10 Facts About Homelessness

Homelessness is an issue in our society. Renée Delisle was one of 3500 homeless people in Santa Cruz when she discovered she was pregnant. She was turned away from a shelter because there was no room for her. Other homeless people sleep in their cars or under freeways but Renée ended up living in an abandoned elevator shaft until the moment her water broke.

Jerome Murdough, 56, a homeless former Marine was arrested for trespassing in New York because he was sleeping in a public housing stairwell on a very cold night. Jerome died of hypothermia in a jail cell that was heated to over 100°.

Paula Corb and her two daughters lost their home and have been living in their minivan for over four years. They do laundry in a church annex and go to bathroom at gas stations and the daughters do their homework under streetlamps.

Fact 1: over a half 1 million people are homeless. On any given night there are 600,000 homeless people in the United States according to the HUD. Most of them are spending the night in homeless shelters or some kind of short-term, transitional housing. A third are living in cars or under bridges.

Fact 2: one quarter of homeless people are children. HUD reports that over 138,000 of the homeless in the United States are children under the age of 18. Thousands of these children are unaccompanied. No child left behind, defines homeless children broadly and includes not just those living in shelters but those who are sharing the housing of other people due to economic hardships. They may be living in cars, parks, bus or train stations or awaiting foster care placement. It is been reported that there are over 1 million homeless children in public schools.

Fact 3: tens of thousands of veterans are homeless. Over 57,000 veterans are homeless every night and 60% of them are in shelters. Nearly 5000 are female.

Fact 4: domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women. More than 90% of homeless women are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse and escaping that abuse is a leading cause other homelessness.

The Contrast of Social Welfare

Fact 5: many people are homeless because they cannot afford rent. The lack of affordable housing is a primary cause of homelessness. HUD has seen its budget cut by 50% in recent decades, resulting in a loss of 10,000 units of subsidized low-income housing every year.

Fact 6: there are fewer places for poor people to rent than before. 1/8 of the nation supply of low-income housing has been permanently lost since 2001. The United States needs at least 7 million more affordable apartments for low-income families and consequentially millions of families spend more than half of their monthly income on rent.

Fact 7: in the last few years millions have lost their homes. Over 5 million homes were foreclosed since 2008. That's one out of every 10 homes with a mortgage and that is caused more people to search for affordable rental property.

Fact 8: the government does not help as much as you think. There is only public rental assistance to help one of four extremely low-income households. Those who do not receive help are on waiting lists and over 10,000 people apply.

Fact 9: one in five homeless people suffer from untreated severe mental illness. 6% of the general population suffers from severe mental illness. But 20 to 25% of the homeless are suffering from severe mental illness according to government studies. Half of this population self medicate and are at further risk for addiction and have very poor physical health. One study tracked 5000 homeless people for two years and discovered that investing in comprehensive health support and treatment of physical and mental illnesses is less costly than incarceration or hospital services for the untreated homeless.

Fact 10: cities are increasingly making homelessness a crime. In a recent 2014 survey hundred and 87 cities found that 24% of the cities make it a citywide crime to beg in public. 33% make it illegal to stand or loiter any place in the city. 18% make it a crime to sleep anywhere in public. 43% make it illegal to sleep in your car and 53% make it illegal to sit or lie down in particular public places. The number of cities criminalizing homelessness is steadily increasing.