Econ Justice & Homelessness
UU Multiracial Unity Caucus
How many people are homeless
in the US?
Estimates of the number of homeless in the United States range from half
a million on any given night to seven million who experience homelessness
at some time in their lives.
Those in shelters are the most
likely to be counted, but those turned away or those in rural areas without
shelters may be left out of these estimates and constitute the "hidden
Why is homelessness increasing?
Two trends are leading to increased homelessness, and both are growing:
- Shortage of affordable housing
More than the minimum wage
is required to rent a 1-2 bedroom apartment at fair market rent, so that
even the many shelter residents who work full-time at low-paying jobs
cannot find permanent housing.
It is very low wage jobs that are expanding fastest in our economy, offering
little help in escaping homelessness. Cash aid programs are disappearing
due to welfare reform. Housing subsidies, such as section 8, which pays
part of the rent for low-income people, have long waiting lists.
"Homeless people are mostly
young single male drifters and alcoholics (or drug addicts)."
- Today 40% are families with
children, and this segment of the homeless population is among the fastest
- Children account for 25%
of the homeless population, with unaccompanied youth at 3%
- Homelessness breaks up families:
A Chicago study of homeless adults found that 54% of homeless adults
were parents, but 91% of these were separated from their children. In
addition to factors already discussed, domestic violence plays a role
in the loss of a home for many of these families.
- The elderly also comprise
a substantial fraction of the homeless as their fixed incomes fail to
cover increased housing, medical and other costs.
- Addiction alone does not
seem to explain homelessness, though addicts in poverty have a difficult
time re-establishing permanent housing.
mental patients comprise a large part of the homeless."
- The movement to close large
mental institutions occurred in the 1950's and 1960's, but homelessness
did not grow dramatically until the 1980's.
- While 20-25% of today's
homeless suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, only 5% need
to be institutionalized; the rest can live in the community with appropriate
of National Coalition for the Homeless,
Edited and published by Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
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