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Wherever there is poverty, there is homelessness

By Chelsea DeCicco, Executive Vice President of Universal Initiatives


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, homelessness is defined as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation” [Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)].

According to the January 2017 point-in-time estimate, there are approximately 553,742 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in America. This represents a rate of 17 people experiencing homelessness for every 10,000 people (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2018; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2017). At the time of the 2017 point-in-time count, approximately 66% of individuals experiencing homelessness lived in shelters or transitional housing, 34% in places not meant for human habitation, including abandoned buildings or on the street. 66.7% of people experiencing homelessness were single individuals, 33.3% were families with children. 7.2% of the total count were veterans, and 7.4% were unaccompanied children and young adults. Between 2016 and 2017, homelessness rose nationally by 0.7%, with the largest increases among unaccompanied children and young adults (14.3% increase), individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (12.2% increase), and people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (9.4% increase). Families experiencing homelessness decreased by 5.2% (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2018; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2017).