- 40% of homeless in America comprise of women and children
- More than 1 million homeless children per U.S. Department of Education and National Center on family homeless data.
- Among homeless children 8% physically abused
(2 times the rate of non homeless)
8% sexually abused
(3 times rate of non homeless)
- 85% of homeless families are headed by single mothers.
Can we afford to keep looking away!!
Why Are People Homeless?
Recently, foreclosures have increased the number of people who experience homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless released an entire report discussing the relationship between foreclosure and homelessness. The report found that there was a 32% jump in the number of foreclosures between April 2008 and April 2009. Since the start of the recession, six million jobs have been lost. In May 2009, the official unemployment rate was 9.4%. the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that 40 percent of families facing eviction due to foreclosure are renters and 7 million households living on very low incomes (31-50 percent of Area Median Income) are at risk of foreclosure.
Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. If you are poor, you are essentially an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets.
in 2007, 12.5% of the U.S. population, or 37,300 million people, lived in poverty. The official poverty rate in 2007 was not statistically different than 2006 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2007). Children are overrepresented, composing 35.7% of people in poverty while only being 24.8% of the total population.
Two factors help account for increasing poverty: eroding employment opportunities for large segments of the workforce and the declining value and availability of public assistance.
Lack of Affordable Health Care: For families and individuals struggling to pay the rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness, beginning with a lost job, depletion of savings to pay for care, and eventual eviction. One in three Americans, or 86.7 million people, is uninsured. Of those uninsured, 30.7% are under eighteen. In 2007-2008, four out of five people that were uninsured were working families. Work-based health insurance has become rarer in recent years, especially for workers in the agricultural or service sectors (Families USA, 2009).
Domestic Violence: Battered women who live in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness. In addition, 50% of the cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2005). Approximately 63% of homeless women have experienced domestic violence in their adult lives (Network to End Domestic Violence).
Mental Illness: Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2005). Despite the disproportionate number of severely mentally ill people among the homeless population, increases in homelessness are not attributable to the release of severely mentally ill people from institutions. Most patients were released from mental hospitals in the 1950s and 1960s, yet vast increases in homelessness did not occur until the 1980s, when incomes and housing options for those living on the margins began to diminish rapidly. According to the 2003 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Report, most homeless persons with mental illness do not need to be institutionalized, but can live in the community with the appropriate supportive housing options (U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, 2003). However, many mentally ill homeless people are unable to obtain access to supportive housing and/or other treatment services. The mental health support services most needed include case management, housing, and treatment.
Addition Disorders: the relationship between addiction and homelessness is complex and controversial. While rates of alcohol and drug abuse are disproportionately high among the homeless population, the increase in homelessness over the past two decades cannot be explained by addiction alone. Many people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs never become homeless, but people who are poor and addicted are clearly at increased risk of homelessness. Addition does increase the risk of displacement for the precariously housed; in the absence of appropriate treatment, it may doom one's chances of getting housing once on the streets. Homeless people often face insurmountable barriers to obtaining health care, including addictive disorder treatment services and recovery supports.
Homelessness results from a complex set of circumstances that require people to choose between food, shelter, and other basic needs. Only a concerted effort to insure jobs that pay a living wage, adequate support for those who cannot work, affordable housing, and access to health care will bring an end to homelessness.
Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, July 2009
Homeless Families with Children
Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, July 2009
One of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population are families with children. IN 2007, 23% of all homeless people were members of families with children (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2007). Recent evidence confirms that homelessness among families is increasing. The rate of request for emergency assistance by families rose faster than the rate for any other group between 2206 and 2007. In some cities, it rose by as much as 15%. 71% of cities surveyed reported an increase in the number of families with children seeking emergency assistance. Every single one of the 23 cities surveyed expected an increase in the number of families with children seeing assistance in 2008. (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2007). Additionally, a recent report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported that the number of people in families that were homeless rose by 9 percent from Oct. 1, 2007, to Sept. 13, 2008 (citation). This is a disconcerting statistic in light of the previously mentioned fact that the country's economic troubles were just beginning to accelerate as of September 2008. Furthermore, there is another reason to believe the numbers might actually be higher; Homeless families often double up with other families. This causes them to be exempt from the federal definition of chronic homelessness, which states that a chronically homeless person is one who is on the streets or in a shelter (The Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, 2007). Therefore, many homeless families are not counted and prevented from receiving assistance.
Homelessness severely impacts the health and well being of all family members. Children without a home are in fair or poor health twice as often as other children, and have higher rates of asthma, ear infections, stomach problems, and speech problems (Better Homes Fund, 1999). Homeless children also experience more mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and withdrawal. They are twice as likely to experience hunger, and four times as likely to have delayed development. These illnesses have potentially devastating consequence if not treated early.
Homeless youth are individuals under the age of eighteen who lack parental, foster, or institutional care. These young people are sometimes referred to as "unaccompanied" youth.
Many homeless youth leave home after years of physical and sexual abuse, strained relationship, addition of a family member, and parental neglect. Disruptive family conditions are the principal reason that young people leave home: in one study, more than half of the youth interviewed during shelter stays reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (a), 1995). In another study, 46% of runaway and homeless youth had been physically abused and 17% were forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (c), 1997).
Homeless adolescents often suffer from severe anxiety and depression, poor health and nutrition, and low self-esteem. In one study, the rates of major depression, conduct disorder, and post-traumatic stress syndrome were found to be 3 times as high among runaway youth as among youth who have not run away (Robertson, 1989).
Furthermore, homeless youth face difficulties attending school because of legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, improper records, and lack of transportation. As a result, homes youth face severe challenges in obtaining an education and supporting themselves emotionally and financially.
Mental Illness and Homelessness
• People o f color – particularly African-Americans – are a minority that is particularly overrepresented. According to the PBS Homeless Fact and Figures '07, 41% are non-Hispanic whites (compared to 76% of the general population), 40% are African-Americans (compared to 11% of the general population) 11% are Hispanic (compared to 9% of the general population) and 8% are Native American (compared to 1% of the general population).
• Like the total U.S. population, though, the ethnic makeup of homeless populations varies according to geographic location. For example, people experiencing homelessness in rural areas are more likely to be white, female, married, currently working, homeless for the first time, and homeless for a shorter period of time *fisher, 2005); homelessness among Native Americans and migrant workers is also largely a rural phenomenon.
• Many other urban communities cite similar or higher numbers. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports that 77% of its total homeless population is African-American.
• The disparities between ethnicities in the U.S. population and the homeless population are striking. In 2007, the homeless population was 47% African-American, though African-American people made up only 12% of the U.S. adult population. The homeless population was only 35% white, though white people made up about 76% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003; U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2007).
• Veterans make up approximately one-third of the male homeless population. Among this population about 46% are white, 56% are African-American or Latino (Department of Veteran Affairs, 2005).
• The sexual orientation of homeless persons is not often measured, but the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services estimates that about 6% of homeless adolescents are gay or lesbian. Studies assessing sexual orientations of homeless adolescents have revealed rates ranging from 11% to 35% (American Journal of Public Health, 2002). These youths face considerable risk of violence and abuse while homeless.
Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, September 2009
Far too many veterans are homeless in America – between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night – representing between one fourth and on-fifth of all homeless people. Three times that many veterans are struggling with excessive rent burdens and thus at increased risk of homelessness.
Further, there is concern about the future, Women veterans and those with disabilities including post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are more likely to become homeless, and a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have these characteristics.
Approximately 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34% of the general adult male population. The national coalition for homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless , and 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 2006). 97% of those homeless veterans will be male (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2008).
Female homeless veterans represent an estimated 3% of homeless veterans.
They are more likely than male homeless veterans to be married and to suffer serious psychiatric illness, but less likely to be employed and to suffer from addiction disorders. Comparisons of homeless female veterans and other homeless women have found no difference in rates of mental illness or addictions.
Homelessness Among Elderly Persons
Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, September 2009.
Among this growing population of older adults living in poverty are people forced to grow old in the streets and in shelters, elderly persons who have recently become homeless or who remain at constant risk of losing housing. The number of elderly adults who have become homeless has increased around the country. An example of this increase has occurred in Massachusetts, where from 1999 to 2002, the number of people over 55 using shelters increased by 60% (HEARTH, 2007).