Facts About Homelessness
By Bill Quigley
October 14, 2014 "ICH"
Delisle was one of over 3,500 homeless people in
Santa Cruz when she found out she was pregnant.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel
reported she was turned away from a shelter
because they did not have space for her. While
other homeless people slept in cars or under
culverts, Renee ended up living in an abandoned
elevator shaft until her water broke.
Murdough, 56, a homeless former Marine, was
arrested for trespass in New York because he was
found sleeping in a public housing stairwell on
a cold night. The New York Times
reported that one week later, Jerome died of
hypothermia in a jail cell heated to over 100
Corb and her two daughters lost their home and
have lived in their minivan for four years. They
did laundry in a church annex, went to the
bathroom at gas stations, and did their studies
under street lamps,
according to America Tonight.
Fact 1: Over half a million
people are homeless.
On any given night, there are over 600,000
homeless people in the U.S.,
according to the US Department of Housing and
Urban Development (HUD). Most people are
spending the night either in homeless shelters
or in some sort of short-term transitional
housing. Slightly more than a third are living
in cars or under bridges or are in some other
way living unsheltered.
Fact 2: One quarter of homeless
people are children.
reports that on any given night, over
138,000 of the homeless in the U.S. are children
under the age of 18. Thousands of these homeless
children are unaccompanied, according to HUD.
Another federal program, No Child Left Behind,
defines "homeless children" more broadly and
includes not just those living in shelters or
transitional housing but those who are sharing
the housing of other persons due to economic
hardship; living in cars, parks, bus or train
stations; or awaiting foster-care placement.
Under this definition, the National Center for
reported in September 2014 that local school
districts reported 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 each night,
according to HUD. Sixty percent of them are
in shelters, the rest unsheltered. Nearly 5,000
Fact 4: Domestic violence is a
leading cause of homelessness among women.
According to the National Law Center on
Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), more than
90 percent of homeless women are victims of
severe physical or sexual abuse, and escaping
that abuse is a leading cause of their
Fact 5: Many people are homeless
because they cannot afford rent.
The lack of affordable housing is a primary
cause of homelessness, according to the
NLCHP. HUD has seen its budget
slashed by over 50 percent in recent
decades, resulting in the loss of 10,000 units
of subsidized low-income housing each and every
Fact 6: There are fewer places
for poor people to rent than before.
According to the NLCHP, one eighth of the
nation's supply of low-income housing has been
permanently lost since 2001. The U.S. needs at
7 million more affordable apartments for
low-income families, and as a result, 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.
5 million homes have been foreclosed on
since 2008; that's one out of every 10 homes
with a mortgage. This has caused even more
people to search for affordable rental property.
Fact 8: The government does not
help as much as you think.
There is enough public rental assistance to help
about one out of every four extremely
low-income households. Those who do not receive
help are on multi-year waiting lists. For
example, Charlotte just opened up their
applications for public housing assistance for
the first time in 14 years, and
over 10,000 people applied.
Fact 9: One in five homeless
people suffers from untreated severe mental
about 6 percent of the general population
suffers from severe mental illness,
20 to 25 percent of the homeless suffer from
severe mental illness, according to government
studies. Half of this population self-medicate
and are at further risk for addiction and poor
physical health. A
University of Pennsylvania study tracking
nearly 5,000 homeless people for two years
discovered that investing in comprehensive
health support and treatment of physical and
mental illnesses is less costly than
incarceration, shelter and hospital services for
the untreated homeless.
Fact 10: Cities are increasingly
making homelessness a crime.
2014 survey of 187 cities by the NLCHP found
that 24 percent of cities make it a city-wide
crime to beg in public, 33 percent make it
illegal to stand around or loiter anyplace in
the city, 18 percent make it a crime to sleep
anywhere in public, 43 percent make it illegal
to sleep in your car, and 53 percent make it
illegal to sit or lie down in particular public
places. And the number of cities criminalizing
homelessness is steadily increasing.
more information, look to the
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty,
whose publications were very helpful with this
piece, as well as the
National Center for Homeless Education and
National Coalition on the Homeless.
Quigley, Law Professor, Loyola University New
Orleans, CCR Associate Legal Director