On any given night, there are approximately 643,067 people experiencing homelessness in America.
238,110 of those people are in families.
25% suffer from mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.
17% are considered chronically homeless.
13% are fleeing domestic violence.
12% are veterans.
HOUSING AFFORDABILITY AND HOMELESSNESS
The nation is currently facing one of the most severe affordable housing crises in history. Not surprisingly, those living in poverty are the most significantly affected.
In the 1970s, communities had plenty of affordable housing. That meant that when a family or individual experienced a crisis and lost housing, they could quickly find another place to live. But by the mid-1980s, a shrinking supply of low-cost housing resulted, and the combination of rising rents and slow, stagnant wage growth for lower-income people has continued and worsened.
Today, 11 million extremely low-income households pay at least half of their income toward housing, putting them at risk of housing instability and homelessness.
LOW-INCOME, HIGH RISK
Low-income households are typically unemployed or underemployed due to a number of factors, such as a challenging labor market; limited education; a gap in work history; a criminal record; unreliable transportation or unstable housing; poor health or a disability.
For those who are low-income but employed, wages have been stagnant and have not kept pace with expensive housing costs. The typical American worker has seen little to no growth in his/her weekly wages over the past three decades. Too little income combined with the dwindling availability of low-cost housing leaves many people at risk for becoming homeless.
Health and homelessness are inextricably linked. Health problems can cause a person’s homelessness as well as be exacerbated by the experience.
HEALTH AND HOMELESSNESS
An acute physical or behavioral health crisis or any long-term disabling condition may lead to homelessness; homelessness itself can exacerbate chronic medical conditions. A person can become chronically homeless when his or her health condition becomes disabling and stable housing is too difficult to maintain without help.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, people living in shelters are more than twice as likely to have a disability compared to the general population. On a given night in 2017, 20 percent of the homeless population reported having a serious mental illness, 16 percent conditions related to chronic substance abuse, and more than 10,000 people had HIV/AIDS.
Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS are found at high rates among the homeless population, sometimes three to six times higher than that of the general population.
People who have mental health and substance use disorders and who are homeless are more likely to have immediate, life-threatening physical illnesses and live in dangerous conditions. Also, more than 10 percent of people who seek substance abuse or mental health treatment in our public health system are homeless.
The issue of opioid abuse has risen to a level of national crisis as the number of people abusing prescription drugs and heroin has dramatically risen, and the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths has tripled since 2000. While the epidemic is notable for affecting people from any race, gender, socioeconomic status, its effects are felt in unique and notably harmful ways by people who are experiencing homelessness. Substance use disorders are known risk factors for homelessness, and substance abuse and overdose disproportionately impact homeless people.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND HOMELESSNESS
A domestic violence experience is common among youth, single adults and families who become homeless and for many it is the immediate cause of their homelessness. Survivors of domestic violence may turn to homeless service programs seeking a safe temporary place to stay after fleeing an abusive relationship. Others may turn to homeless service programs primarily because they lack the economic resources to secure or maintain housing after leaving an abusive relationship.
Data is limited, but recent statistics suggest that on a single night in January 2017, 16 percent of the overall homeless population, 87,329 people, reported having experienced domestic violence at some point. Research from a study in New York City indicates that one in five families experienced domestic violence in the five years before entering shelter. Among families that reported domestic violence in the prior five years, 88 percent reported that it contributed to their homelessness “a lot.”