Later this month, The San Francisco Chronicle will lead an effort to flood the Bay Area with stories and news reports on the city’s homelessness crisis. Working with local television, print, and online news outlets, this coordinated effort will create a wave of coverage about this pressing issue, hopefully forcing the public and area politicians to put some major energy and resources into finding real, lasting solutions.
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For many cities, solving homelessness is an ongoing challenge. So, what does homelessness look like in 2016? The following statistics are alarming:
- 564,708 people in the U.S. are homeless. According to a recent report, over half a million people were living on the streets, in cars, in homeless shelters, or in subsidized transitional housing during a one-night national survey last January. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, 358,422 were individuals, and a quarter of the entire group were children.
- 83,170 individuals, or 15% of the homeless population, are considered “chronically homeless.” Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual who has a disability and has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or and individual who has a disability and has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years (must be a cumulative of 12 months). Families with at least one adult member who meets that description are also considered chronically homeless.As the National Alliance to End Homelessness explains, “While people experiencing chronic homelessness make up a small number of the overall homeless population, they are among the most vulnerable. They tend to have high rates of behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance use disorders; conditions that may be exacerbated by physical illness, injury, or trauma.”
- 47,725, or about 8% of the homeless population, are veterans. This represents a 35% decrease since 2009. Homeless veterans have served in several different conflicts from WWII to the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of veteran homelessness in the nation (145.8 homeless veterans per 10,000). 45% of homeless veterans are black or Hispanic. While less than 10% of homeless veterans are women, that number is rising.
- 1.4 million veterans are at risk of homelessness. This may be due to poverty, overcrowding in government housing, and lack of support networks. Research indicates that those who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam era are at greatest risk of homelessness. War-related disabilities or disorders often contribute to veteran homelessness, including physical disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, depression and anxiety, and addiction.
- 550,000 unaccompanied, single youth and young adults under the age of 24 experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week. Approximately 380,000 of that total are under the age of 18. Accurately counting homeless children and youth is particularly difficult. The National Alliance to End Homelessness explains, “Homeless youth are less likely to spend time in the same places as homeless people who are in an older age range. They are often less willing to disclose that they’re experiencing homelessness or may not even identify as homeless. They also may work harder to try to blend in with peers who aren’t homeless.”
- 110,000 LGBTQ youth in the U.S. are homeless. This is one of the most vulnerable homeless populations. A substantial number of young people who identify as LGBTQ say that they live in a community that is not accepting of LGBTQ people. In fact, LGBTQ youths make up 20% of runaway kids across the country. Family rejection, abuse, and neglect are major reasons LGBTQ youth end up on the streets. Additionally, homeless LGBTQ youth are substantially more likely than heterosexual homeless youth to be victims of sexual assault and abuse. LGBTQ homeless youth are twice as likely to commit suicide compared to heterosexual homeless youth.
- Fifty percent of the homeless population is over the age of 50. These individuals often face additional health and safety risks associated with age. They are more prone to injuries from falls, and may suffer from cognitive impairment, vision or hearing loss, major depression, and chronic conditions like diabetes and arthritis.
- 830,120 year-round beds are available in a range of housing projects. About half of those beds are dedicated to people currently experiencing homelessness. This includes
- Emergency Shelters that provide temporary or nightly shelter beds to people experiencing homelessness.
- Transitional Housing that provides homeless people with up to 24 months of housing and supportive services.
- Safe Havens that provide temporary shelter and services to hard-to-serve individuals.
The other half of these beds are targeted at recently homeless populations. Rapid Rehousing provides short-term and medium-term rental assistance, housing relocation, and stabilization services to formerly homeless people experiencing homelessness. Permanent Supportive Housing provides long-term housing with supportive services for formerly homeless people with disabilities. Other Permanent Housing provides housing with or without services, but does not require people to have a disability.
As shocking as these statistics are, there are so many great organizations working tirelessly to end homelessness in the U.S. and around the world. Get inspired by their work and success, continue reading some of the Social Solutions case studies that feature clients who work with the homeless population!