The Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is an event that is held each year on the week before Thanksgiving. With the help of educational, fundraising, and advocacy events, it brings people all over the country together to raise awareness to the problems of hunger and homelessness. Since it happens around the same time as Thanksgiving, it is a perfect time for people to start thinking about what they are thankful for and start to work toward an ideal world where no one will ever experience hunger or homelessness.
The first Hunger and Homelessness Week event was hosted by Villanova University in 1975. This event has inspired schools and universities to host this event every year in their community in hopes that it will raise awareness and educate citizens on this relevant issue.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness offers everyone the chance to contribute to a national social movement. The ultimate purpose of this movement is to help solve the root causes of this problem. Additionally, it is a time where all citizens, politicians, and community members educate themselves about this issue, host events, donate, and volunteer to help those in need.
Because of the daily struggles homeless and poor people face on a daily basis, it is important to allow them the space and time to share their stories and to show our curiosity about their thoughts and ideas regarding deeper meaning issues. Allow time for them to explore their inner worlds, express being vulnerable and loving just like we would with middle class families. Finally, it is a time to allow them to express their thoughts and feelings about the socio-cultural oppression they face in being poor.
Mental health is important to maintain since it can impact many factors of our life such as our spirituality, our body, and our relationships. An individual’s mental health can also be affected when their basic needs are not being met, such as housing and food, since “homelessness has been associated with poorer mental health outcomes and may trigger or exacerbate certain types of disorders” (Balasuriya, et al. 2020). Homeless people are often diagnosed with disorders such as depression, anxiety, psychiatric distress, and PTSD.
In the United States
- 1 million Americans live below the poverty level.
- 549,000 Americans are homeless on a typical night.
- 42 million Americans are at risk of suffering from hunger.
- 1 in 5 children in the U.S. live in poverty.
- 795 million people do not have enough to eat.
- 767 million people live on $1.90 a day or less.
- 6 children die each minute of a hunger-related disease.
- 3 million refugees have been driven out of their homes.
Four Classist Assumptions Noted by Smith and why they are wrong
- Poor people have so many overwhelming day-to-day problems that therapy isn’t needed as much as assistance with obtaining important basic resources – food, water, shelter, safety – and just some concrete problem-solving.
- The problems poor people have to deal with are so overwhelming that the typical interventions that mental health counselors typically provide aren’t really that important or salient to their lives.
- Working with poor people will be too sad and dispiriting for most mental health therapists to handle, as therapists see first-hand the human devastation of broken families, school failures, crime, drugs, and violence that comes with living in poor neighborhoods.
- Conventional mental health services are neither familiar to nor widely accepted in most poor and working-class communities, so that even poor people who could benefit will not be likely to see their value, let alone use them.
All classist assumptions noted by Smith are incorrect.
Research has found a relationship between poverty and mental health issues. The need for basic resources and therapy are not mutually exclusive. Individuals living in poverty can benefit from therapy to address the issues that contribute to the decline of mental health, and to address the overwhelming day-to-day problems.
There are many different types of interventions, and the mental health counselors are trained to find a strategy that works best for each specific person. The goal of mental health therapists is to provide help to those in need, and to guide them to improve their mental health and, consequently, their happiness. It is always satisfying to see the positive effects therapy has on individuals.
Although it is possible that individuals are not familiar with conventional mental health services, they can be educated on them. Awareness can be raised on the great benefits it can provide and consequently, individuals will be able to see their value and might feel encouraged to use the services. People living in poverty should not be punished by denying mental health services because of their living conditions.
Here are some tips to find affordable mental health care:
- Look for psychotherapists or other mental healthcare providers who use sliding fee scales. Sliding fee scales are used by providers when the client cannot afford mental health care otherwise, and they adjust their fees according to family size and income.
- Look for organizations that provide mental health care services at a lower cost:
- Open Path Collective
- The Loveland Foundation
- Find a free or low-income mental health clinic: staffed by mental health clinicians and students, these organizations often offer mental health services at a reduced fee.
- Find mental health clinic by contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine
- Clinicians in training at local colleges or universities might offer services at a reduced cost
- Attend support groups: support groups can be highly beneficial because it lets people connect with others going through similar experiences.
- If you have insurance, find an in-network
- Smith, L. (2005). Psychotherapy, classism, and the poor: Conspicuous by their absence. American Psychologist, 60, 687-696.