How Does Education Effect Homelessness?

Is there a relationship between a lack of education and homelessness? The Homeless Grapevine recently interviewed a dozen homeless men and women in Cleveland and asked the following questions: Did you graduate from high school? How old are you? How did you feel about your education and your homelessness? Do you think your education had anything to do with your homelessness?

In spite of statistics which show the direct relation of poverty to a lack of education, no one we interviewed felt the quality of their education effected their present condition: Homelessness, helplessness, hopelessness--what we call "the tree H’s" of poverty.

Bob, over the age of thirty, graduated from John Adams, and told us, "They taught me how to add and subtract." As he revealed his perspective, he stated he did not feel it was the school’s responsibility to prepare him for life after school. "How can they do that? I think they put you on the right track and show you the routes, but you have to take them." Bob felt the depletion of jobs, "Everything’s going overseas," as he put it, was the principle reason for the theory that "the only road out is a job at McDonalds."

Angelo, forty, graduated from East High and told us, "The school is responsible to make sure there are opportunities for education. If you take advantage of it and absorb it, you will prepare yourself for life." He further asserted, "Poor education has nothing to do with homelessness. That’s only a myth."

Using a macro-economic model to characterize the role of prisons in a society, the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (October 1993) demonstrated that a country’s capability to control the costs of an underclass depends on its providing sufficient quality educational facilities for its youth—stating that a country’s educational policy has a substantial effect on its ability manage poverty, "to find a job which pays more than minimum wage."

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16