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Kristin Hauser
Dean Leonard
ENG 1200-5B7
1 August 2014
In America a lot of people believe that the homeless are usually the victims of crimes
(hate crimes). Before I researched this topic, I was among those that believed that the homeless
were involved with crime mainly on the receiving end. Research shows that more than ten
percent of people, entering and exiting prison, were homeless in the months leading up to their
arrest. Out of those, 22% were homeless the night before their arrest (Council of State
Governments, 1). Another misconception of the link between the homeless and crime is the idea
that the homeless are violent. Many people are scared of the homeless. Actually, most crimes
committed by the homeless are petty crimes. In this paper I will explain the reason why the
homeless commit crime is for the sole fact they are homeless. The repetitive cycle between
homelessness and jail time can finally end if the following steps are taken: find what the main
causes of homelessness are; reducing laws prohibiting the acts of the homeless; and, re-
integrating into society post prison.
The first question to ask when determining how to end crime carried out by the homeless
is, why people are homeless? The top three main reasons why people end up homeless are
mental illness, poverty, and substance abuse (PBS, 2010). For the population of the homeless
that are mentally ill, their place in the homeless population can be due to multiple causes. One
main cause that can result with a mentally ill person being homeless is their lack of treatment.
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When saying this, it is meant that they were unattended and untreated. They were not treated or
taught how to respond and interact in everyday life.
Thirty-nine percent of the homeless have been reported to have at least some sort of
mental illness; 20-25% is seriously diagnosed and need special treatment (PBS, 2011). Without
special care, people with mental illnesses do not know how to react to being out on the streets.
Without proper guidance it is easy for them to start committing petty crimes. When it comes to
the mental stability of someone who is mentally ill becoming homeless, it is harder for them to
handle the stress and burden than the average person.
Many of these occurrences can be a result of the lack of more affordable health care. Just
like with any other person going on a downward spiral toward having nothing, choices had to be
made and some expenses had to be cut and for some, their health care was one of them.
Out of the entire homeless population, 38% are struggling with an alcohol addiction.
Another 26% has some sort of addiction to drugs. This is a huge reason why a lot of people are
more hesitant to donate money when they see a homeless person. Most people wont donate
money unless they know it will go towards something essential. Even though donations are not
likely to be the reason why people can get off the streets it is important in order for them to
survive another day.
The third main cause of homelessness is poverty. Many think that this is an ignorant
statement, but it is the truth. Many things can lead to poverty, but not only does this category
cover adults losing money and becoming bankrupt, but it also covers people who were raised
into poverty. Twenty to 30% of young people who grew up in an unstable house have been
arrested and are likely to become homeless (insert citation). A life that leads to homelessness can
start as early as childhood. The opposite is also possible.
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Poverty can be a result of many things such as loss of a job, divorce, a serious accident, a new
high-risk illness accompanied by high-priced medical bills. In everything previously listed there
is a sudden drop of income and an increase in expenses. Those with no relatives can be assumed
to be more likely in those circumstances to become homeless, due to the fact that they have no
support system or emergency plan to enable.
As seen in fig. 1. just in the county of Benton in the year 2011, the top three causes of
homelessness were unemployment, drug/alcohol abuse, and the lack of affordable housing. Lack
of affordable housing and unemployment both contribute to the element of poverty.

Fig. 1. Causes of Homelessness in Brenton County, 2011. Chart. Benton
County, Oregon. Oregon Housing & Community Services 2011. Web. 10
Aug 2014
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Once the money leaves, sacrifices, and decisions have to be made. The majority of the
time the item that consumes the most money is sacrificed and is no longer a necessity to people
in a time of crisis. A lot of the time, the house is the main consumer of money; therefore it is cut
from the list of expenses. After the house is gone a lot of people rely on their vehicles for shelter.
This brings me to my next topic.
The next topics I will discuss are the laws that prohibit and affect the lifestyles of the
homeless. Many laws have been taken into account by many cities to give the impression of a
cleaner upscale city. Though the purpose of the law is positive, it affects many and results in
more crime. Common examples are the no loitering and begging laws, also known as sit/lie
Just as I stated before with houses being sacrificed, vehicles are the next source of
shelter. Sadly enough though sleeping in vehicles is illegal in 81 cities throughout the United
States leaving many out in the cold, wet, and other horrible weather conditions. Being on the
streets can also lead to an arrest. If they cant sleep in the car, theyll have to sleep on the streets.
But they cant do that either as 64 communities in the United States have made it illegal to
camp in public (PressTv, 2012). This means that it is illegal to sleep or reside in any public
place such as alleys, parks, sidewalks, or anywhere.
Its almost a crime to be homeless, and if a homeless person lives in a city that doesnt
have these laws, they are still more likely to commit crimes of desperation. Petty crime, such as
theft, is common with the homeless. When I started to research, the main fact that altered my
point of view was that although 49% of the homeless population has been in jail, only 18% has
been in prison. To others this might not be comforting, but to me I see it as a majority of petty
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crimes being committed. The 49% of people who were in jail spent less than five days which
means that the crimes being committed were so minor that they aren't actually dangerous. They
are just trying to stay alive (Council of State Governments, 1).
The last step to end crime among the homeless would be the re-integration into society
after being in prison. To figure out how to keep prisoners from re-entering, one has to know what
the main reasons are for someone to re-enter. Many people describe this experience as a
repetitive cycle. Once released from jail and back on the street, petty crime has to be committed
to survive, and will be essential. The only plausible explanation for re-entry would be the lack of
re-integration amongst exiting prisoners into society. The term re-integration means that the
prisoner would be set up with a program that would help them find jobs upon their exit. Not only
will these programs provide jobs, so they can fend for and support themselves, but would also
help provide affordable housing.
Becoming homeless is 7.5 to 11.3 times more likely to happen to people exiting prison
than it is for the general population to become homeless (Knopf-Amelung, 1).
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Fig. 2. Blasco, Anna. Housing Stability Before and After Incarceration.
Chart. National Alience to End Homelessness. 2014. Web. 10 Aug 2014.

As seen above in fig. 2. household stability is at its highest before incarceration, and is
dramatically decreased once released from prison and/or jail. After incarceration there is a
percentage of 67.8 of unstability in a persons housing, meaning they are not consistently in the
same area of living for long periods of time (Blasco, 2014). This is more likely among prisoners
because a long absence from a residence can result in termination of a lease. For example, if
someone went away for a few months, it is likely that they will be evicted as a result of not
paying their bills. Also, another big contribution to prison re-entry is the fact that using shelters,
such as homeless shelters, increases the chance of returning (Council of State Governments, 1).
Yes, there is a high rate at which the homeless population commits crime, and there is a
higher chance of repetitive convictions. Even though this is true, there are solutions that could
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lead to crime reduction. I hope that throughout this essay it has been proven that this is an issue
that cannot be avoided any longer. The homeless need help. They need re-integration programs
to become interactive and efficient members of society. The repetitive cycle between
homelessness, crime, and prison time needs to come to an end once and for all. This can be
succeeded through the three steps previously stated: finding what the main causes of
homelessness are, reducing laws prohibiting the acts of the homeless, and last but not least, re-
integrating into society post-prison.