How many are homeless in America?

The current economic state has caused many Americans to wonder: how many homeless people are in America? This shouldn’t be a surprise to us; with the rising number of layoffs, intensifying quantity of foreclosures, and increasing requests for government assistance, our nation should be questioning just how many of our fellow citizens have been unable to make ends meet.

Although the National Alliance to End Homelessness is able to provide some answers to this query in their just-published video fact sheet, they also warn that the majority of available numbers are taken from a one night count in 2007. With that being said, they believe the next point-in-time census (completed in January of 2009, official results are expected in summer 2010) will show how the slumping economy has influenced the percentages and demographics of the homeless population.

In this data-focused video, William Sermons, director of the Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, discusses the available information on the national homeless population. He also interprets the nuances of the numbers, which makes the video very handy.

Some important tidbits we gathered from Sermon’s video above:

• On a given night, an estimated 672,000 people experience homelessness. This means 22 out of every 10,000 people are homeless in America.
• 42% of those 672,000 are unsheltered (meaning they live on the streets or in other forms of shelter not meant for human habitation), while 58% are living in shelters or transitional housing.
• 37% of the homeless are people in family units, while 63% are individual adults.
The most common makeup of a homeless family is a mother with one or two children. This certainly goes against the image of homelessness most perceive; we’ve noticed that people typically picture the homeless as a single male standing on the street corner, not a single mom with kids in tow.
Those meeting the federal definition for chronic homelessness make up just 18% of the entire homeless population.
• Sermon explains that the chronically homeless, as defined by the federal government, include individuals with physical or mental disabilities who have experienced homelessness multiple times or have remained homeless for a significant amount of time.
• 8 out of 10 homeless persons are in urban or mostly urban areas. We’ve talked about this in the past; click here to read more about urban homelessness.
• Overall, homelessness decreased 10% from 2005 to 2007. As already mentioned, this does not show the influence of the current economic slump, but the numbers below do. Read on!
• In July 2009, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a mix of 2007 and 2008 homeless count numbers, the first official attempt to reveal the affects the recession has had on the homeless. These preliminary numbers show that the number of homeless had not changed between 2007 and 2008. However, Sermons points out that this stalemate (after a period of significant decreases in homelessness) demonstrates a significant step backward in efforts to end homelessness.

We hope this video has raised even more questions in your mind; questions about who the homeless are, what they look like, where they live, and what we as a nation can do to return them to self-sufficiency.

To answer your questions about homelessness, visit the resource page at National Alliance to End Homelessness for a more in-depth scoop on America’s homeless population. If what you are learning is spurring you to action, visit our website to see how you can help address the issue of homelessness right here in Central Florida.