Table of Contents
Homelessness is a serious public health issue in Australia. The Homelessness Australia (2017) statistics indicate that every single night, there are approximately 105,000 Aussies who have nowhere to call home. These individuals are forced to live in deplorable conditions such as on the streets, shanties and abandoned cars. The problem of homelessness affects people of all age groups, including children, teenagers, and senior citizens. Statistically, more than 25% of the homeless people in Australia are those below 18 years of age while 17,846 Australian children below 12 years of age have nowhere to call permanent home (Homelessness Australia, 2017). The incidence of homelessness remains high despite the measures that have been taken by federal and state governments to address the problem. The question that concerned parties have been asking of late pertains to whether or not ‘quality of life’ policing helps the homeless (Robinson, 2017a). This essay begins by outlining the profile of mental illness, including substance abuse among the homeless compared to general population and standard path to homelessness. The essay will then describe the key principles of ‘quality of life’ policing. Finally, the essay will discuss the positive and negative aspects of ‘quality of life’ policing in relation to homeless people.
The Profile of Mental Illness among the Homeless
Homelessness is a big problem has become a serious health problem in Australia. Homelessness refers to a state of having nowhere to call a permanent home (Vitale, 2010). As indicated above, there are more than 105,000 Aussies who spend the night on the streets, shanties and abandoned cars among other deplorable places every single night because of homelessness. Studies conducted globally have found that homelessness is associated with mental health problems. A 2015 study conducted in the United States found that, out of 567,708 people who were homeless, at least 25% of these homeless people had serious mental health problems (Johnson et al., 2010). Globally, 30% to 50% of the homeless individuals suffer from some form of mental illnesses while about 10% of the homeless people suffer from severe mental health problems, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (Johnson et al., 2010).
The homeless people who are also mentally ill also suffer from a number of problems. First, studies indicate that the majority of the mentally ill homeless individuals suffer from alcohol or drug-related disorders. A study conducted in Montreal, Canada in 2005 found that, out of 30,000 people who had nowhere to call home, 43.3% had mental disorders out of which 45.6% had alcohol or drug-related disorders during the last one year while 20.5% had alcohol or drug-related disorders for life (Forrest, 2013). This study suggests that mental illness among the homeless is associated with alcohol and drug-related disorders.
Second, studies have found that substance abuse is a serious problem among the homeless people with mental health problems. Statistically, Teesson et al. (2004) indicate that drugs and alcohol affects more than half of homeless individuals with mental health issues. Accordingly, this suggests that mental health problem among the homeless population increases the risk of the affected individuals to indulging in alcohol and drug abuse.
Additionally, studies show that homeless population with mental disorders is also involved with the justice system. In particular, it has been found that the homeless individuals with mental health problems tend to engage in criminalities at a higher rate compared to the general population and this result in high rates of arrests and incarcerations among this population. This observation is supported by a study by Teesson et al. (2004) that found that among homeless adults with mental health problems, arrests occur at the rate of 70% to 80% while incarceration rates occur at the rate of 50% to 60%. Lastly, victimization is the other profile associated with homeless people with mental disorders. Studies show that victimization occurs at a higher rate among the homeless with mental disorders compared to the general population. One study has found that about 465% of this population is victimized on a monthly basis (Forrest, 2013). Another study found that women are more at risk of victimization with sexual or physical abuse rates standing at between 74% and 97% (Vitale, 2010).
Paths to Homelessness
Everyone in the society lead a hard life. Nonetheless, the homeless in the society lead the hardest life. There are several paths to homelessness as has been discovered by past studies. First, poverty is one of the paths to homelessness. Dykeman (2011) reports that a large number of homeless people are force by poverty. Poverty lead to a situation where a person cannot afford the basic human needs key among them being a decent shelter where they can call home and this pushes some people to go to the streets. Second, unemployment is another factor that leads to homelessness. In order for one to have a decent shelter where to live, they need some form of earning (Timmer et al., 1995). This implies that a person who is unemployed cannot be able to build a house of their own or rent a decent house because of lack of money to pay the rent. Accordingly, this forces a significant number of people to resort to sleeping on the streets, shanties and abandoned cars for lack of somewhere to call home. Third, personal crisis has been identified to be a major fact that forces a significant number of people to live on the streets. Vitale (2010) study found that personal crisis can be a major push into homelessness. Her study found that some people have been living in the streets since their childhood just to escape terrible abuse. For instance, when a child is abused by their parents or guardians, this may push them to leave their families and go to the streets to escape abuse. Other personal factors linked to homelessness include sudden physical or mental illness, relationship breakdown and loss of a job. Additionally, alcohol and substance abuse is a major push factor to homelessness. Timmer et al. (1995) found that people who indulge in alcohol and drug abuses are more at risk of becoming homeless compared to the general population. Moreover, difficulties integrating to the society after prison are a major path to homelessness. Lastly, lack of affordable housing is a push factor to homelessness, according to Timmer et al. (1995). When a person leaves prison and finds it difficult integration back into the society for factors such as rejection by the society, the only available option to the majority is to adopt street life.
Key Principles of ‘Quality of Life’ Policing
‘Quality of life’ policing is one of the rapidly evolving strategies adopted by the police in maintaining social order. The history of this type of policing is traced to New York, USA in the 1980 and 1990s, where it was extensively used as a framework of community-oriented policing (Johnson et al., 2010). Quality of life is a policing strategy that involves aggressive enforcement of social order offenses, such as public urination, loitering, panhandling, public drinking, street-level drug dealing, prostitution and vandalism (Dykeman, 2011). The key principle of quality of life policing is that controlling crime in the society requires attentiveness by the police to the physical and social disorder, minor crimes and appearances of crime. In this regard, quality of life policing focuses mainly on social and physical disorders rather than serious crime.
Positive and Negative Aspects of ‘Quality of Life’ Policing as they Relate to Homeless People
Quality of life policing has both positive and negative aspects as they relate to homeless individuals. The first positive thing about quality of life policing for the homeless is that it promote responsive behave among the homeless on the streets. This type of policing ensures that the homeless people on the streets do not engage in social and physical disorder, such as noise, urinating and public drinking among others and this promotes social order and civility on the streets (Robinson, 2017a). The second positive thing about QOL policing is that it acts as deterrence by sending a warning to the homeless people who might want to engage in improper conduct. The fact that QOL is enforced mainly by the police in plainclothes who cannot be easily singled out among the population sends a warming to the homeless people that who might engage in anti-social or criminal behaviors that they cannot evade arrest by simply keeping an eye on the uniformed officers and this acts as a deterrence to social and physical disorder that the homeless might engage in while on the streets. Additionally, Robinson (2017b) observed that QOL policies has the benefit to the homeless in that it encourages the homeless to move off the streets into service, which in term improves their quality of life.
On the other hand, critics of QOL policing argue that this approach to dealing with the homeless is harmful as such a law do not help the homeless connect to services, rather only exposes the homeless to police brutality and harassments and this only serves to drive the homeless into dangerous and unsafe hiding places (Vitale, 2010). Second, critics of the law argue that QOL policing also makes it harder for social workers to connect with the homeless in the streets and this in turn makes it difficult for the homeless to stay healthy, get a job or go to school due to the growing tension between the homeless and the police (Robinson, 2017a). Additionally, the law has a negative impact on the homeless as seen in New York where homeless people who are not willing to enter into services are forced to sleep sitting up due to the existing laws that bars them from sleeping on two seats on a bench or subway.
Homelessness affects many countries across the globe and Australia in particular. The essay has shown that homelessness is associated with mental disorders as studies agree that the majority of homeless people suffer from mental health problems. Homelessness is triggered by many factors that include poverty, unemployment, personal crisis, alcohol and drug abuses, as well as difficulty integrating in society from prison. However, quality of life policing has been one of the growing policing approaches being adopted in major cities to deal with homelessness. From the analysis, it emerged that the law has both positive and negative aspects as described above that needs to be considered before enacting this law.
- Dykeman, B. F. (2011). Intervention strategies with the homeless population. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 38(1), 32-39. NOTE: only need to read 1st 2 pages Available from: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.une.edu.au/docview/877031438?accountid=17227
- Forrest, S. (2013). From ‘rabble management’ to ‘recovery management’: Policing homelessness in marginal urban space. Urban Studies, 51(9), 1909-1925. Available from: http://ezproxy.une.edu.au/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0042098013499798
- Homelessness Australia. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/
- Johnson, B. D., Golub, A., & McCabe, J. (2010). The international implications of quality-of-life policing as practiced in New York City. Police Pract Res., 11(1), 17–29.
- Robinson, T. (2017a). No right to rest: Police enforcement patterns and quality of life consequences of the criminalization of homelessness. Urban Affairs Review. 1-33. Available from: http://ezproxy.une.edu.au/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1078087417690833
- Robinson, T. (2017b). Police Enforcement Patterns and Quality of Life Consequences of the Criminalization of Homelessness. Ubarn Affairs Review, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1078087417690833
- Teesson, M., Hodder, T., & Buhrich, N. (2004). Psychiatric disorders in homeless men and women in inner Sydney. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38 (3), 162-168. Available from: http://ezproxy.une.edu.au/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/j.14401614.2004.01322.x
- Timmer, D. A., Eitzen, D. S., & Talley, K. K. (1995). Paths to homelessness: Extreme poverty and the urban housing crisis. The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 22(3), 173-174.
- Vitale, A. S. (2010). The safer cities initiative and the removal of the homeless. Criminology and Public Policy, 9, 867–873. Available from: http://ezproxy.une.edu.au/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.17459133.2010.00677.x