There is just as much variety in the homeless population as there is in the general population. But you can still divide homeless types into two distinct camps. And these two camps are so drastically different that they really should not be considered together. Sadly though, all homeless people, regardless of their differences, are all thrown into the same category, and all receive the same treatment, from homeless service providers, and from society in general.
The first camp consists of those people who become homeless ONLY because of some financial mishap. They were laid off from work and/or mismanaged their money, or their revenue stream stopped abruptly, (such as a stay at home mother/wife who suddenly separated from her husband). These people really have nothing in common with other homeless people. Their problems are limited to financial issues, and they have the skills and wherewithal to quickly overcome these issues on their own. This people will experience homelessness for a very short period and will most likely never experience homelessness a second time.
The second camp consists of all other homeless people. They become homeless because they lack the ability to engage society in a successful manner. Not only do they have problems that effect their abilities, they have an additional problem of having developed some detrimental coping issue. Alcoholism and drug adiction, and even mental health issues are all mechanisms that people use to help them cope with the problems they face in life. Although these things help them cope on one level, they actually become an additional hindrance to overcoming their problems. That may be why things like alcoholism and drug adiction are so difficult to overcome. These things make people feel safe and protected. And to overcome them, people have to allow themselves to let go of those feelings of safety and protection.
Only recently have I learned about Asperger’s Syndrome and how it has effected my life. Since then I have seen many of my fellow homeless people in a new light. I see the symptoms of Asperger’s in many homeless people. Depending on how a person with Aspergers is treated early in life, he/she may develop some very serious guilt and regret issues. And to help them deal with those issues they often take to drinking, or excessive drug use. And this is why I believe every homeless person of this type is actually dealing with mental health issues. A person doesn’t have to be completely crazy for mental health issues to make them homeless. They only need enough of a mental health issue to effect their ability to engage with society successfully. All homelessness in this camp is caused by mental health issues, regardless of other problems they may be having.
So, that’s the deal. There are only two causes of homelessness, one is based in financial issues, the other is based in mental health issues. I think it is important to note that society in general as some very messed up ideas about mental health, and so most people will deny their own mental health issues as well as deny mental health issues in other people. It’s funny, but being afraid of mental health issues is itself a mental health issue.