The Homeless Population: 189 (Issues)

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  1. Yale Daily News
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  3. Background

The family of the participants had been inserted in a social segment of extreme poverty for many generations, performing low-income jobs, living in areas of social vulnerability, and facing economic hardship and cultural, social and health problems. My father died because of drinking, my uncle died because of drinking, everyone in my family died because of drinking, only my mother is alive [ I drink since I was 7 to this day Wilson.

The participants had a low level of education; primary school was when they abandoned school. They reported that other family members, such as grandparents and parents, were illiterate and their siblings also abandoned primary school. I used to go to school, more to mess up than to study, you know.. All the reports revealed that family ties went through processes of intense rupture. The older participants mentioned the early death of their parents and siblings in addition to family disagreements.

The younger participants reported that family members were still alive but no ties would connect them, ruptures took place during childhood or adolescence, and they experienced the frequent absence of parents. Among the causes of such absence of parents are: abandonment due to an affective-loving attachment with a new partner and the fact parents were confined in prisons. Other factors were also listed as triggers of family disruption: poverty and famine within families, sexual abuse, and physical and moral violence committed by adults and the problematic use of psychoactive substances.

The things is that I separated from the woman [ Because of children? It was the death of the family, you know, father, mother, my sister [ My family is almost all evangelical, so I went to church for a while, you know… But I used drugs there and I got ashamed in front of my family, my mom, my dad, and the pastors from the church, you know… So I decided to leave, so I left and never went back Telma. The interviewees reported some low-income activities, only two had been factory workers. Those older than 40 years reported formal occupations factory worker, construction worker, wall painter , however the youngest between 18 and 30 years old reported never having a formal job.

The activities through which individuals in this age group make money include: drug trafficking, trash recycling, begging. I worked as a mason assistant, I was very good, excellent… but today I can barely work with construction [ The daily life on the streets is an experience marked by poverty, violence, linked with crime, prejudice, impotence, loneliness and despair. The individuals reported situations in which they were robbed, raped, attacked, became involved in fights and disputes for objects or territory, experience generalized prejudice and violence on the part of the society and most are continually involved with psychoactive substances.

They also report that early death occurs and the main causes include: murder, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, hepatitis B and C. While these diseases are contracted on the streets, they are mainly aggravated by living on the streets. Guys sometimes abuse girls on the streets [ Three interviewees presented a project of life in which they include a desire for having a work and housing.

Three, however, reported that they would most likely die, while another three considered they would probably die if they did not change their living conditions. The remaining individuals presented ambiguous projects of life, in which there was a desire for change, however, there was also incisive content referring to hopelessness and disbelief in the alternatives offered by health services and social welfare assistance. I want to go back to studies, because my enrollment is still valid, there are only two days I missed classes, and having a place to sleep, to take a shower, so I can get back to school and get my job back Nayara.

Luiz Carlos. These data were also verified through the field diary, which focused on the contexts and environments where the interviews took place.

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Therefore, similar data were found: large contingent of migrants, low educational level, informal and low-income activities, family history of poverty, poor family ties, daily violence, and feelings of hopelessness toward life. There was, however, a theme that predominated in all the reports: all the interviewees attributed their condition of living on the streets exclusively to the use of alcohol and other drugs.

Even though all reports show social vulnerability, inequalities and exclusion, which appear associated with their family history for many generations, their condition of extreme poverty is only associated with the use of psychoactive substances, never with social determinants historically produced by the Brazilian society. Histories of life showed that social vulnerability and exclusion are preponderant in family histories from past generations to the present. The participants come from families and communities marked by illiteracy or low educational level, low-income jobs, and low social capital, with the presence of social ties marked by violence determining sociability.

They also frequently report school was abandoned to assume informal low-income jobs as an immediate way to combat poverty. This is a context observed in other regions around the world 2 , 14 - Rather, their homeless condition is only associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs. This discourse is also recurrent among social workers and healthcare providers, including those providing mental health care, and in the media At this point, an important question emerges: why do the homeless people interviewed in this study completely appropriate of the discourse disseminated by the media, and by those in the health field and social welfare, a discourse that their condition is merely linked to alcohol and drug consumption, rather than associating their condition to the poverty that predominantly appears in their family histories?

There are obviously many factors that explain such appropriation by social groups oppressed by the discourse of dominant social classes: low education and exclusion from the field of education, ideological reproduction of dominant discourses and social representations, among others. Therefore, another question implied in the previous question emerges: why does the discourse of the media, healthcare workers and social workers, among others reduce the social issue, of significant complexity, to the use of alcohol and other drugs, and consequently reduce it to a medical issue?

In this conception, homeless people are seen as people who are not able to interrupt the use of alcohol and illegal substances. It confirms what other studies have shown in regard to this conception that prevails among those working in the care delivered to this population, that is, problems are individualized and the homeless situation is not contextualized and linked to socioeconomic, historical, political and cultural determinants, which are at the root of a society that produces social inequalities 1.

We understand that the consensus achieved around the idea that the exclusion of these individuals living on the streets is uniquely caused by the abusive use of psychoactive substances, addressing it only from a clinical-psychiatric perspective, originated from a cultural reproduction, based on a distorted communication process concerning social representations, including prejudices disseminated by the media and ideological interests. This interpretation of reality, besides revealing an appropriation process on the part of medical institutions of issues of social, political, and economical nature and addressing them from a clinical perspective, does not take into account profound factors and aspects rooted in the social, cultural and historical formation of the Brazilian society 16 , The Brazilian society is still marked by a characteristic inherited from its socio-political slave-owing organization that lasted until the 19 th century, which, through a culture of naturalization of poverty, remains indifferent to social inequalities, seeing immense inequalities in social relations as natural features of dysfunctional and unfit individuals.

There is an unequal exercise of citizenship, in which the society passively authorizes the frequent violation of the rights of people and groups, while dominant social sectors oppose or resist social policies This proposition corroborates an observation, even of other studies, regarding a tendency to impute the causes of the situation they face to individuals. The positive aspect of the Kreimer is that it upholds the concept of codes of conduct. These codes of conduct must not be worded too vaguely or be known only as general, unwritten precepts.

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For example, in Brinkmeir case , the Freeport Public Library barred a man from the library after he had harassed and followed a library worker to her car. Since there were no written, clearly posted rules defining harassment, and since the behavior occurred away from the library, the public library did not have grounds upon which to prevent Brinkmeir.

The Americans with Disabilities Act. As mentioned before, many homeless people are also mentally ill or suffer from chemical dependencies. If such an illness is a disability, it should be accorded rights under the ADA. However, the application of these rights can be tricky if the patron is exhibiting behavior that impinges on fair access to the library by others. What if a homeless man is quietly muttering to himself? Or, what if the patron is drunk in the library because he suffers from alcoholism?

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When do his rights end and the rights of the other library patrons take over? Uhler and Weiss note:. Be aware that there may be additional legal issues that could arise in this area, e. The ADA makes it more important, then, that patrons be given the benefit of the doubt, before punitive library action is taken.

Certainly, the legal implications are complex and cannot be solved easily. Probably the best way to handle such situations is to take them slowly and with confidence, as difficult as that sounds. Turner advocates using a common sense approach to evaluating each problem situation on a case-by-case basis. This is one effective internal solution to coping with both homeless people and the angry patrons who complain about them. Although most of the professional literature focuses exclusively on identifying problem behaviors of the homeless in the library, some authors provide concrete solutions.

Simmons notes that there are two ways of implementing solutions: reactive and proactive. Reactive solutions tend to be slightly negative and focus on the library itself. Solutions are created and implemented internally and include hiring security staff and writing a clearly stated code of conduct.

As mentioned above, codes of conduct should be clearly stated and visibly posted, and should cover all unacceptable behavior, since they will be used by staff as a kind of yardstick at all times of day, including times when staff cannot contact superiors for advice in interpreting the rules. Ideally, staff should also ask women drenched in perfume to do the same. Assertiveness training and managerial support for library working conditions can go a long way toward alleviating poor morale.

Workshops that utilize role-playing to address problem situations are also useful. Proactive solutions involve greater community involvement by the library and are generally more positive in tone. Salter and Salter recommend having public desk workers take college-level classes in psychology. In fact, librarians should consider themselves part of an institution that is among social service institutions in general.

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Other proactive solutions include providing library access to needed resources such as newspapers, information about social service agencies Silver, and materials that honestly address the issues of poverty and homelessness Venturella, , which also can be used to educate more resistant patrons. Procedures should be created to allow borrowers with non-traditional addresses to acquire borrowing cards. A community analysis, imperative when forming a collection development plan, can provide useful data about the local population of homeless and mentally ill people, as well as the current resources of local social service agencies.

Simmons advocates forming coalitions with these agencies and providing services to the homeless both within and without the library. Venturella advocates assigning a social worker to work within the library itself, where she or he can have access to a vast clientele. The public library in Haverhill, Massachusetts, has designed library facilities specifically for the homeless, creating a comfortable space complete with television, easy chairs, and newspapers where they can safely stay during the day.

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Other libraries, such as the Tulsa Public Library, have joined forces with homeless organizations to create daytime centers, responding to traditional shelter rules that require the homeless be out by eight in the morning. Why go to all this effort? If we do not take the initiative as librarians, change will not occur. Homeless patrons will continue to sleep in corners and hover around the periodicals.

Many social service agencies are as short-funded as libraries, if not more so; therefore, librarians cannot expect that other agencies alone can shoulder the burden of meeting the needs of this special population. On a more positive note, this special population deserves the kind of attention and respect that we accord other special populations such as minorities, gays, and lesbians, and the elderly, among others.

Priced out: L.A.'s hidden homeless

We can look at the requirements of the ADA not as a burden, but as a challenge. Similarly, we can work with other agencies to provide services to the homeless, and to help them find alternative places in addition to the library in which to spend their days. Traditionally the information contained by the library has been used for social change, but ironically, the role of the library as an active agent in social change rarely has emanated from within the agency itself… perhaps because librarians are guilty in lacking the spirit of advocacy.

Perhaps it is time we became more assertive. Chadbourne, R. The problem patron: how much problem, how much patron? Wilson Library Bulletin, 64 10 , Comstock-Gay, S. Disruptive behavior: protecting people, protecting rights. Wilson Library Bulletin, 69 6 , Curry, A. Managing the problem patron. Public Libraries, 35 , Easton, C. Sex and violence in the library: Scream a little louder, please. American Libraries, 8 , Homelessness: New England and beyond.

New England Journal of Public Policy. Johnson, D.


Sexual harassment in the library. Johnson Eds. Chicago: American Library Association. Libraries for all [Ed. Christian Science Monitor, p. Malmquist, K. According to data from the U. Of those, According to HMIS data provided by All Chicago, 23, people were served in the shelter system or other homeless service programs. Eleven percent reported themselves as Latinx. This is 1. The share of homeless students enrolled in CPS remains about the same, at 4. Another Other CPS data shows that The demographics show Of this, 9, were children under age 18 and 23, were adults, living in 22, households.

IDHS reports that this included Homeless school enrollment is also a reliable barometer of family homelessness. Illinois schools identified 26, homeless students that year. Unaccompanied youth are homeless and living on their own, without the support of family or guardian. The number of unaccompanied youth in Chicago, per a CCH analysis of census data, is 11, An estimated 25, unaccompanied youth live in Illinois, per a comprehensive state-run study on which CCH collaborated.

There are not enough shelter beds for homeless youth. There are about youth shelter beds across Illinois: about youth beds in Chicago, about in the suburbs, and about 90 beds downstate, per Chicago and state officials.