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Climate Change and How It Relates to Homelessness

Climate change is one of the driving forces causing homelessness. As temperatures warm, natural disasters become an increasing issue causing vast amounts of damage and ultimately leaving people unhoused. Climate change makes a huge difference in the quality of life for people who are unhoused. Being out in the elements during climate crises without shelter or access to safe resources is a massive issue that people facing homelessness have to endure on a daily basis.

A detrimental, albeit common, misconception about homelessness is that its roots are grounded in mental health issues or “laziness”. The truth, however, is that the root causes of homelessness are often a multitude of highly complex and often intersecting reasons, one of which being climate change. Growing evidence suggests that climate change is a source of some people’s loss of housing and security.

The truth is climate change affects every single aspect of our lives. According to Down to Earth’s website, in 2020 there were 207 natural disasters that cost the world $75 billion.  A portion of the money that goes towards the damages created by climate change could be given to other causes such as homelessness. Climate change is on the rise, and will only lead to increased natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, and earthquakes that will leave people without shelter and resources to help them recover. This phenomenon of people being left without shelter due to climate change is referred to as climate change displacement. 

Unfortunately, climate change’s effects disproportionately burden vulnerable communities, ones that already suffer from a lack of resources and aid. These communities have the hardest time recovering from natural disasters which puts them at a massive disadvantage when it comes to housing recovery. According to Urban Institute’s website, both FEMA and HUD (which provides long-term housing assistance) have a significant delay when distributing aid. 

One example of this is the Camp Fire that happened in Northern California in 2018. The aftermath left 15,000 homes demolished and displaced over 50,000 people. Many of those who were displaced are still trying to recover from this disaster. The lucky ones were able to find safe places with families or friends, while others were forced to shelters or the street. Government aid was far too slow to respond, and even to this day is still lagging behind to get people the aid and resources they need. The response to clean up and restoration of the area as well has made the environment uninhabitable in certain parts of the city. 

Not only does climate change drive disasters and displacement causing homelessness, but it also worsens conditions for people who are currently unhoused. According to the Daily Bruin, heatwaves kill more than 600 people a year, and as temperatures rise that number will only do the same. For people who are unhoused, both rising and falling temperatures can cause a host of issues as these people are not protected from the elements that come with unpredictable weather. 

Overall, we need to understand that climate change and homelessness are not isolated societal issues. Rather, these issues are deeply interconnected; the implications of climate change both exacerbate existing and produce new issues for those experiencing homelessness.

References:

https://www.fastcompany.com/90386051/homelessness-is-already-a-crisis-but-climate-change-makes-it-much-worse. 

https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/homelessness-and-climate-crisis. 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/09/trauma-fear-homelessness-paradise-camp-fire-migrants-climate-change. 

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/more-than-200-natural-disasters-across-world-in-1st-half-of-2020-72445. 

https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/why-does-disaster-recovery-take-so-long-five-facts-about-federal-housing-aid-after-disasters.

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