Generational poverty is a cycle that stems from the deep-rooted inequalities within America, not only economic but also social, political, and environmental, that in turn create long-term generational inequalities. One of the many side effects of poverty that leaks into the cracks of multiple generations is homelessness. The need for multi-level plans to tackle poverty is long overdue, and without them, the communities hit hardest by poverty will continue to suffer for generations to come.
There are two main types of poverty: generational and situational. Generational poverty means that a family has lived in poverty for more than two generations. Situational poverty means that a family’s income/support has decreased due to a specific change that is, for the most part, temporary. Generational poverty can lead to increased housing insecurity, not just for the present family experiencing it but for generations down the line.
Generational poverty starts within the family; your parents experience poverty, so you experience poverty. This is how the cycle begins, and once it starts, it’s tough to break free from, passed down from one generation to another. Poverty such as this comes from various factors. Still, we tend to see most of it stemming from inequalities within underprivileged and under-supported communities, specifically low-income and people of color. An important factor to consider is that keeping these communities impoverished in every aspect has been a tactic used by governments for generations. By creating divides between class, race, and gender, our society has allowed this type of discrimination to continue for decades. Thus, holding families within these communities back from their true potential for generations to come.
Generational poverty can expose an entire family to homelessness quickly. In York alone, it’s estimated that one in every five women in shelters experienced homelessness as a child. For children, this exposure can be a very traumatic experience both for the parent trying to take care of a child without a reliable housing experience but also for the child, not living in a stable environment or able to have all his/her needs met. Homelessness at a young age can bring about homelessness as an adult due to how hard it is to escape the cycles that hold people back when living in poverty.
The way to solve this kind of poverty is to invest in communities that have been historically underprivileged and underserved. Investments in the form of government funding. Funding that goes towards building better schools for K-12, financial care programs, improved healthcare, and a wide variety of other issues that need addressing through government assistance and care. When we tackle issues from the root, we can prevent them from continuing to spread. In the case of generational poverty that means providing more resources to struggling families to keep that struggle from continuing into future generations.