Homelessness is lacking stable and appropriate housing. People can be categorized as homeless if they are: living on the streets; moving between temporary shelters, including houses of friends, family and emergency accommodation; living in private boarding houses without a private bathroom or security of tenure. Homelessness is a major issue in the United States. Moreso, this is an issue for those living in poverty. There are three types of homelessness.
Primary homelessness – living on the streets, in parks, in deserted buildings.
Secondary homelessness – living in temporary shelters such as refuges, emergency accommodation or sleeping on a friend or families couch.
Tertiary homelessness – living in a boarding room.
As stated, homelessness and poverty are interrelated. According to data collected by HUD, 17 out of 10,000 people experienced homelessness every night. HUD’s Point in Time (PIT) count identified 567,715 homeless people on a single night, in January 2019. About 63% of individuals counted were sheltered, and 37% were unsheltered. They are associated with every region of the country, family status, gender category, and racial/ethnic group. Some groups are more likely to become homeless, according to data. Groups that are most at risk include the African American population and Hispanic population. In fact, the pandemic brought shown a light on the number of homeless families in America.
“When governors and mayors delivered stay-at-home orders, many Americans—likely more than one million—had nowhere to go.”-Bloomberg
As a result, those living on the streets became linked to the well-being of others, given the risk of spreading coronavirus. While many could quarantine inside their homes, homelessness brought about another level of exposure for those without adequate shelter for themselves and families.
The National Coalition for the Homelessness defines why people are experiencing homelessness as the following:
- Housing- A lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs have contributed to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. Recent evictions and foreclosures have increased the number of people experiencing homelessness.
- 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.
- In many situations, if housing absorbs a majority of income, you are essentially homeless.
- Lack of Employment Opportunities- With unemployment rates remaining high, jobs are hard to find in the current economy. Even if people can find work, this does not automatically provide an escape from poverty.
- Decline in Public Assistance- This includes loss of wages, benefits, and unstable employment.
- Lack of Affordable Healthcare- Families with children or family members with a disability, the struggle to maintain rent payments and insurance coverage can result in homelessness. One event, such as losing a job can create this decline.
- Domestic Violence- Victims of abuse are often made to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness.
- Mental Illness- Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.
- Addiction- Those individuals battling with addiction often face homelessness too as the addiction takes precedent over adequate housing.
Homelessness is often categorized in urban communities such as metropolitan cities. However, homelessness also occurs within rural areas such as small towns and districts. The risk of becoming homeless is much higher in non-metropolitan areas compared to metropolitan cities. The rate is 1-2 times higher. The demographics of those experiencing homelessness in rural communities include white, female, first time homeless, married individuals living in rural communities. This group tends to experience homelessness for a shorter period of time. African Americans experience homelessness at a rate five times greater than whites.
People who identify as LGBTQ are another over-represented demographic among the homeless. About 40% of unsheltered youth nationwide identify as LGBTQ and in need of adequate housing.
Pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of becoming homeless, and pregnant women face significantly greater health risks while unstably housed. Homelessness and unstable housing during pregnancy are associated with low birthweight and preterm delivery. Learn more here.
Veterans have seen a decline in homelessness in the recent years due to support of government funded veteran housing associations.