A look into what can lead to homelessness

Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal Archives 2018

Homelessness and poverty are widespread issues across the globe and can be caused by a variety of different factors, leading to the many common misconceptions regarding the homeless community.

In Atlanta, despite seeing a 25 percent decrease in homeless individuals since 2015, more than 10,000 people were homeless in a 2017 Point-In-Time Homeless Count.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “The homeless count is crucial for meeting federal requirements to continue receiving funds for homeless services, attracting philanthropic investors and tracking the success of local efforts to end homelessness in metro Atlanta.”

“A lot of people will say homelessness comes from mental illness,” Denise Rogers, development officer for SafeHouse Outreach, said. “While that may be true in some cases, more often than not mental illness comes as a result of homelessness. Many people can’t make the mental adjustment.”

Addiction is another factor that Rogers believes is just as likely, if not more likely, to be caused by homelessness than to cause homelessness.

“You may not have any addictions before, but then you’re forced to sleep on the streets for a few nights,” Rogers said. “For some people, drugs and alcohol are the only ways they know how to cope.”

Rogers said that a cause for homelessness that many people don’t consider is relocating from one city to another.

“Someone may come here for a job or a career change, it doesn’t work out and they end up homeless,” Rogers said. “Because there are so many factors that can cause homelessness, some we often don’t consider, there are multiple ‘faces’ to homelessness.”

According to Rogers, a common misconception regarding homelessness is the idea that only a certain type of person can become homeless.

“I recently spoke to a gentleman who had a masters degree in science and electrical engineering from MIT,” Rogers said. “Homelessness is not what people think. It’s what they see when they look at the person. We’ve had people come by who were executives in Hollywood or graduates from Spellman. You just never know what could happen in life.”

For Georgia State students experiencing homelessness or financial restraints, the Panther’s Pantry, which reopens for the summer semester on June 4, provides free food to students with a valid panther id, no questions asked.

Founded in 2014 by graduate students from the coordinated program (CP) within the Nutrition Department, the Georgia State Department of Nutrition reported that visits to the Pantry during the fall 2017 semester increased dramatically, averaging around 11-15 students per week and in one week up to 49 people used its services.

Compared to the four students per week as reported in a previous Signal article published in 2015, the service has seen a massive growth in the years since.

The nutrition department attributes this growth to “the pantry manager, student volunteers, and the nutrition department’s addition to their CP program allowing graduate students to work in the pantry as part of a rotation.”