About the Homeless

 

Homelessness is a national epidemic. In almost every American city, you see homeless people sleeping in doorways, under bridges, in tents made of plastic, on steaming grates, in railroad, bus and subway stations...They wander day after day searching for their next meal and a place to sleep.


The growing number of people struggling to find permanent housing is intolerable. Many are women and children. Many suffer from shattering life crises. Many have lost their jobs and have no savings. Many are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Shelters are only a temporary solution. Many shelters mandate that residents leave within 90 days. Those that permit long-term stays are overcrowded and unable to offer the support services these people desperately need.

 


 

Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, February 1999


This fact sheet reviews definitions of homelessness and describes the demographic characteristics of persons who experience homelessness. A list of resources for further study is also provided.

DEFINITIONS

According to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. 11301, et seq. (1994), a person is considered homeless who "lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence and; and... has a primary night time residency that is: (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accomodations... (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." 42 U.S.C. 11302(a) The term "'homeless individual' does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to an Act of Congress or a state law." 42 U.S.C. 11302(c)

This definition is usually interpreted to include only those persons who are literally homeless -- that is, on the streets or in shelters -- and persons who face imminent eviction (within a week) from a private dwelling or institution and who have no subsequent residence or resources to obtain housing. The McKinney definition of homelessness serves large, urban communities, where tens of thousands of people are literally homeless. However, it may prove problematic for those persons who are homeless in areas of the country, such as rural areas, where there are few shelters. People experiencing homelessness in these areas are less likely to live on the street or in a shelter, and more likely to live with relatives in overcrowded or substandard housing (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996).

DEMOGRAPHICS

Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 15-20 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Persons living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless, and demographic groups who are more likely to experience poverty are also more likely to experience homelessness. Recent demographic statistics are summarized below.

AGE:

In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey of homelessness in 30 cities found that children under the age of 18 accounted for 25% of the urban homeless population (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). This same study found that unaccompanied minors comprised 3% of the urban homeless population. A 1987 Urban Institute study found that 51% of the homeless population were between the ages of 31 and 50 (Burt, 1989); other studies have found percentages of homeless persons aged 55 to 60 ranging from 2.5% to 19.4% (Institute of Medicine, 1988).

GENDER:

Most studies show that single homeless adults are more likely to be male than female. In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey found that single men comprised 45% of the urban homeless population and single women 14% (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998).

FAMILIES:

The number of homeless families with children has increased significantly over the past decade; families with children are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. Families with children constitute approximately 40% of people who become homeless (Shinn and Weitzman, 1996). In its 1998 survey of 30 American cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that families comprised 38% of the homeless population (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). These proportions are likely to be higher in rural areas; research indicates that families, single mothers, and children make up the largest group of people who are homeless in rural areas (Vissing, 1996). For more information, see Homeless Families with Children.

ETHNICITY:

In its 1998 survey of 30 cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayor found that the homeless population was 49% African-American, 32% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic, 4% Native American, and 3% Asian (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). Like the total U.S. population, the ethnic makeup of homeless populations varies according to geographic location. For example, people experiencing homelessness in rural areas are much more likely to be white; homelessness among Native Americans and migrant workers is also largely a rural phenomenon (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996).

VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

Of 777 homeless parents interviewed in ten U.S. cities, 22% said they had left their last place of residence because of domestic violence (Homes for the Homeless, 1998). In addition, 46% of cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). For more information, see Domestic Violence and Homelessness.

VETERANS:

Research indicates that 40% of homeless men have served in the armed forces, as compared to 34% of the general adult male population (Rosenheck et al., 1996). In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey of 30 American cities found that 22% of the urban homeless population were veterans (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). For more information, see Homeless Veterans.

PERSONS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS:

Approximately 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (Koegel et al., 1996). According to the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, only 5-7% of homeless persons with mental illness require institutionalization; most can live in the community with the appropriate supportive housing options (Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, 1992). For more information, see Mental Illness and Homelessness.

PERSONS SUFFERING FROM ADDICTION DISORDERS:

Surveys of homeless populations conducted during the 1980s found consistently high rates of addiction, particularly among single men; however, recent research has called the results of those studies into question (Koegel et al., 1996). Briefly put, the studies that produced high prevalence rates greatly over represented long-term shelter users and single men, and used lifetime rather than current measures of addiction. While there is no generally accepted "magic number" with respect to the prevalence of addiction disorders among homeless adults, the frequently cited figure of about 65% is probably at least double the real rate for current addiction disorders among all single adults who are homeless in a year. For more information, see Addiction Disorders and Homelessness.

EMPLOYMENT:

Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers: in every state, more than the minimum wage is required to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent.1 (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1998). In fact, in the median state a minimum-wage worker would have to work 87 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing. Thus, inadequate income leaves many people homeless. The U.S. Conference of Mayors' 1998 survey of 30 American cities found that 22% of the urban homeless population were employed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). In a number of cities not surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors - as well as in many states - the percentage is even higher (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1997). For more information, see Joblessness and Homelessness and Why Are People Homeless?.

IMPLICATIONS

As this fact sheet makes clear, people who become homeless do not fit one general description. However, people experiencing homelessness do have certain shared basic needs, including affordable housing, adequate incomes, and health care. Some homeless people may need additional services such as mental health or drug treatment in order to remain securely housed. All of these needs must be met to prevent and to end homelessness.

FOOTNOTES

1. FMRs are the monthly amounts "needed to rent privately owned, decent, safe, and sanitary rental housing of a modest (nonluxury) nature with suitable amenities." Federal Register. HUD determines FMRs for localities in all 50 states. [Back].

RESOURCES

Aron, Laudan Y. and Janet M. Fitchen. "Rural Homelessness: A Synopsis," in Homelessness in America, Oryx Press, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

Burt, Martha and Barbara Cohen. America's Homeless: Numbers, Characteristics, and Programs that Serve Them, 1989. Available for $9.75 from The Urban Institute, Publications Orders, 2100 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20037; 202/833-7200.

Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. Outcasts on Main Street: A Report of the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, 1992. Available, free, from the National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness, 262 Delaware Ave., Delmar, NY, 12054-1123; 800/444-7415.

Homes for the Homeless. Ten Cities 1997-1998: A Snapshot of Family Homelessness Across America. Available from Homes for the Homeless & the Institute for Children and Poverty, 36 Cooper Square, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003; 212/529-5252.

Institute of Medicine. Homelessness, Health, and Human Needs, 1988. Available (paperback) for $28.95 from National Academy Press, Box 285, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20055; 1/800-624-6242.

Koegel, Paul et al. "The Causes of Homelessness," in Homelessness in America, 1996, Oryx Press. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

National Coalition for the Homeless. Homelessness in America: Unabated and Increasing, 1997. Available for $6.25 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

National Low Income Housing Coalition. Out of Reach: Rental Housing at What Cost?, 1998. Available from the National Low Income Housing Coalition at 1012 14th Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20005; 202/662-1530.

Rosenheck, Robert et al. "Homeless Veterans," in Homelessness in America, Oryx Press, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

Shinn, Marybeth and Beth Weitzman. "Homeless Families Are Different," in Homelessness in America, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

U.S. Conference of Mayors. A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities: 1998. Available for $15.00 from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1620 Eye St., NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC, 20006-4005, 202/293-7330.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Economic and Community Development. Rural Homelessness: Focusing on the Needs of the Rural Homeless, 1996. Available, free, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Housing Service, Rural Economic and Community Development, 14th St. and Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-1533; 202/690-1533.

Vissing, Yvonne. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Homeless Children and Families in Small Town America, 1996. Available for $16.95 (paperback) from The University Press of Kentucky, 663 S. Limestone St., Lexington, KY 40508-4008; 800/839-6855.


Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, February 1999


This fact sheet reviews definitions of homelessness and describes the demographic characteristics of persons who experience homelessness. A list of resources for further study is also provided.

DEFINITIONS

According to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. 11301, et seq. (1994), a person is considered homeless who "lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence and; and... has a primary night time residency that is: (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accomodations... (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." 42 U.S.C. 11302(a) The term "'homeless individual' does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to an Act of Congress or a state law." 42 U.S.C. 11302(c)

This definition is usually interpreted to include only those persons who are literally homeless -- that is, on the streets or in shelters -- and persons who face imminent eviction (within a week) from a private dwelling or institution and who have no subsequent residence or resources to obtain housing. The McKinney definition of homelessness serves large, urban communities, where tens of thousands of people are literally homeless. However, it may prove problematic for those persons who are homeless in areas of the country, such as rural areas, where there are few shelters. People experiencing homelessness in these areas are less likely to live on the street or in a shelter, and more likely to live with relatives in overcrowded or substandard housing (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996).

DEMOGRAPHICS

Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 15-20 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Persons living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless, and demographic groups who are more likely to experience poverty are also more likely to experience homelessness. Recent demographic statistics are summarized below.

AGE:

In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey of homelessness in 30 cities found that children under the age of 18 accounted for 25% of the urban homeless population (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). This same study found that unaccompanied minors comprised 3% of the urban homeless population. A 1987 Urban Institute study found that 51% of the homeless population were between the ages of 31 and 50 (Burt, 1989); other studies have found percentages of homeless persons aged 55 to 60 ranging from 2.5% to 19.4% (Institute of Medicine, 1988).

GENDER:

Most studies show that single homeless adults are more likely to be male than female. In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey found that single men comprised 45% of the urban homeless population and single women 14% (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998).

FAMILIES:

The number of homeless families with children has increased significantly over the past decade; families with children are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. Families with children constitute approximately 40% of people who become homeless (Shinn and Weitzman, 1996). In its 1998 survey of 30 American cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that families comprised 38% of the homeless population (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). These proportions are likely to be higher in rural areas; research indicates that families, single mothers, and children make up the largest group of people who are homeless in rural areas (Vissing, 1996). For more information, see Homeless Families with Children.

ETHNICITY:

In its 1998 survey of 30 cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayor found that the homeless population was 49% African-American, 32% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic, 4% Native American, and 3% Asian (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). Like the total U.S. population, the ethnic makeup of homeless populations varies according to geographic location. For example, people experiencing homelessness in rural areas are much more likely to be white; homelessness among Native Americans and migrant workers is also largely a rural phenomenon (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996).

VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

Of 777 homeless parents interviewed in ten U.S. cities, 22% said they had left their last place of residence because of domestic violence (Homes for the Homeless, 1998). In addition, 46% of cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). For more information, see Domestic Violence and Homelessness.

VETERANS:

Research indicates that 40% of homeless men have served in the armed forces, as compared to 34% of the general adult male population (Rosenheck et al., 1996). In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey of 30 American cities found that 22% of the urban homeless population were veterans (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). For more information, see Homeless Veterans.

PERSONS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS:

Approximately 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (Koegel et al., 1996). According to the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, only 5-7% of homeless persons with mental illness require institutionalization; most can live in the community with the appropriate supportive housing options (Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, 1992). For more information, see Mental Illness and Homelessness.

PERSONS SUFFERING FROM ADDICTION DISORDERS:

Surveys of homeless populations conducted during the 1980s found consistently high rates of addiction, particularly among single men; however, recent research has called the results of those studies into question (Koegel et al., 1996). Briefly put, the studies that produced high prevalence rates greatly over represented long-term shelter users and single men, and used lifetime rather than current measures of addiction. While there is no generally accepted "magic number" with respect to the prevalence of addiction disorders among homeless adults, the frequently cited figure of about 65% is probably at least double the real rate for current addiction disorders among all single adults who are homeless in a year. For more information, see Addiction Disorders and Homelessness.

EMPLOYMENT:

Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers: in every state, more than the minimum wage is required to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent.1 (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1998). In fact, in the median state a minimum-wage worker would have to work 87 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing. Thus, inadequate income leaves many people homeless. The U.S. Conference of Mayors' 1998 survey of 30 American cities found that 22% of the urban homeless population were employed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). In a number of cities not surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors - as well as in many states - the percentage is even higher (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1997). For more information, see Joblessness and Homelessness and Why Are People Homeless?.

IMPLICATIONS

As this fact sheet makes clear, people who become homeless do not fit one general description. However, people experiencing homelessness do have certain shared basic needs, including affordable housing, adequate incomes, and health care. Some homeless people may need additional services such as mental health or drug treatment in order to remain securely housed. All of these needs must be met to prevent and to end homelessness.

FOOTNOTES

1. FMRs are the monthly amounts "needed to rent privately owned, decent, safe, and sanitary rental housing of a modest (nonluxury) nature with suitable amenities." Federal Register. HUD determines FMRs for localities in all 50 states. [Back].

RESOURCES

Aron, Laudan Y. and Janet M. Fitchen. "Rural Homelessness: A Synopsis," in Homelessness in America, Oryx Press, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

Burt, Martha and Barbara Cohen. America's Homeless: Numbers, Characteristics, and Programs that Serve Them, 1989. Available for $9.75 from The Urban Institute, Publications Orders, 2100 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20037; 202/833-7200.

Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. Outcasts on Main Street: A Report of the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, 1992. Available, free, from the National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness, 262 Delaware Ave., Delmar, NY, 12054-1123; 800/444-7415.

Homes for the Homeless. Ten Cities 1997-1998: A Snapshot of Family Homelessness Across America. Available from Homes for the Homeless & the Institute for Children and Poverty, 36 Cooper Square, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003; 212/529-5252.

Institute of Medicine. Homelessness, Health, and Human Needs, 1988. Available (paperback) for $28.95 from National Academy Press, Box 285, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20055; 1/800-624-6242.

Koegel, Paul et al. "The Causes of Homelessness," in Homelessness in America, 1996, Oryx Press. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

National Coalition for the Homeless. Homelessness in America: Unabated and Increasing, 1997. Available for $6.25 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

National Low Income Housing Coalition. Out of Reach: Rental Housing at What Cost?, 1998. Available from the National Low Income Housing Coalition at 1012 14th Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20005; 202/662-1530.

Rosenheck, Robert et al. "Homeless Veterans," in Homelessness in America, Oryx Press, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

Shinn, Marybeth and Beth Weitzman. "Homeless Families Are Different," in Homelessness in America, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

U.S. Conference of Mayors. A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities: 1998. Available for $15.00 from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1620 Eye St., NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC, 20006-4005, 202/293-7330.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Economic and Community Development. Rural Homelessness: Focusing on the Needs of the Rural Homeless, 1996. Available, free, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Housing Service, Rural Economic and Community Development, 14th St. and Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-1533; 202/690-1533.

Vissing, Yvonne. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Homeless Children and Families in Small Town America, 1996. Available for $16.95 (paperback) from The University Press of Kentucky, 663 S. Limestone St., Lexington, KY 40508-4008; 800/839-6855.

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Homelessness is a national epidemic. In almost every American city, you see homeless people sleeping in doorways, under bridges, in tents made of plastic, on steaming grates, in railroad, bus and subway stations...They wander day after day searching for their next meal and a place to sleep.


The growing number of people struggling to find permanent housing is intolerable. Many are women and children. Many suffer from shattering life crises. Many have lost their jobs and have no savings. Many are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Shelters are only a temporary solution. Many shelters mandate that residents leave within 90 days. Those that permit long-term stays are overcrowded and unable to offer the support services these people desperately need.

Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, February 1999


This fact sheet reviews definitions of homelessness and describes the demographic characteristics of persons who experience homelessness. A list of resources for further study is also provided.

DEFINITIONS

According to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. 11301, et seq. (1994), a person is considered homeless who "lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence and; and... has a primary night time residency that is: (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accomodations... (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." 42 U.S.C. 11302(a) The term "'homeless individual' does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to an Act of Congress or a state law." 42 U.S.C. 11302(c)

This definition is usually interpreted to include only those persons who are literally homeless -- that is, on the streets or in shelters -- and persons who face imminent eviction (within a week) from a private dwelling or institution and who have no subsequent residence or resources to obtain housing. The McKinney definition of homelessness serves large, urban communities, where tens of thousands of people are literally homeless. However, it may prove problematic for those persons who are homeless in areas of the country, such as rural areas, where there are few shelters. People experiencing homelessness in these areas are less likely to live on the street or in a shelter, and more likely to live with relatives in overcrowded or substandard housing (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996).

DEMOGRAPHICS

Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 15-20 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Persons living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless, and demographic groups who are more likely to experience poverty are also more likely to experience homelessness. Recent demographic statistics are summarized below.

AGE:

In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey of homelessness in 30 cities found that children under the age of 18 accounted for 25% of the urban homeless population (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). This same study found that unaccompanied minors comprised 3% of the urban homeless population. A 1987 Urban Institute study found that 51% of the homeless population were between the ages of 31 and 50 (Burt, 1989); other studies have found percentages of homeless persons aged 55 to 60 ranging from 2.5% to 19.4% (Institute of Medicine, 1988).

GENDER:

Most studies show that single homeless adults are more likely to be male than female. In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey found that single men comprised 45% of the urban homeless population and single women 14% (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998).

FAMILIES:

The number of homeless families with children has increased significantly over the past decade; families with children are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. Families with children constitute approximately 40% of people who become homeless (Shinn and Weitzman, 1996). In its 1998 survey of 30 American cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that families comprised 38% of the homeless population (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). These proportions are likely to be higher in rural areas; research indicates that families, single mothers, and children make up the largest group of people who are homeless in rural areas (Vissing, 1996). For more information, see Homeless Families with Children.

ETHNICITY:

In its 1998 survey of 30 cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayor found that the homeless population was 49% African-American, 32% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic, 4% Native American, and 3% Asian (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). Like the total U.S. population, the ethnic makeup of homeless populations varies according to geographic location. For example, people experiencing homelessness in rural areas are much more likely to be white; homelessness among Native Americans and migrant workers is also largely a rural phenomenon (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1996).

VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

Of 777 homeless parents interviewed in ten U.S. cities, 22% said they had left their last place of residence because of domestic violence (Homes for the Homeless, 1998). In addition, 46% of cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). For more information, see Domestic Violence and Homelessness.

VETERANS:

Research indicates that 40% of homeless men have served in the armed forces, as compared to 34% of the general adult male population (Rosenheck et al., 1996). In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' survey of 30 American cities found that 22% of the urban homeless population were veterans (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). For more information, see Homeless Veterans.

PERSONS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS:

Approximately 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (Koegel et al., 1996). According to the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, only 5-7% of homeless persons with mental illness require institutionalization; most can live in the community with the appropriate supportive housing options (Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, 1992). For more information, see Mental Illness and Homelessness.

PERSONS SUFFERING FROM ADDICTION DISORDERS:

Surveys of homeless populations conducted during the 1980s found consistently high rates of addiction, particularly among single men; however, recent research has called the results of those studies into question (Koegel et al., 1996). Briefly put, the studies that produced high prevalence rates greatly over represented long-term shelter users and single men, and used lifetime rather than current measures of addiction. While there is no generally accepted "magic number" with respect to the prevalence of addiction disorders among homeless adults, the frequently cited figure of about 65% is probably at least double the real rate for current addiction disorders among all single adults who are homeless in a year. For more information, see Addiction Disorders and Homelessness.

EMPLOYMENT:

Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers: in every state, more than the minimum wage is required to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent.1 (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1998). In fact, in the median state a minimum-wage worker would have to work 87 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing. Thus, inadequate income leaves many people homeless. The U.S. Conference of Mayors' 1998 survey of 30 American cities found that 22% of the urban homeless population were employed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). In a number of cities not surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors - as well as in many states - the percentage is even higher (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1997). For more information, see Joblessness and Homelessness and Why Are People Homeless?.

IMPLICATIONS

As this fact sheet makes clear, people who become homeless do not fit one general description. However, people experiencing homelessness do have certain shared basic needs, including affordable housing, adequate incomes, and health care. Some homeless people may need additional services such as mental health or drug treatment in order to remain securely housed. All of these needs must be met to prevent and to end homelessness.

FOOTNOTES

1. FMRs are the monthly amounts "needed to rent privately owned, decent, safe, and sanitary rental housing of a modest (nonluxury) nature with suitable amenities." Federal Register. HUD determines FMRs for localities in all 50 states. [Back].

RESOURCES

Aron, Laudan Y. and Janet M. Fitchen. "Rural Homelessness: A Synopsis," in Homelessness in America, Oryx Press, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

Burt, Martha and Barbara Cohen. America's Homeless: Numbers, Characteristics, and Programs that Serve Them, 1989. Available for $9.75 from The Urban Institute, Publications Orders, 2100 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20037; 202/833-7200.

Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness. Outcasts on Main Street: A Report of the Federal Task Force on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness, 1992. Available, free, from the National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness, 262 Delaware Ave., Delmar, NY, 12054-1123; 800/444-7415.

Homes for the Homeless. Ten Cities 1997-1998: A Snapshot of Family Homelessness Across America. Available from Homes for the Homeless & the Institute for Children and Poverty, 36 Cooper Square, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003; 212/529-5252.

Institute of Medicine. Homelessness, Health, and Human Needs, 1988. Available (paperback) for $28.95 from National Academy Press, Box 285, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20055; 1/800-624-6242.

Koegel, Paul et al. "The Causes of Homelessness," in Homelessness in America, 1996, Oryx Press. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

National Coalition for the Homeless. Homelessness in America: Unabated and Increasing, 1997. Available for $6.25 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

National Low Income Housing Coalition. Out of Reach: Rental Housing at What Cost?, 1998. Available from the National Low Income Housing Coalition at 1012 14th Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20005; 202/662-1530.

Rosenheck, Robert et al. "Homeless Veterans," in Homelessness in America, Oryx Press, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

Shinn, Marybeth and Beth Weitzman. "Homeless Families Are Different," in Homelessness in America, 1996. Available for $43.50 from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005; 202/737-6444.

U.S. Conference of Mayors. A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities: 1998. Available for $15.00 from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1620 Eye St., NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC, 20006-4005, 202/293-7330.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Economic and Community Development. Rural Homelessness: Focusing on the Needs of the Rural Homeless, 1996. Available, free, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Housing Service, Rural Economic and Community Development, 14th St. and Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-1533; 202/690-1533.

Vissing, Yvonne. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Homeless Children and Families in Small Town America, 1996. Available for $16.95 (paperback) from The University Press of Kentucky, 663 S. Limestone St., Lexington, KY 40508-4008; 800/839-6855.