What does the current homelessness crisis in this country look like, where are some of the largest disparities and what can be done to help fix it?

Front Steps1, an organization based in Austin, TX, has reported that homelessness in America has been on the rise for the last 20-25 years. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has reported that as of 2019, this is the third straight year where we have seen an increase in homelessness across the country.

Why? Two aspects of the economy are at fault for this steady rise:

  • The decreasing availability of affordable housing for rent, combined with;
  • An increase in poverty nationwide

Across the country, there are large disparities between race, sex, gender, ethnicity and age. There are also a number of factors that contribute to someone becoming homeless, and staying homeless. Aside from poverty and lack of affordable housing, some of those include:

  • Lack of health care
  • Unemployment or other job losses
  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Domestic violence

Demographics of homeless Americans varies from state to state, but as of 20192, California and New York had the largest populations of homeless individuals and families at a combined 244,000 people. Those two states combined held nearly 43% of all homeless Americans. Out of the estimated 565,000-568,000 Americans that are found homeless on any night, nearly 7% are children, over 8% are veterans, and almost 50% are disabled or unable to work3.

Homelessness in 2020 is a much graver image. With the COVID-19 crisis, there is little available health care and preventative care for those who are homeless and unsheltered.

But what work has been done to provide assistance, support and shelter for the homeless? Over the last 5 years, many states have done work to increase the number of permanent housing options for homeless, as well as increase the number of rapid rehousing and emergency shelter programs.

From “Homelessness in America: A Very Brief Overview” by Deb Butler (PandemaCare).