- The average age of a homeless person in the United States is nine years old.
- Families with children are the fastest growing group of the homeless population.
- Nationally, one in five people in a soup kitchen line is a child.
- Many homeless children are alone and homeless, either runaways or “throwaways”.
- Nationally, approximately half of all women and children experiencing homelessness are fleeing domestic violence.
- Less than 6% of the homeless are homeless by choice.
- Media reports of a growing economy and low unemployment mask a number of reasons that homelessness persists and, in some areas, is worsening. These include stagnant or falling incomes and less secure jobs offering fewer benefits.
- Two trends largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years are: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty.
- In 2000, 11.3% of the U.S. population (31.1 million people) lived in poverty. • While the number of poor people has decreased slightly in recent years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased.
- In Chicago, twenty-two percent of homeless people are employed.
- In Illinois, 40% of all households cannot afford a market-rate two bedroom apartment, and 33% cannot afford a market-rate one bedroom apartment.
- Illinois ranks 12th worst in the nation in the gap between income and rental costs.
- For families and individuals struggling to pay rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness.
- 18,000 units of public housing in Chicago are slated for demolition, displacing 42,000 people.
Age & Affiliations
- Twenty-two percent of homeless people are veterans.
- There are more homeless veterans today than U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam.
- Many people who are homeless have completed high school.
- Some homeless people have attended college and even graduate school.
- Children make up at least 20% of the homeless population.
- In general, the homeless are among the least threatening, most vulnerable group in our society. If anything, they are victims of crimes, not perpetrators.
- Some homeless people have suffered child abuse or domestic violence.
- Battered women who live in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness.
- According to most recent Census Bureau report, 2.3 million people worked full-time in 1997 yet were below the poverty line.
- A person must work full-time and earn at least $8.29/hour to reach the federal poverty level for a family of four ($16,588).
- 30% of homeless people are employed on a full-time or part-time basis.
- Many homeless people have lost their jobs after years of employment.
- In 2000, 39% of all people living in poverty had incomes of less than the poverty level.
Mental Health Challenges
- Approximately 22% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.
- Many homeless people are unable to access mental health services or are too ill to stay in a shelter.
- People who are homeless often face insurmountable barriers to obtaining health care, including addictive disorder treatment services and recovery support.
Substance Abuse & Addictions
- Research suggests that one out of four homeless people are substance abusers. Many of these substance abusers are also included among those who are mentally ill.
- Many addicts never become homeless, but people who are poor and addicted are at increased risk of homelessness.
- The lack of appropriate treatment may doom one’schances of getting housing once on the streets.
From: The Goodwill Inn Homeless Shelter, Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan and National Coalition for the Homeless, Washington, D.C.