Most countries maintain an economic system that is most accurately described as ‘capitalist’. This means that the factors of production (land, labor, capital and enterprise) are distributed in accordance with the actions of the market and not according to the wishes of the state. There are many benefits to this system but very often people are left behind by it. Some people end up becoming very poor despite working very hard. Others may end up homeless because they cannot afford housing at the prices set by the market. This essay addresses some of the issues that come about because of this phenomena.
The social aspect of homelessness is probably the most important. Societies that do not make allowances for the members who cannot help themselves cannot be said to be thriving. If people who are extremely poor, suffer from mental illness or who have been shunned by their families are force to live on the streets, their suffering makes them more vulnerable to other crimes.
From a health standpoint, having people live on the street can lead to the easy spread of some very preventable illnesses. These will not necessarily remain among the homeless and they can affect the entire population in some way or another. Many of these diseases may have jumped from animal to human carriers due to the rigors of homeless life. This also adds to the human suffering that is experienced.
When it comes to the economy, having a large homeless population is a sign of wastage. Every person who is homeless is most likely not contributing to society in the form of taxes. This has an impact on a country’s revenue directly. If you think in terms of the big picture, homeless people are not able to use their talents and achieve their fullest potential. In their struggle to survive they cannot further their education, come up with inventions or cure diseases that would help the rest of society.
Another less obvious problem associated with homelessness is that these people do in fact live somewhere. They may take over national monuments or park benches and other facilities intended for the public.
With all of these issues in mind, it is important not the lose sight of the humanity of street dwellers. Their plight is our plight and by helping them we increase the well-being of all the people who live and work around the streets they currently call home.