Homelessness is the condition of people lacking "a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence" as defined by The McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's Annual Homeless Assessment Report, as of 2017 there were around 554,000 homeless people in the United States on a given night, or 0.17% of the population.
Homelessness emerged as a national issue in the 1870s. Many homeless people lived in emerging urban cities, such as New York City. Into the 20th century, the Great Depression of the 1930s caused a devastating epidemic of poverty, hunger, and homelessness. There were two million homeless people migrating across the United States. In the 1960s, the deinstitutionalization of patients from state psychiatric hospitals, according to the physician's medical libraries on use of pharmaceuticals, was a precipitating factor which seeded the population of people that are homeless.
The number of homeless people grew in the 1980s, as housing and social service cuts increased. After many years of advocacy and numerous revisions, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act in 1987; this remains the only piece of federal legislation that allocates funding to the direct service of homeless people. Over the past decades, the availability and quality of data on homelessness has improved considerably. About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. Homelessness in the United States increased after the Great Recession.
In the year 2009, one out of 50 children or 1.5 million children in United States of America will be homeless each year. There were an estimated 57,849 homeless veterans estimated in the United States during January 2013, or 12 percent of all homeless adults. Just under 8 percent of homeless U.S. veterans are female. Texas, California and Florida have the highest numbers of unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 18, comprising 58% of the total homeless under 18 youth population. Homelessness affects men more than women. In the United States, about 60% of all homeless adults are men.
Because of turnover in the population of people that are homeless, the total number of people who experience homelessness for at least a few nights during the course of a year is thought to be considerably higher than point-in-time counts. A 2000 study estimated the number of such people to be between 2.3 million and 3.5 million. According to Amnesty International USA, vacant houses outnumber homeless people by five times. A December 2017 investigation by Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, found that homeless persons have effectively been criminalized throughout many cities in the United States.
Causes of homelessness in the United States include lack of affordable housing, divorce, lawful eviction, negative cash flow, post traumatic stress disorder, foreclosure, fire, natural disasters (hurricane, earthquake, or flood), mental illness, physical disability, having no family or supportive relatives, substance abuse, lack of needed services, elimination of pensions and unemployment entitlements, no or inadequate income sources (such as Social Security, stock dividends, or annuity), poverty (no net worth), gambling, unemployment, and low-paying jobs. Homelessness in the United States affects many segments of the population, including families, children, domestic violence victims, ex-convicts, veterans, and the aged. Efforts to assist the homeless include federal legislation, non-profit efforts, increased access to healthcare services, supportive housing, and affordable housing.
Following the Peasants' Revolt in England, constables were authorized under 1383 English Poor Laws statute to collar vagabonds and force them to show support; if they could not, the penalty was gaol.
Vagabonds could be sentenced to the stocks for three days and nights; in 1530, whipping was added. The presumption was that vagabonds were unlicensed beggars. In 1547, a bill was passed that subjected vagrants to some of the more extreme provisions of the criminal law, namely two years servitude and branding with a "V" as the penalty for the first offense and death for the second.
Homelessness emerged as a national issue in the 1870s. There are no national figures documenting homeless people demography at this time. Jacob Riis wrote about, documented, and photographed the poor and destitute, although not specifically homeless people, in New York City tenements in the late 19th century. His book, How the Other Half Lives, published in 1890, raised public awareness of living conditions in the slums, causing some changes in building codes and some social conditions.
The growing movement toward social concern sparked the development of rescue missions, such as America's first rescue mission, the New York City Rescue Mission, founded in 1872 by Jerry and Maria McAuley. In smaller towns, there were hobos, who temporarily lived near train tracks and hopped onto trains to various destinations. Especially following the American Civil War, a large number of homeless men formed part of a counterculture known as "hobohemia" all over America.
By the late 19th century, many American towns and cities had significant numbers of homeless people. In New York City, for example, there was an area known as "the Bowery." Rescue missions offering "soup, soap, and salvation", a phrase introduced by The Salvation Army, sprang up along the Bowery thoroughfare, including the oldest one, The Bowery Mission. The mission was founded in 1879 by the Rev. and Mrs. A.G. Ruliffson.
The Great Depression of the 1930s caused a devastating epidemic of poverty, hunger, and homelessness. There were two million homeless people migrating across the United States. Many lived in shantytowns they called "Hoovervilles" deriding the President they blamed for the Depression. Residents lived in shacks and begged for food or went to soup kitchens. Authorities did not officially recognize these Hoovervilles and occasionally removed the occupants for technically trespassing on private lands, but they were frequently tolerated out of necessity.
The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 was a pre-disposing factor in setting the stage for homelessness in the United States. Long term psychiatric patients were released from state hospitals into Single Room Occupancies and sent to community health centers for treatment and follow-up. Never adequately funded, the community mental health system struggled to meet patient needs  and many of the "deinstitutionalized" wound up living on the streets, with no sustainable support system. In the United States, during the late 1970s, the deinstitutionalization of patients from state psychiatric hospitals was a precipitating factor which seeded population people that are homeless, especially in urban areas such as New York City.
The number of homeless people grew in the 1980s, as housing and social service cuts increased and the economy deteriorated. The United States government determined that somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 Americans were then homeless. There were some U.S. federal initiatives that aimed to help, end and prevent homelessness, however, there were no designated homeless-related programs in the Office of Management and Budget.
The History of the United States (1980–1991) illustrates that this was a time when there was economic distress, high unemployment, and was the period when chronic homelessness became a societal problem. In 1980, federal funds accounted for 22% of big city budgets, but by 1989 the similar aid composed only 6% of urban revenue (part of a larger 60% decrease in federal spending to support local governments). It is largely (although not exclusively) in these urban areas that homelessness became widespread and reached unprecedented numbers. Most notable were cuts to federal low-income housing programs. An advocacy group claims that Congress halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 (the government's housing voucher subsidization program) and that between the years of 1980 and 1989 HUD's budget authority was reduced from $74 billion to $19 billion. Such alleged changes is claimed to have resulted in an inadequate supply of affordable housing to meet the growing demand of low-income populations. In 1970 there were 300,000 more low-cost rental units (6.5 million) than low-income renter households (6.2 million). By 1985, the advocacy group claimed that the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the number of low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million, a disparity of 3.3 million units.
In response to the ensuing homelessness crisis of the 1980s and after many years of advocacy and numerous revisions, President Reagan signed into law the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in 1987; this remains the only piece of federal legislation that allocates funding to the direct service of homeless people. The McKinney-Vento Act paved the way for service providers in the coming years. During the 1990s homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other supportive services sprouted up in cities and towns across the nation. However, despite these efforts and the dramatic economic growth marked by this decade, homeless numbers remained stubbornly high. It became increasingly apparent that simply providing services to alleviate the symptoms of homelessness (i.e. shelter beds, hot meals, psychiatric counseling, etc.), although needed, were not successful at solving the root causes of homelessness. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), a federal agency contained in the Executive Branch, was established in 1987 as a requirement of the McKinney-Vento Act of 1987.
Over the past decades, the availability and quality of data on homelessness has improved considerably, due, in part, to initiatives by the United States government. Since 2007, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued an Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which revealed the number of individuals and families that were homeless, both sheltered and unsheltered. In 2009, there were about 643,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons nationwide. About two-thirds of those stayed in emergency shelters or used transitional housing programs, with the remaining living on the street in abandoned buildings or other areas not meant for human habitation. About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. Around 44% of homeless people were employed.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, the most common demographic features of all sheltered homeless people are: male, members of minority groups, older than age 31, and alone. More than 40 percent of sheltered homeless people have a disability. At the same time, sizable segments of the sheltered homeless population are white, non-Hispanic (38 percent), children (20 percent), or part of multi-person households (33 percent). Approximately 68 percent of the 1.6 million sheltered homeless people were homeless as individuals and 32 percent were persons in families.
In 2008 more than 66 percent of all sheltered homeless people were located in principal cities, with 32 percent located in suburban or rural jurisdictions. About 40 percent of people entering an emergency shelter or transitional housing program during 2008 came from another homeless situation (sheltered or unsheltered), 40 percent came from a housed situation (in their own or someone else's home), and the remaining 20 percent were split between institutional settings or other situations such as hotels or motels. Most people had relatively short lengths of stay in emergency shelters: 60 percent stayed less than a month, and a 33 percent stayed a week or less.
"In 2004 the United States Conference of Mayors... surveyed the mayors of major cities on the extent and causes of urban homelessness and most of the mayors named the lack of affordable housing as a cause of homelessness.... The next three causes identified by mayors, in rank order, were mental illness or the lack of needed services, substance abuse and lack of needed services, and low-paying jobs. The lowest ranking cause, cited by five mayors, was prisoner reentry. Other causes cited were unemployment, domestic violence, and poverty."
Causes could include mental illness, addiction, disenfranchised individuals, poor self-confidence and/or by individual freedom of choice. Another cause is temporary unemployment and or temporary unaffordable housing in a variety of geographical locations.
In response to the Great Recession in the United States, President Obama signed several pieces of legislation that addressed the homelessness crisis. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 addressed homelessness prevention, in which he allocated an additional $1.5 billion to HUD for the "Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP)." The purpose of HPRP was to assist individuals and families who are otherwise healthy and not chronically homeless in escaping homelessness or preventing homelessness of the vulnerable population. On May 20, 2009, President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act into Public Law (Public Law 111-22 or "PL 111-22"), reauthorizing HUD's Homeless Assistance programs. It was part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009. The HEARTH act allows for the prevention of homelessness, rapid re-housing, consolidation of housing programs, and new homeless categories.
In the first year of the new decade, the Federal government launched of Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Opening Doors is a publication of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which worked with all Federal agencies and many state and local stakeholders on its creation and vision, setting a ten-year path for the nation on preventing and ending all types of homelessness. This plan was presented to the President and Congress in a White House Ceremony on June 22, 2010.
A federal in September 2018 ruled that cities can't punish homeless people for sleeping in public when the homeless shelters are full.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the demand for emergency shelter in 270 U.S. cities increased 13 percent in 2001 and 25 percent in 2005. 22 percent of those requesting emergency shelter were turned away.
Into 2016, homelessness is considered an epidemic in several U.S. cities. "Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and seven of the 15 City Council members announced they would declare a state of emergency and try to find $100 million to cure what has become a municipal curse." Homelessness in New York City has tripled since January 2000, from approximately 20,000 people using provided nightly shelter services to more than 60,000 in January 2015. These counts do not include those persons who choose to stay away from shelter providers.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development acknowledges four categories of people who qualify as legally homeless: (1) those who are currently homeless, (2) those who will become homeless in the imminent future, (3) certain youths and families with children who suffer from home instability caused by a hardship, and (4) those who suffer from home instability caused by domestic violence.
According to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11301, et seq. (1994), a person is considered homeless if they "lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and ... has a primary nighttime residency that is: (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations... (B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or (C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings." Human Rights Watch (2010) identified emancipated teenagers in California as a new homeless population.
Homeless veterans are persons who have served in the armed forces who are homeless or living without access to secure and appropriate accommodation. There were an estimated 57,849 homeless veterans estimated in the United States during January 2013; or 12 percent of all homeless adults. Just under 8 percent of homeless U.S. veterans are female.
Throughout the 21st Century, homeless service providers and the Federal government have been able to reduce chronic homelessness and homelessness among Veterans with targeted efforts and interagency cooperation on initiatives like the HUD-VASH program.
The number of homeless children in the US grew from 1.2 million in 2007 to 1.6 million in 2010. The US defines homelessness as "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence," per McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The number of homeless children reached record highs in 2011, 2012, and 2013 at about three times their number in 1983. An "estimated two million [youth] run away from or are forced out of their homes each year" in the United States. The difference in these numbers can be attributed to the temporary nature of street children in the United States, unlike the more permanent state in developing countries.
Texas, California and Florida have the highest numbers of unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 18; comprising 58% of the total homeless under 18 youth population 
Street children in the United States tend to stay in the state, 83% do not leave their state of origin. If they leave, street children are likely to end up in large cities, notably New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco. Street children are predominantly Caucasian and female in the United States, and 42% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).
The United States government has been making efforts since the late 1970s to accommodate this section of the population. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 1978 made funding available for shelters and funded the National Runaway Switchboard. Other efforts include the Child Abuse and Treatment Act of 1974, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. There has also been a decline of arrest rates in street youth, dropping in 30,000 arrests from 1998 to 2007. Instead, the authorities are referring homeless youth to state-run social service agencies.
College youth that are homeless account for over one million of the young homeless population. According to the Free Application Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, in 2013, over 58,000 students identified as homeless on their application. "The federal government defines these unaccompanied homeless youth (UHY) as individuals who do not have "fixed, regular and adequate" housing and who are "not in the physical custody of a parent or adult." The McKinney Vento Act is considered the key piece of federal legislation pertaining to educational support for homeless children and teens. The causes of homelessness varies from student to student. There are two types of homeless college students: 1. students that are homeless upon entering college and 2. students who become homeless during college. For the youth that become homeless upon entering college, this situation represents the students that are having trouble sustaining housing due to job loss of their parent or guardian, the lack of a parent or guardian or because youth has been asked to leave the home or decided to runaway. The reasons for a college youth to become homeless while attending college are as follows: unable to sustain the financial expenses for housing and food. Secondly, by having the financial support given by family revoked. Fortunately, there are programs available at state colleges and universities that provide students with the necessary resources to obtain financial and housing stability and sustainability. There are also organizations such as the National Association For The Education Of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) that advocate for a higher education so the children and youth can fulfil their dreams. Another innovative model that can be of great help to college students experiencing homelessness is Single Stop USA, which operates in community colleges to help connect low-income students to the resources they need, including housing, to not only stay in school but to excel
Research shows that a disproportionate number of homeless youth in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or LGBT. Researchers suggest that this is primarily a result of hostility or abuse from the youth's families leading to eviction or running away. In addition, LGBT youth are often at greater risk for certain dangers while homeless, including being the victims of crime, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse, and mental health concerns. LGBT homeless youth experience limited access to emergency housing options that affirm their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and according to a Note for the Family Court Review recommending policies regarding such housing options, as many as fifty percent of LGBT youth in emergency housing programs may be physically assaulted, a proportion further exacerbated at large shelters that house two hundred or more youth. In addition, homeless youth emergency housing programs may lead to the denial of services to LGBT youth under the religious aspects of this orientation of the individuals.
The topic of homeless families first emerged in the United States during the 1980s when social welfare programs were being cut and high rates of income equality, child poverty, and the lack of affordable housing were becoming an issue. The issue of homeless families came back in 2009 after the Recession, which replicated the same issues from the 80's. The 2000s saw a new population of those experiencing homelessness: families with children. While an emerging problem at the beginning of the decade, the problem continued to persist through 2010. At the close of the decade the trend continued unabated, with the number of individuals in homeless families increasing from 431,541 in 2007 to 535,447 in 2009. In 2011, the National Center of Homelessness unveiled statistics of a study they operated that ranked the United States number one with the most homeless families among other progressive countries.
The state of New York has the highest number of family households experiencing homelessness. There are an estimated 16,297 homeless family households in New York as of January 2017. Then goes California with 7,168 homeless family households and Massachusetts with 3,430. The state with the smallest number is North Dakota – 77 households that experience homelessness in 2017.
Another study discovered that the three biggest risk factors that contributed to family homelessness in the United States are: ethnicity, lack of resources (specifically funds), and young children/pregnancy. There is also a strong correlation between homeless families and households run and financed by a single female, especially one from a minority group and with at least two children. Single-income families, especially those below the federal poverty line, have a harder time finding housing than other families, especially given the limited affordable housing options. Homeless families do not always take refuge in shelters, but being homeless also does not necessarily mean living on the streets. Homeless women with children are more likely to live with family or friends than those without children, and this group is treated with higher priority by both the government and society. This can be seen through shelters exclusively serving women with children.
The community of homeless people in the United States is aided by governmental and non-governmental organizations. According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2017, the number of people experiencing homelessness in unsheltered locations increased for a second straight year by 9% between 2016 and 2017 This issue is partly caused by a lack of affordable housing and is exacerbated by the criminalization of behaviors associated with homelessness. This problem is also costly for the country in supporting these individuals. Multiple studies have demonstrated success in reducing the homeless population as well as its harmful financial and societal effects by providing these individuals with a combination of housing without preconditions and supportive care. These studies include the 2014 Housing first implementation of the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans and a study performed through Brown University. If these methods were adopted nationwide, there is a chance that the United States could be successful in reintegrating a greater percentage of the homeless into society than ever before.
Homeless individuals report a lack of affordable housing as the number one reason for becoming homeless. Many non-profit organizations are in operation to serve this need—for example, the National Low Income Housing Coalition—but most lack the funding necessary to create enough housing. Several proposed policy measures are designed to secure such funding, such as the National Housing Trust Fund, but these have not been signed into law.
The two main types of housing programs provided for homeless people are transitional and permanent housing. Transitional housing programs are operated with one goal in mind – to help individuals and families obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible. Transitional housing programs assist homeless for a fixed amount of time or until they are able to obtain housing on their own and function successfully in the community, or whichever comes first.
Some shelters and associated charitable foundations have bought buildings and real estate to develop into permanent housing for the homeless in lieu of transitional Housing.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Administration have a special Section 8 housing voucher program called VASH (Veterans Administration Supported Housing), or HUD-VASH, which gives out a certain number of Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers to eligible homeless and otherwise vulnerable US armed forces veterans. The HUD-VASH program has been successful in housing many homeless veterans.
Housing First has met with success since its initial implementations in 2009 by providing relatively no strings-attached housing to homeless people with substance abuse problems or mental health issues. Housing First allows homeless men and women to be taken directly off the street into private community-based apartments, without requiring treatment first. This allows the homeless to return to some sense of normalcy, from which it is believed that they are better-poised to tackle their addictions or sicknesses. The relapse rate through these types of programs is lower than that of conventional homeless programs.
Housing First was initiated by the federal government's Interagency Council on Homelessness. It asks cities to come up with a plan to end chronic homelessness under the assumption that if homeless people are given independent housing immediately with some social and financial support, then there will be reduced needs for emergency homeless shelters.
As of 2018, the number of U.S. citizens residing in their vehicles because they can't find affordable housing has "exploded", particularly in cities with steep increases in the cost of living such as Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, and San Francisco. Bloomberg reported in November 2018 that the wealthiest cities in the U.S., in particular those in the Western states, are experiencing a homelessness crisis driven largely by stagnant wages and "skyrocketing rents".
Homeless individuals report mental illness as being the number three reason for becoming or staying homeless. Such illnesses are often closely linked with the fourth reason—substance abuse—and therefore it is generally accepted that both of these issues should be treated simultaneously. Although many medical, psychiatric, and counseling services exist to address these needs, it is commonly believed that without the support of reliable and stable housing such treatments remain ineffective. Furthermore, in the absence of a universal healthcare plan, many of those in need cannot afford such services. Proposed legislation such as the Bringing America Home Act are intended to provide comprehensive treatment for many homeless mental and substance abuse patients.
There are several policies dealing with homelessness. In 1980 the government decided to start sending funding to people that are homeless, but it was not until 1984 that shelters were built to accommodate and feed them. As it was shown though seventy percent required homeless people to attend a religious ceremony and spend only a couple of nights there. In the 1987 McKinney Act the problem with homelessness became known as a huge social problem. Later on, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110) amended the program explicitly to prohibit states that receive McKinney-Vento funds from segregating homeless students from non-homeless students, except for short periods of time for health and safety emergencies or to provide temporary, special, supplementary services. The Chronic Homelessness Initiative. The George W. Bush Administration established a national goal of ending chronic homelessness in ten years, by 2012. The idea of a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness began as a part of a 10-year plan to end homelessness in general adopted by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) in 2000. The following year, then-Secretary Martinez announced HUD's commitment to ending chronic homelessness at the NAEH annual conference. In 2002, as a part of his FY2003 budget, President Bush made "ending chronic homelessness in the next decade a top objective." The bi-partisan, congressionally mandated, Millennial Housing Commission, in its Report to Congress in 2002, included ending chronic homelessness in 10 years among its principal recommendations. By 2003, the Interagency Council on Homelessness had been re-engaged and charged with pursuing the President's 10-year plan. The Administration has recently undertaken some collaborative efforts to reach its goal of ending chronic homelessness in 10 years. On October 1, 2003, the Administration announced the award of over $48 million in grants aimed at serving the needs of the chronically homeless through two initiatives. The "Ending Chronic Homelessness through Employment and Housing" initiative was a collaborative grant offered jointly by HUD and the Department of Labor (DOL). The initiative offered $10 million from HUD and $3.5 million from DOL to help the chronically homeless in five communities gain access to employment and permanent housing. Section 8 is the core housing program that helps extremely low-income families accommodate the gap between their incomes below 30 percent of the median income for each community. The government assists homeless families by awarding grants and vouchers. Vouchers are available to the families who are most needy and they are used to pay for housing found in the private market. Currently there are policy changes in who receives vouchers and there will be a reduction in the number of vouchers granted to the population of people that are homeless .
Public libraries can and often do significantly assist with the issues presented by homelessness. In many communities, the library is the only facility that offers free computer and internet access, so this is where many people experiencing homelessness go to locate services for basic needs such as healthcare, education, and housing. Libraries computers are also necessary for building a resume, searching for open jobs in the area, and completing job applications.
The news article and video entitled, "SF library offers Social Services to Homeless," speaks about the San Francisco library having a full-time social worker at the library to reduce and help homeless patrons. It mentions that Leah Esguerra, who is a psychiatric social worker, has a usual routine which is done by making her rounds to different homeless patrons and greeting them to see if she could help them. She offers help in different forms that could range from linking patrons with services or providing them with mental health counseling. She also supervises a 12-week vocational program that culminates in gainful employment in the library for the formerly homeless (Knight, 2010). The changes have garnered positive results from all patrons. Since this service started, staff at the library stated that they have noticed a drop in inappropriate behavior. The addition of Social Workers in the library has multiple benefits as they can assist with issues such as education; emergency services (food, clothing, housing, and crisis support); employment; family matters; health improvement (including health insurance); immigration; and support groups for men, women, and teens.
The San Jose University Library became one of the first academic libraries to pay attention to the needs of homeless people and implement changes to better serve this population. In 2007, the merged University Library and Public Library made the choice to be proactive in reaching out. Collaborations with nonprofit organizations in the area culminated in computer classes being taught, as well as nutrition classes, family literacy programs, and book discussion groups. After eighteen months, the library staff felt they still were not doing enough and "analyzed program participation trends supplemented by observation and anecdotes" in order to better understand the information needs of homeless people. When it was understood that these needs are complex, additional customer service training was provided to all staff who were interested. Once the staff more fully understood the needs of homeless people, it was determined that many programs in place already, with a few minor adjustments, would be helpful to homeless people. Programs were tailored to meet these needs. Additional changes implemented included temporary computer passes and generous in-house reading space to counteract the policies in place that may prevent a homeless person from obtaining a library card. New York Public Library offers services to homeless people that are residing in shelters.
The Dallas Public Library started "Coffee and Conversation" which is part of their Homeless Engagement Initiative. The staff hopes these bimonthly events between staff and homeless patrons will help them better serve the homeless people population in Dallas. They also sponsor Street View podcast, a library produced podcast featuring the stories and experiences of the city's homeless population. Guests often include social service providers.
In May 1991, Richard Kreimer, a homeless man in Morristown, N.J. sued the local public library and the Town of Morristown for kicking him out of the library after other patrons complained about his disruptive behavior and pungent body odor. He later won the case and settled for $250,000.
Homelessness has a tremendous effect on a child's education. Education of homeless youth is thought to be essential in breaking the cycle of poverty. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act mandates equal opportunity to a free public education to homeless students. This act is supposed to break down the barriers homeless students have to receiving an education. These barriers include residency restriction, medical record verification, and transportation issues. Once a student surpasses these barriers, they are still subject to the stigma of being homeless, and the humiliation they feel because of their situation. Some families do not report their homelessness, while others are unaware of the opportunities available to them. Many report that maintaining a stable school environment helps the students because it's the only thing that remains normal. Many homeless students fall behind their peers in school due to behavioral disorders, and lack of attendance in school.
Since the United States housing bubble collapse, there has been a rise in the number of homeless students. NAEHCY or the National Association for the Education of Homeless for Children and Youth, has reported a 99% increase in homeless students within a three-month period (San Diego).
Of 1,636 schools, 330 reported no increase, 847 reported an increase of half, and 459 reported an increase of 25 percent or more. Due to underfunding many school districts are struggling to provide the necessary services to support homeless students, as mandated in the provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act, such as rising transportation needs and the greater range and usefulness of services. Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools Homeless Liaison Heather Lisitza says:
One of the biggest challenges our district faces is providing transportation to students who are experiencing homelessness. There are few approaches that our district can utilize to provide transportation for these students. Our city has only one taxi cab service and no public bus system. Our cab company is small and simply cannot fulfill all of our transportation requests. When it's possible, we add students to existing bus routes or set up a contractual agreement with the student's parent/guardian. However, there have been many situations where none of these options have worked. Another challenge our district faces is providing proper outer-wear for students who are homeless. Being that we live in central Wisconsin and have long, cold winters, all students need proper outerwear to go outside. Proper outerwear includes snow boots, hat, mittens, snow pants, and a winter jacket that has a working zipper or buttons on it. This expense adds up quickly and is hard to provide to the increasing number of homeless students.
This is especially worrisome since homeless students are 1) 1.5 times more likely to perform below grade level in reading; 2) 1.5 times more likely to perform below grade level in spelling; and 3) 2.5 times more likely to perform below grade level in math. There are a few worries that there will be false reports of homeless students, but mostly it's not an issue.
Various laws have both directly and indirectly criminalized people that are homeless and people attempting to feed homeless people outdoors. At least 31 cities have criminalized feeding people that are homeless.
In 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Committee criticized the United States for the criminalization of homelessness, noting that such "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" is in violation of international human rights treaty obligations.
Measures passed "prohibit activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and begging in public spaces, usually including criminal penalties for violation of these laws." Violators of such laws typically incur criminal penalties, which result in fines and/or incarceration.
In April 2006 the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that "making it a crime to be homeless by charging them with a crime is in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments." However, on October 15, 2007, the Court vacated its Opinion when, on appeal the parties settled the case out of court.
The City could not expressly criminalize the status of homelessness by making it a crime to be homeless without violating the Eighth Amendment, nor can it criminalize acts that are an integral aspect of that status. Because there is substantial and undisputed evidence that the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of available shelter beds at all times, including on the nights of their arrest or citation, Los Angeles has encroached upon Appellants' Eighth Amendment protections by criminalizing the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless.
... the Eighth Amendment prohibits the City from punishing involuntary sitting, lying, or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles.
... By our decision, we in no way dictate to the City that it must provide sufficient shelter for the homeless, or allow anyone who wishes to sit, lie, or sleep on the streets of Los Angeles at any time and at any place within the City. All we hold is that, so long as there is a greater number of homeless individuals in Los Angeles than the number of available beds, the City may not enforce section 41.18(d) at all times and places throughout the City against homeless individuals for involuntarily sitting, lying, and sleeping in public.
On June 19, 2014 the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down a 1983 ordinance in the city of Los Angeles which "bans people from living in cars or recreational vehicles on city streets or in parking lots" as being "unconstitutionally vague ... Unlike other cities, which ban overnight parking or sleeping in vehicles, Los Angeles' law prohibits using cars as 'living quarters; both overnight and 'day-by-day, or otherwise.'"
Homeless rights advocates are pushing for "Right to Rest" bills in several states in 2015, which would overturn laws that target homeless people for sitting, eating, and sleeping in public places.
Since the 1990s, there has been a growing number of violent acts committed upon people experiencing homelessness. The rate of such documented crimes in 2005 was 30% higher than of those in 1999. 75 percent of all perpetrators are under the age of 25.
In recent years, largely due to the efforts of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and academic researchers, the problem of violence against homeless people has gained national attention. In their report: Hate, Violence, and Death on Mainstreet USA, the NCH reported 386 violent acts committed against homeless persons over the period, among which 155 were lethal. The NCH called those acts hate crimes (they retain the definition of the American Congress). They insist that so called bumfight videos disseminate hate against homeless people and dehumanize them.
The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism (CSHE) at California State University, San Bernardino in conjunction with the NCH found that 155 homeless people were killed by non-homeless people in "hate killings", while 76 people were killed in all the other traditional hate crime homicide categories such as race and religion, combined. The CSHE contends that negative and degrading portrayals of people that are homeless contribute to a climate where violence takes place.
Various studies and surveys indicate that homeless people have a much higher criminal victimization rate than the non-homeless, but that most incidents never get reported to authorities. A 2007 study found that the number of violent crimes against homeless people is increasing. In 2013, there were 109 attacks on homeless people, a 24 percent increase on the previous year, according to the NCH. Eighteen people died as a result of the attacks. In July 2014, three boys 15, 16 and 18, were arrested and charged with beating to death two homeless men with bricks and a metal pole in Albuquerque.
As in other countries, criminals – both individuals and organized groups – sometimes exploit homeless people, ranging from identity theft to tax and welfare scams. Homeless people, and homeless organizations, are also known to be accused or convicted of frauds and scams. These incidents often lead to negative impressions of the homeless by the general public.
There is a bidirectional relationship between homelessness and poor health. Homelessness exacts a heavy toll on individuals and the longer individuals experience homelessness, the more likely they are to experience poor health and be at higher risk for premature death. Health conditions, such as substance abuse and mental illness, can increase people's susceptibility to homelessness. Conversely, homelessness can further cause health issues as they come with constant exposure to environmental threat such as hazards of violence and communicable diseases. Homeless people suffer from disproportionately high rates of poly substance abuse, mental illness, physical health problems and legal issues/barriers in attaining employment. Lack of health insurance and the multiple exigencies of the homeless condition inhibit many homeless persons from receiving care.
Large number of homeless people work but few homeless people are able to generate significant earnings from employment alone. Physical health problems also limit work or daily activities which are barriers to employment. Drug and alcohol abuse and dependence are positively associated with lower work level but are negatively related to higher work level. Those with physical health problems are substantially more likely than those with mental health problems to be in the more generous disability programs. Substance use disorders are also a barrier to participation in disability programs. Rates of participation in government programs are low, and people with major mental disorders have low participation rate in disability programs.
There are risks to seeking refuge in shelters, which are heightened and more noticeable for children. Such risks include health problems such as malnutrition from lack of access to food with nutritional content, behavioral problems associated with coping, social insecurity from growing up in an unstable environment, and mental illnesses such as PTSD and trauma. These problems exacerbate the child's risk of under-performing in both academic and personal settings.
Just as children who come from homeless families are at a higher risk of developing behavioral, mental, and physical health problems than their peers, their mothers are also at a higher risk especially in developing mental illnesses. There are many things that contribute to why homeless women are at a higher rate of developing a mental illness compared to the general population, but there has been a reoccurring three among studies focused on this issue. First, there is constant violence in the home that the woman and her children which feeds into the bigger issue of single female lead households being prone to homelessness. The second reason of leaving a violent home is the experience of sexual abuse, neglection, and/or death of main household provider. And thirdly, the reoccurring issue of mental illness or substance abuse. All these factors not only make women and their children more likely to become homeless, but also place homeless women at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses compared to women in the general population.
Many advocates for homeless people contend that a key difficulty is the social stigma surrounding homelessness. Many associate a lack of a permanent home with a lack of a proper bathroom and limited access to regular grooming. Thus, people that are homeless become "aesthetically unappealing" to the general public. Research shows that "physically attractive persons are judged more positively than physically unattractive individuals on various traits... reflecting social competence."
In addition to the physical component of stigmatization exists an association of homeless people with mental illness. Many people consider the mentally ill to be irresponsible and childlike and treat them with fear and exclusion, using their mental incapacitation as justification for why they should be left out of communities.
There is anecdotal evidence that many Americans complain about the presence of homeless people, blame them for their situation, and feel that their requests for money or support (usually via begging) are unjustified. In the 1990s, particularly, many observers and media articles spoke of "compassion fatigue" a belief that the public had grown weary of this seemingly intractable problem.
A common misconception persists that many individuals who panhandle are not actually homeless, but actually use pity and compassion to fund their lifestyles, making up to $20 an hour and living luxurious lives. This exception to the rule seems more prevalent due to media attention, but in reality, only a few cases exist.
Public opinion surveys show relatively little support for this view, however. A 1995 paper in the American Journal of Community Psychology concluded that "although the homeless are clearly stigmatized, there is little evidence to suggest that the public has lost compassion and is unwilling to support policies to help homeless people." A Penn State study in 2004 concluded that "familiarity breeds sympathy" and greater support for addressing the problem.
A 2007 survey conducted by Public Agenda, a nonprofit organization that helps leaders and their citizens navigate through complex social issues, found that 67 percent of New Yorkers agreed that most homeless people were without shelter because of "circumstances beyond their control," including high housing costs and lack of good and steady employment. More than one-third (36 percent) said they worried about becoming homeless themselves, with 15 percent saying they were "very worried." 90 percent of New Yorkers believed that everyone has a right to shelter, and 68 percent believed that the government is responsible for guaranteeing that right to its citizens. The survey found support for investments in prevention, rental assistance and permanent housing for homeless people.
Public Agenda has also concluded, however, that the public's sympathy has limits. In a 2002 national survey, the organization found 74 percent say the police should leave a homeless person alone if they are not bothering anyone. In contrast, 71 percent say the police should move homeless people if they are keeping customers away from a shopping area and 51 percent say homeless people should be moved if they are driving other people away from a public park.
Completely accurate and comprehensive statistics are difficult to acquire for any social study, but especially so when measuring the ambiguous hidden, and erratic reality of homelessness. All figures given are estimates. In addition, these estimates represent overall national averages; the proportions of specific homeless communities can vary substantially depending on local geography.
Perhaps the most accurate, comprehensive, and current data on homelessness in the United States is reported annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR), released every year since 2007. The AHAR report relies on data from two sources: single-night, point-in-time counts of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations reported on the Continuum of Care applications to HUD; and counts of the sheltered homeless population over a full year provided by a sample of communities based on data in their Management Information Systems (HMIS).
Over the course of the year (October 2009 – September 2010), the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found that 1,593,150 individuals experienced homelessness Most were homeless temporarily. The chronically homeless population (those with repeated episodes or who have been homeless for long periods) decreased from 175,914 in 2005 to 123,833 in 2007. According to the 2017 AHAR (Annual Homeless Assessment Report) about 553,742 people experienced homelessness, which is a 1% increase from 2016.
According to the NCHWIH report:
According to the 2014 NCHWIH report:
According to the 2010 SAMHSA report, Among all sheltered individuals over the course of a year (October 2009-September 2010): Gender, Age, Race/Ethnicity
According to the 2014 NCHWIH report:
According to the 2010 SAMHSA report:
According to analyses of data from the 1996 NSHAPCxiv:
According to the 2010 SAMHSA report:
According to analyses of data from the 1996 NSHAPCxiv:
According to the 1996 Urban Institute findings of the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (UIHAC) report
According to the 1996 UIHAC report:
According to the 2010 SAMHSA report:
According to the 2010 SAMHSA report: Research on shelter use in New York City and Philadelphia concluded that
In New York City
Data from the 1996 NSHAPC show that about 50% of people who were homeless were experiencing their first or second episode of homelessness, which typically lasted a few weeks or months to one year.
According to the 2017 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report:
According to the 2017 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report:
In many cities, homeless persons are effectively criminalized for the situation in which they find themselves. Sleeping rough, sitting in public places, panhandling, public urination (in cities that provide almost zero public toilets) and myriad other offences have been devised to attack the ‘blight’ of homelessness.
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The Chicago Pedway is a network of tunnels, ground-level concourses and bridges connecting skyscrapers, retail stores, hotels, and train stations throughout the central business district of Chicago, Illinois.With a length of more than 40 downtown blocks, it contains shops, restaurants, and public art and helps pedestrians in inclement weather. Most connections to the pedway are commercial or government buildings, including hotels. Columbus Plaza, The Heritage at Millennium Park, the Park Millennium, 200 North Dearborn Apartments, and Aqua are the only residential buildings connected to the pedway.Coalition for the Homeless
Coalition for the Homeless is the oldest not-for-profit advocacy group focused on homelessness in the United States. The coalition has engaged in landmark litigation to protect the rights of homeless people, including the right to shelter and the right to vote, and also advocates for long-term solutions to the problem of homelessness. Formed in 1981, the Coalition provided much of the organization and experience that was later used to found the National Coalition for the Homeless in 1984. The Coalition has offices in New York City and Albany, New York.
The Coalition provides food, clothing, eviction prevention, crisis services, permanent housing, job training and special programs for youth to more than 3,500 homeless men, women, and children daily in New York.Dark Days (film)
Dark Days is a documentary feature made by British filmmaker Marc Singer, shot during the mid-1990s but not completed and released until the year 2000. The film follows a group of people living in an abandoned section of the New York City Subway system, more precisely the area of the so-called Freedom Tunnel.Discrimination against the homeless
Discrimination against the homeless is the act of treating the homeless, or those perceived to be homeless, unfavorably. As with most types of discrimination it can manifest in numerous forms.Freedom Tunnel
The Freedom Tunnel is the name given to the Amtrak tunnel on the Empire Connection under Riverside Park in Manhattan, New York City. It got its name because the graffiti artist Chris "Freedom" Pape used the tunnel walls to create some of his most notable artwork. The name may also be a reference to the former shantytowns built within the tunnel by homeless populations seeking shelter and freedom to live rent-free and unsupervised by law enforcement.Homeless dumping
Homeless dumping or patient dumping is the practice of hospitals and emergency services inappropriately releasing homeless or indigent patients to public hospitals or on the streets instead of placing them with a homeless shelter or retaining them, especially when they may require expensive medical care with minimal government reimbursement from Medicaid or Medicare. The term homeless dumping has been used since the late 19th century and has resurfaced throughout the 20th century alongside legislation and policy changes aimed at addressing the issue. Different research studies have had mixed results as to the effectiveness of the United States' policy interventions and have propose varying ideas to remedy the issue.Homeless veterans in the United States
Homeless veterans are persons who have served in the armed forces who are homeless or living without access to secure and appropriate accommodation.Homelessness among LGBT youth in the United States
Research shows that a disproportionate number of homeless youth in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or LGBT. Researchers suggest that this is primarily a result of hostility or abuse from the young people's families leading to eviction or running away. In addition, LGBT youth are often at greater risk for certain dangers while homeless, including being the victims of crime, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and mental health concerns.Homelessness in Seattle
In the Seattle King County area, there are about 12,500 homeless people living on the streets or in shelters. On January 23, 2018, the street count of homeless individuals was 6320 (2015 = 3,772), the number of homeless individuals in Emergency Shelters was 3,585 (2015 = 3,282), and the number of homeless individuals in transitional housing was 2,285 (2015 = 2,993), for a total count of 12,112 (2015 = 10,047) homeless people. The percentages by race of those living in shelters consisted of: African American 40%, White 31%, Hispanic 12%, Multi-racial 6%, Asian/Pacific Islander 4%, Native American 2%, with 5% unknown. The trends show that combined efforts of Puget Sound, including the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, to provide shelter, healthcare and other help for the homeless are having a positive impact, but that the numbers experiencing homelessness in the region are continuing to climb and, that the response is not adequate.Hooverville
A "Hooverville" was a shanty town built during the Great Depression by the homeless in the United States of America. They were named after Herbert Hoover, who was President of the United States of America during the onset of the Depression and was widely blamed for it. The term was coined by Charles Michelson, publicity chief of the Democratic National Committee. There were hundreds of Hoovervilles across the country during the 1930s and hundreds of thousands of people lived in these slums.List of tent cities in the United States
This is a list of notable tent cities in the United States. A tent city is an encampment or housing facility made using tents or other temporary structures.Murder of Gregory Glen Biggs
On October 26, 2001, 25-year-old Chante Jawan Mallard struck 37-year-old Gregory Glenn Biggs, a homeless man, with her automobile. The force of the crash lodged Biggs into the windshield. Mallard then drove home and left the man lodged in her windshield, where he died a day or two later. Mallard was convicted and sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment for her role in his death.New York City Department of Homeless Services
The New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is an agency within the government of New York City that provides services to the homeless, though its ultimate aim is to overcome homelessness. The guiding principles of the department were outlined at a 1992 New York City Commission on the Homeless: to operate an emergency shelter system for people without housing alternatives, provide services and resources to assist shelter residents in gaining independent housing, and partner with local agencies and non-profits to provide these services. Its two rules are compiled in title 31 of the New York City Rules; state regulations are primarily compiled in title 18 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations.
The DHS is headed by Joslyn Carter, Administrator.Queen Mimi
Queen Mimi is a 2015 documentary film about the life of Marie Haist, an octogenarian homeless woman who lived in a Santa Monica laundromat for 18 years, directed by Yaniv Rokah and produced by Elliot V Kotek.Rebecca Twigg
Rebecca Twigg (born March 26, 1963) is an American former racing cyclist, who won six world track cycling championships in the individual pursuit. She also won 16 US championships (the first – the individual time trial – when she was 18) and two Olympic medals, the silver medal in the 1984 road race in Los Angeles, and a bronze medal in the pursuit in Barcelona in 1992.Twigg won the first three editions of the Women's Challenge on the road. She trained at the University of Washington in Seattle beginning at the age of 14 and met personal coach Eddie Borysewicz three years later.Twigg was a three-time Olympian (1984, 1992, and 1996). However, her final Olympic appearance, in Atlanta in 1996, ended in controversy when she quit the team in a disagreement with the coach Chris Carmichael and the U.S. Cycling Federation. The federation had invested in the development of the so-called SuperBike. Twigg, after using the bike earlier in the Games, refused to ride it, citing poor individual fit and claiming that pressure from the staff on her to use the SuperBike and their refusal to grant accreditation to her personal coach, Eddie Borysewicz, left her defocused.
After retiring from competitive cycling, Twigg earned an associate degree in computer science and worked at various jobs in the information technology industry. She married twice, having a daughter with her second husband. She later quit her jobs and became homeless while staying in Seattle, and as of 2019 has been homeless for the past five years. Her first personal encounter with homelessness occurred when she was 15 years old and was kicked out of her house by her mother.San Antonio Housing Authority
The San Antonio Housing Authority is a housing authority located in San Antonio, Texas and is the second-largest housing authority in Texas. Their main programs are Section 8 Housing, Affordable Housing and Low-Income Housing. Locally the organization is referred to as "SAHA" (pronounced Saw-Ha). SAHA is also one of the few housing authorities to develop their own units. In 2008 SAHA was listed as the 5th largest affordable housing developer in the United States with 1,205 units completed.The Homestretch (2014 film)
The Homestretch is a 2014 American documentary film produced and directed by Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly. De Mare and Kelly intended the film to serve as a challenge to the negative stereotypes of youth homelessness. The film premiered at the 2014 HotDocs Film Festival on April 26, 2014. It went on to play at the 2014 AFI Docs Film Festival and the 2014 Human Rights Watch Film Festival.Independent Lens, The Orchard, Bull Frog Films, and Java Films acquired distribution rights to the film. Independent Lens broadcast the film nationally on PBS, while The Orchard released it through digital platforms on November 21, 2014.United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is an independent federal agency within the U.S. executive branch that leads the implementation of the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. USICH is advised by a Council, which includes the heads of its 20 federal member agencies. The immediate past chair was Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and the vice chair was Secretary of Education John King. USICH partners with these 19 federal agencies, state and local governments, advocates, service providers, and people experiencing homelessness to achieve the goals outlined in the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors.The mission of USICH is to:
Coordinate the federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the Federal Government in contributing to the end of homelessness.
USICH is made up of a small team headquartered in Washington, DC, led by Executive Director Matthew Doherty. Policy staff work closely with each of the 20 Federal Agencies that make up the Council to make progress on the goals and strategies of Opening Doors. USICH works directly with states and communities through five Regional Coordinators who connect with state and local governments in the creation of strategic plans and to promote the strategies of Opening Doors in local communities.
USICH works with its partners to
Establish and maintain effective, coordinated, and supportive relationships with every federal agency;
Organize and support states and communities to effectively implement local plans to end homelessness;
Develop an effective portal to federal programs and initiatives;
Establish and maintain productive communications with Congress;
Establish partnerships with public and private sector stakeholders;
Monitor, evaluate, and recommend improvements in serving those experiencing homelessness and disseminate best practices;
Provide professional and technical assistance to states, local governments, and other public and private nonprofit organizations.In 2010, the agency released the first federal strategic plan to end homelessness in the United States which includes four goals
To finish the job of ending chronic homelessness by 2015.
To prevent and end homelessness among Veterans by 2015.
To prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children by 2020.
To set a path to ending all types of homelessness.When I Came Home
When I Came Home is a 2006 documentary by Dan Lohaus about homeless veterans in the United States - from those who served in Vietnam to those returning from the Iraq War. The film won the "New York Loves Film Best Documentary" Award at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.
Homelessness in North America
United States articles