According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 582,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in the United States.
- Chronic homelessness is the term given to individuals that experience long-term or repeated bouts of homelessness.
- 127,705 individuals are considered chronically unhoused, an 16% increase between 2020 and 2022.
- Over 67,000 of all homeless persons are veterans, comprising 10.6% of all unhoused people in the U.S.
- Veterans are more than 2x as likely to become unhoused than those who didn’t serve in the military.
- 60% of the entire homeless population are men.
- Although they only make up 12% of the U.S. population, 37% of all people experiencing homelessness are African American.
- The U.S. has a shortage of 7.3 million rental homes affordable and available to renters with extremely low incomes – that is, incomes at or below either the federal poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income. Only 33 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.
- Poverty is the other major factor that contributes to homelessness. A lack of employment opportunities, combined with a decline in public assistance, leaves low-income families just an illness or accident away from being put out on the street.
- According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a family with a full-time worker making minimum wage could not afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.
- The average person would need to make $25.82 per-hour to afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment – more than 3x the federal minimum wage.
- Poor health is also closely linked to homelessness. 20% of the homeless population reported having a mental illness, 16% had conditions related to substance abuse, and thousands had HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or heart disease.
- For many young people, single adults, and families, domestic violence is the primary cause of their homelessness.
The nationwide issues of homelessness and food insecurity form a critical intersection that severely impacts public health. An escalating housing crisis and inadequate income have trapped millions of Americans in a relentless cycle, leaving their health subjected to stressful living situations. Homelessness and food insecurity are not isolated problems, rather they amplify each other, creating a tempest of social and health deficiencies.
To combat these critical issues, there are a few things you can do to help. Starting with food insecurity, you can contribute to food banks, volunteer at local food distribution centers, and endorse policies that ensure everyone has access to healthy food options.
Simultaneously, it’s important to address homelessness – by advocating for affordable housing, offering time or resources to shelters, and supporting policy changes for fair wages and employment opportunities. Our collective actions can build a compassionate and understanding society, significantly impacting those who are suffering.