Thursday, November 10, 2011
Facts About Homelessness
Homelessness has now been on the American policy agenda for close to two decades. In 1989, when the Urban Institute published America’s Homeless (Burt and Cohen 1989), policymakers and the public may have expected, or hoped, that we could end the crisis of homelessness relatively quickly. The decade of the 1990s has not fulfilled that expectation. Programs and services to help homeless people expanded dramatically in the 1990s, just as they did in the 1980s. At the same time, visible homelessness in many American communities does not seem to have diminished. How are we to think about the persistence of homelessness at the end of a decade of unprecedented prosperity, and at the dawn of a new millennium?
How many people are homeless?
As of the last, official count, about 671,859 people experience homelessness on any given night in the United States. Today’s homeless in the United States are houseless, and some are placeless (transient). Many are also without family. But some significant number brings at least part of their family with them into homelessness, and maintains some reasonable degree of connectedness with housed family members. Over time, these "connected" people comprise a larger proportion of people experiencing homelessness than the isolates, because "connected" people stay homeless for relatively shorter periods and are replaced by others like themselves.