Who are America's homeless? 

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), roughly 630,000 people are homeless on any night in the U.S., with 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness during the course of a year. More than one million of them are children.

Research indicates that of the total population of homeless, roughly 80 percent will enter and exit a shelter quickly, and not return for a prolonged period of time or never return. This population of transitionally or situationally homeless individuals and families experience a life-altering event (e.g. job loss, natural disaster, divorce, abuse, or medical condition) that drives them to homelessness.

Typically, these homeless individuals and families merely need a second chance to get their feet back on the ground, attain self-sufficiency, and move quickly toward acquiring some sort of permanent housing.

Of the remaining 20 percent of the homeless population, roughly half enter and exit shelters repeatedly, and are referred to as “episodically homeless,” and the other half remain in shelters and are part of the chronic homeless population, also referred to as the “hopeless” or “street” homeless.

In a broad sense, today’s homeless refers to all of these populations. 



Housing represents the fundamental base-solution to the problem of homelessness. The lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs contributes to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. This deficit of affordable housing has led to high rent burdens, overcrowding, and substandard housing, which has not only forced many people to become homeless but has also put a growing number of people at risk of becoming homeless.



Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. If you are poor, you are essentially an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets.


Other major factors

  • Lack of Affordable Health Care – For families and individuals struggling to pay the rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness, beginning with a lost job, depletion of savings to pay for care, and eventual eviction.
  • Domestic Violence – Battered women who live in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness. In addition, 50% of the cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2005).
  • Mental Illness – Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2005).
  • Addiction – The relationship between addiction and homelessness is complex and controversial. Many people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs never become homeless, but people who are poor and addicted are clearly at increased risk of homelessness.

ALL INFORMATON ON THIS PAGE IS FROM http://nationalhomeless.org/about-homelessness/