to feel inferior and thus will have damaged his self-esteem, leading to psychological well-being.

Here, Karl describes life on the streets as very stressful and it is apparent this leads to poor psychological well-being as many result in feelings of depression. Beck’s cognitive triad theory explains how negative views of the self, the world, and the future can lead to depression (Clak & Beck, 1999). This shows the influence of society’s perceptions causes victims of homelessness to feel depressed as it drives them to create a negative view of themselves and the world (Clak & Beck, 1999). Additionally, Karl explains how it affects everyone and society is not empathetic of the fact many homeless victims have no choice of resorting to street living. These feelings of depression can lead them to feel inferior and worthless which can, in turn, contribute to the rise in homelessness as society’s judgments act as a barrier from escaping the streets. This implies how he views life as emotionally difficult and repetition of ‘uhh’ suggests his confusion for understanding why more cannot be done to help homelessness.

Karl continues to describe how members of the public are judgemental and do not want anything to do with homeless people. This may lead Karl to feel insignificant, demonstrating the difficulty for victims attempting to do better for themselves as society restrict them. Research has demonstrated this through findings indicating discrimination against homelessness acts as a barrier by preventing social interactions required for good mental well-being (Johnstone, Jetten, Dingle & Walter, 2015). This leads to isolation from society and thus poor mental health (Johnstone et al., 2015). However, research only studied the effects of group stigma without considering whether the effects on psychological well-being are the same when it is only one individual stigmatizing against them. Additionally, Karl implies society is making the situation worse by psychologically affecting their mentality. Although society complains about homelessness being a social issue, this questions the discrimination against them increasing difficulty for reducing homelessness altogether.

Here, Darren describes how some people on the streets have been homeless for a very long time, however they have learned to accept it. This suggests they have realized that the way society treats them, and the repetitive cycles of daily rejection, have led them to negative perceptions themselves, creating poor psychological well-being. Biswas-Diener & Diener (2006) found life satisfaction ratings in homeless individuals were lower than non-homeless individuals, supporting the interpretation of Darren’s claims as it suggests the psychological well-being of those in poverty is very poor. The fact Darren cannot accept it suggests he still feels an element of hope in escaping. However, it questions whether the way society makes homeless people feel and believe they are worthless suggests this hope may lead to disappointment. This in turn may result in low confidence and well-being and could prevent him from getting back on his feet. Lyubomirsky (2001) supported this, suggesting good mental health is important for motivation and having positive self-regard – without this, negative emotions arise and therefore decrease motivation in an individual. This shows how homeless victims cannot escape homelessness because of the negative stigma which causes negative self-perceptions and thus an inability to seek help.

This qualitative research is useful in allowing society to understand the experiences homeless people face. It reveals the damaging effect of society’s negative judgments and stigma on the psychological well-being of homeless people and how this should be reduced to minimize homelessness rates. To improve this, the government should provide services that enhance a sense of group belongingness where homeless people can go to feel included within society. Furthermore, future research should investigate the underlying causes of social exclusion. Additionally, work should be conducted in schools for education on this topic in the hope to make young people aware of the social isolation homeless victims face which prevents them from escaping homelessness.

Conclusion

Overall, experiences of homelessness and the stigma surrounding it have been shown to have detrimental effects on an individual’s psychological well-being. Furthermore, this has been understood to cause mental disorders including low self-esteem, increased depression, and anxiety (Kidd, 2007). Research has demonstrated poor mental health leads an individual to have a lack of motivation as well as feeling too anxious to seek any help. Furthermore, equity theory (Walster et al., 1978) and the cognitive triad (Clak & Beck, 1999) indicate how negative perceptions of oneself can lead to low self-esteem and depression. This leads to cause of the inability to be optimistic about themselves and the world, preventing escaping homelessness, therefore showing how society’s negative judgments are in fact contributing to homelessness. Participants have stated themselves that mental instability has led to homelessness and it is an underlying cause of this cycle of entrapment. This shows the novelty of research findings as it has not yet been discussed in previous research.  

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