Skip Navigation
Clemente Writings

Why Are So Many People Homeless?

“Why are so many people homeless in a world full of money,” asked my little brother as we drove past the corner store where a man sat with a dirty white ripped up t-shirt, no shoes, heavy pants on in the middle of summer. I replied, “I don’t know bud. It’s life. I had a long day at work.” While I really wanted to say was, “I wonder why all the rich people are so focused on buying more jet skis and the newest cars,” but I wasn’t thinking logically. As the ride got longer, my thoughts got deeper on what he had said. Today in this world, homelessness is at an all-time high. It’s bad if an eight-year-old kid sees it at every corner and park of his neighborhood. In a world full of opportunity and wealthy people, is enough being done or did we just give up on these people as a society?

According to, there are 567,715 homeless people in the United States today. Massachusetts has 18,471 homeless people; California has the highest rate at 151,278. In the 1930s, the Great Depression caused a substantial rise in unemployment and homelessness, leaving us with what it is now. There are several ways to become homeless:  unaffordable housing, poverty, domestic violence, mental illness, and addiction. Most of the people who are homeless don’t choose to be homeless. They just don’t have enough support or haven’t had the best life experience.

In America today, there is a total of a trillion more dollars in physical currency in the U.S than before the coronavirus. During this time, the government was giving out checks to everyone, but if you were homeless, you didn’t receive one. I will tell you why. They don’t have a computer or smartphone to access this information or even an address to receive these payments.

According to Michael Hobbes of Huffington Post, “Once you become homeless you start to spiral downward very quickly…when what they really needed was cheaper rent a year ago.” City residents need to demand change. Even as homelessness became a feature of urban neighborhoods, no city in America could afford to address it. The reality of it is the responsibility lies with the federal government to provide mental health treatment and low-income housing. These were systematically handed over to the cities and now they can’t afford it. It is a systematic thing.

“Homelessness is a symptom of a system wide problem,” says Claudia Solari of the Urban Institute. This is the outcome of how the government and life is set up. People often blame the individual and see homelessness as a personal problem, but this is just to hide the real facts that communities aren’t providing enough, not even enough sympathy for these individuals. Well, if you had everything you wanted and more, you wouldn’t know how it feels to sleep in a park with your stomach growling all night.

A homeless person feels helpless. They do not like the way they are living, they are only trying to survive like us. It is harder for them to make their way compared to a person who has support and a roof over their head. At times, they feel sad, angry, embarrassed and disappointed, but why should anybody have to feel that way? So next time you pass by a homeless person and feel bad for them or say they chose to be that way, instead think of it as if it were your family and of ways you can help. This is a worldwide problem and it is because the people with money aren’t doing enough for the people that don’t have money, even if it’s providing jobs like picking up trash around the city or bringing in the carriages at grocery stores. The rich definitely have to do more but the people who are not rich can play a role too and it starts with our attitude towards others.

Ways to help can be getting involved in our community, for example volunteering at food pantries, providing them with shelters and giving them clothing and food. Even if you are not financially stable, you could start by talking to them and giving them positive energy. Everybody deserves some type of respect. By helping them you will be helping yourself because, you will push yourself to set a good example in your city. A simple nice gesture goes a long way.

We, Too, Are America is made possible through “Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” an initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Council through a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Stay in touch with Mass Humanities

Sign up for our Newsletter