The recent Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness found 43 area people homeless. Clearly, some of the reasons for not being able to find housing, as the study listed, include obvious ones such as the cost of housing and rental availability.
However, what about the reasons such as medical concerns, addictions and family conflict? Of note, some of the respondents under the age of 18 indicated abuse as the primary factor for leaving their previous home.
In an Urban Institute report, researcher Martha Burt noted that “virtually every study shows that adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are strong predictors of homelessness.” These traumatic experiences include physical, psychological and sexual abuse, household substance abuse, domestic violence, family mental illness and the loss of a parent.
The ACE Study found more smoking, more obesity, less exercise, more alcohol and drug use, and fewer preventive health visits in adults who had experienced child abuse. Missed work, unemployment, marital relationship dysfunction, and increased reliance upon social support also correlate with traumatic histories.
From a psychological perspective, trauma survivors often lead a life filled with fears, anxieties, uncertainties and alienation attributing to a loss of their sense of self and where they fit in.
At times, we often feel as if we do not belong where we are and yearn for a better place. The nostalgic longing-for-home theme is archetypal and has deep psychological meaning. It resonates with poet John Newman’s thought, “The night is dark, and I am far from home.”
In depth psychology, the image of home is a symbol of our self. The condition of the house in a dream image indicates the state of our psychic home. Whose house are we occupying and what is going on in it?
Our waking house can also be examined symbolically. What is the condition of your current living environment? You may be contemplating renovating the kitchen or sorting through the cluttered basement.
We often have difficulty acknowledging homelessness and interacting with homeless people.
R. C. Coates, author of The Street is Not a Home, suggested that the homeless represent “the shadow, the darker, the harsher side of life and humanity.” It is a side which many people find uncomfortable.
Homelessness evokes our fears of abandonment and social alienation, the loss of family and government support, and the lack of autonomy. Our worst fantasies may involve the loss of our money, status and material belongings. How would I survive? Who would look after me?
Homelessness also represents the shadow side of society. It shows the over-valuing of money and possessions. It also reveals negative attitudes towards children and people with mental health and addiction issues.
Although Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) uses a housing-first approach, the program acknowledges, “We need to better understand the situation, the underlying causes and the supports needed.” Indeed, as the local Task Force recommended, solving homelessness is a two-pronged approach – the provision of housing and the necessary support services – the merging of home with soul.