Who are the homeless?
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Report 1994: “When you talk about homelessness, people seem to think about the man that’s sleeping on the park bench or the lady walking down the street with bags, but it’s families, it’s women and children that are gradually beginning to feel these problems.”
According to the International Union of Gospel Ministries Annual Rescue Missions Survey 1995 and U.S. Conference of Mayors Report 1995: “Families with children represent approximately 37 percent of the homeless population and have become the fastest growing segment.”
According to the Homes for Homeless organization:
The typical homeless family is a 20-year-old mother with children under the age of 6 (in the early 80’s it consisted of a middle aged woman with adolescent children).
Today’s homeless mother has probably never been married, has an incomplete education, and has never been employed.
22% of homeless mothers grew up in foster care.
22% reported they lived in shelters as a child.
80% of homeless families moved two or more times before becoming homeless.
63% doubled up with friends or relatives before becoming homeless.
According to U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness (based on statistics from 26 cities between November 1, 1992 and October 31, 1993) and data from Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the homeless:
56% are African-American
27% are Anglo
13% are Latino
3% are Native American
1% are Asian
18% are employed
11% are single women
How many homeless persons are there in America?
It is virtually impossible to conduct a true census of homeless persons. Because traditional census methods focus on the household as the unit of measurement, homeless persons are automatically ineligible based on this criteria. Furthermore, many homeless are likely to be transient, moving from place to place, further complicating the process. Therefore, all estimates of the number of homeless persons in America are flawed.
Why do people become homeless?
From “Substance Abuse,” Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Vol. 16, No. 4, October 1994: “Among various factors studied, substance abuse ranks as a leading cause of homelessness. Of the 30,0-00 homeless individuals participating in the Health Care for the Homeless project who were surveyed, more than one half identified alcohol and drug abuse as a major factor (22%), or single most important factor (32%), leading to their loss of housing…
27% are mentally ill
48% have a substance abuse problem.
Other contributing factors:
Poor job skills
Lack of education
Inability to manage one’s money
What can be done to help the homeless person?
According to U.S. News and World Report, November 8, 1993: “Just giving money, food, and housing (but no therapy)…makes us enablers. What the damaged street population needs is treatment, and any rational society would bring pressure and perhaps pass laws to being about it.”
According to Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Director in a guest column in The Washington Post (12/5/93): The plight of the homeless must be addressed by dealing with the root causes of homelessness and “cannot be solved by a hot shower, a warm meal and a bed… Homelessness is not a condition; it is an outcome of mental illness, drug abuse, alcoholism, disability, chronic illness, and just plain hard times.” He stated further, “If we are to truly help these people, we must address the problems that have rendered them homeless in the first