Here’s the size of the homeless problem

By Harry Shelton

October 23, 2020

Here’s the size of the homeless problem

Homeless has various definitions, however, regardless of how it is defined, the size of the problem in the US has been calculated to 554,000 people categorized as homeless. Of this number nearly 200,000 are living on the street, or in technical parlance, unsheltered. Charities working with the homeless estimate that the number of unsheltered will continue to rise.

The rates of homelessness vary across the country. Washington D.C. has the largest incidence of the problem with 110 homeless people per 10,000 residents. Hawaii follows with 51 and New York comes third with 45. Tennessee has only 5 per 10,000 residents.

The number breaks down further into subgroups where the data begins to show patterns which make for interesting conclusions. The chronic homeless, of which there are just over 95,000, is statistically the group who are most unsheltered. Homeless household, which is the biggest subgroup, is predominantly sheltered.

Youth, who constitute about 40,000 people in the total number, are mostly unsheltered although it is only just over half. But it does mean that people aged 18-24 who are seriously at risk are on the street at night.

Alternatively, veterans whose numbers are slightly less than the young people are mostly in sheltered accommodation of some sort.

Why are people homeless?

Each homeless person will have a reason why they are homeless. But there are some general reasons why it can happen.

People who are experiencing a gap between the cost of housing in the place they live and either the money they earn or the support and benefits they can receive. Minimum wage does not provide enough to meet basic rent.

Another factor in the workforce is where there is a lack of jobs at a competitive wage which will produce enough capital to meet food and rent needs

Some cities simply don’t have enough affordable housing for the number of people who need it, and where there is no program for private landlords to take people who need affordable housing with the backing of the local government, people fall out of the system.

Health and wellness factors

This is where the problem continues to get increasingly difficult to deal with and the problem is exacerbated by preconceived ideas.

For example, the national opioid crisis intensifies the homeless crisis and vice versa. The homeless are more at risk of becoming addicted, and the already addicted may become homeless when they use available cash for drugs.

Domestic violence causes homelessness among women and children. Women know they need to get away but often will not have the financial means to go to a place of safety. 20% of the total homeless number is children under the age of 18. Victims of domestic abuse need more support than shelter, but the abuse is the factor that causes them to be homeless.

Mental illness is also a factor through which people become homeless. Like domestic abuse, Isee their care is the primary requirement, homelessness is just a symptom.


About Harry Shelton