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Homeless Stats in America


In the United States, homelessness increased significantly in the late 1970s and became an important political topic. The number of homeless people further grew in the 1980s, as housing and social service cuts increased and the economy deteriorated. The United States government determined that somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 Americans were then homeless. The number of homeless is reported to have risen since that time.

According to the United States Conference of Mayors, the main cause is the lack of affordable housing.

The four following primary causes are:
  • Mental illness or the lack of needed services,
  • Substance abuse and lack of needed services.
  • Jobs that don’t pay a Living wage.
  • Bad Public Policy and perverted Judicial System laws are reasons which foment the state or condition of homelessness.
The minor causes cited by the mayors were:
  • Release from Incarceration.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Blaming the victim.

Homelessness is an intractable problem without any widely implemented solution. Massive new funding was authorized by Congress in March 2009, but to this point, no improvements have occurred.


Homelessness – An Overview

The State of Homelessness in America 2016 is the sixth in a series of reports charting progress in ending homelessness in the United States.

The major reasons and lack of causes for homelessness as documented by many reports and studies include:

  • The deinstitutionalization movement from the 1950s onwards in state mental health systems, to shift towards ‘community-based’ treatment of the mentally ill, as opposed to long-term commitment in institutions. Many patients ultimately lost their rooms, didn’t get proper community health support, and ended up in the streets.
  • Redevelopment and gentrification activities instituted by cities across the country through which low-income neighborhoods are declared blighted and demolished to make way for projects that generate higher property taxes and other revenue, creating a shortage of housing affordable to low-income working families, the elderly poor, and the disabled.
  • The failure of urban housing projects to provide safe, secure, and affordable housing to the poor.
  • The economic crises and “stagflation” of the 1970s, which caused high unemployment. Unlike European countries, US unemployment insurance does not allow unemployed insurance recipients to obtain job training/education while receiving benefits except under very limited situations.
  • The failure of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide effective mental health care and meaningful job training for many homeless veterans, particularly those of the Vietnam War.
  • Foster home children are not given job training in school or at home. Without a means to make money, nearly half of foster children in the United States become homeless when they are released from foster care at age 18.
  • Natural disasters that destroy homes: hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. Places of employment are often destroyed too, causing unemployment and transience.
  • People who have served time in prison, have abused drugs and alcohol, or have a history of mental illness find it difficult to impossible to find employment for years at a time because of the use of computer background checks by potential employers.
  • According to the Institution of Housing in 2005, the U.S. Government has focused 42% more on foreign countries rather than homeless Americans, including homeless veterans.

According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the demand for emergency shelter in 270 U.S. cities increased 13% in 2001 and 25% in 2005. 22 percent of those requesting emergency shelter were turned away. Traditionally single men have constituted the majority of the homeless. In the 1980s there was a sharp rise in the number of homeless families in certain parts of the United States; notably New York City. Most homeless families consist of a single mother and children. A significant number of homeless people are teenagers and young adults, mostly runaways or street children. A 1960 survey by Temple University of Philadelphia’s poor neighborhoods found that 75% of the homeless were over 45 years old, and 87% were white. In 1986, 86% were under age 45, and 87% were minorities.

Source: Data provided by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. line650

New York City’s Homeless – Basic Facts

State of the Homeless 2016 – Coalition for the Homeless
  • Over the past decade, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  • In November 2009, there were more than 39,000 homeless people, including more than 10,000 homeless families with more than 16,000 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families comprise 80 percent of the homeless shelter population.
  • During the past City fiscal year (FY 2009), an all-time record 120,381 different homeless men, women, and children slept in the New York City municipal shelter system. This includes an all-time record 43,826 different homeless New York City children.
  • The number of homeless New Yorkers who slept in the municipal shelter system during the last fiscal year (FY 2009) was 45 percent higher than in FY 2002.
  • Research shows that the primary cause of homelessness, particularly among families, is lack of affordable housing. Surveys of homeless families have identified the following major immediate causes of homelessness: eviction; doubled-up or severely overcrowded housing; domestic violence; and hazardous housing conditions.
  • Research shows that, compared to homeless families, homeless single adults have significantly higher rates of serious mental illness, addiction disorders, and other severe health problems.
  • Each night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces. There is no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population, and recent City surveys have significantly underestimated the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers.
  • Research shows that the large majority of street homeless New Yorkers are individuals living with mental illness or other severe health problems. Four out of five street homeless New Yorkers are men.
  • As in other American cities, New York City’s unsheltered homeless population is concentrated in the central business district – that is, midtown Manhattan. Surveys show that nearly 60 percent of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population is in Manhattan.
  • Approximately 53 percent of New York City homeless shelter residents are African-American, 32 percent are Latino, 7 percent are white, 1 percent are Asian-American, 1 percent are Native American or other race/ethnicity, and 6 percent are of unknown race/ethnicity.
  • African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Currently approximately 24 percent of New York City’s total population is African-American, and 27 percent is Latino.
Data provided by Coalition for the Homeless If you see someone in need on the street or if you or your family need emergency shelter in New York City, you may dial 311 for assistance. line650

Housing Statistics & Resources

The following are excellent web resources that will allow you to Understand Homelessness. line650 Additional housing information is available in our Housing & Homelessness Resource Directory.

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Hotline Phone Numbers

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
1-866-331-8453 (TTY)

In New York City ONLY
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)
Crime Victims Hotline: 1-866-689-HELP (4357)
Rape & Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-212-227-3000
TDD phone number for all hotlines: 1-866-604-5350

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