When you walk down the streets of American cities and towns do you notice folks without a home are male or female more often? The problem of homelessness is particularly heart-wrenching for children. The common wisdom is that the kids are most often with their mom and men make up a majority of the single homeless. After a period of economic melt-down the number of homeless has increased dramatically and this is an issue worth talking about.
The National Coalition for the Homeless is one of the major homeless advocacy groups in the United States, and as it happens they have a fact sheet on who is homeless.
Most studies show that single homeless adults are more likely to be male than female. In 2007, a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that of the population surveyed 35% of the homeless people who are members of households with children are male while 65% of these people are females. However, 67.5% of the single homeless population is male, and it is this single population that makes up 76% of the homeless populations surveyed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2007).
First, it is necessary to consider aspects of the male gender role that might make men more likely to be homeless: for instance, men’s greater likelihood of being veterans, or the tendency of men to not seek treatment for their mental illnesses and substance abuse. Looking at it without the gender lens risks missing important aspects of gender.
Second, it is necessary not to erase the existence of women who are homeless. Even though men are more likely to be homeless, homelessness is a lot more gender equal than a lot of people present it. The primary causes of homelessness– poverty, lack of affordable housing, unemployment– affect everyone, regardless of gender. A large percentage of the increase in homeless families is probably caused by the recession: unemployment and lack of affordable housing were the two most commonly cited causes of the increase in homeless families.
Third, it is important to note that there may be reasons why women are more likely to be housed than men that still don’t mean the women are in a particularly good situation. For instance, women are more likely to participate in survival sex in exchange for housing. “Survival sex or homelessness,” however, is one of those dilemmas that really leaves no one in a particularly good situation.
What do you think?
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