The Definition and Impact of Homelessness

Homeless are people who lack a safe and decent place to live. There are many different reasons that individuals and families become homeless. These include periods of unemployment, evictions, inadequate income, lack of access to affordable housing and high cost of living in urban areas. Homelessness can affect all races, ages and genders. It also impacts certain subgroups at higher rates than others, including women with children, veterans, and African Americans.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducts a Point-in-Time Count to estimate the number of people who are experiencing homelessness. These counts are used to inform policy and funding decisions for local, state and federal programs that address homelessness. The definition of homelessness includes people living in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, canyons, and underpasses; people staying temporarily in shelters, hotels or motels; and “couch surfers” (people who stay temporarily with friends or family). It also includes people who are awaiting a decision on their tenancy at an affordable or transitional housing program.

People who are homeless move through a series of temporary and unstable living situations that make it difficult to generate income, maintain health, keep children safe, and build healthy relationships. The most common cause of homelessness is the loss of a job. Other causes of homelessness include evictions, substance use disorders, mental illness, and domestic violence.

In recent years, the number of people experiencing homelessness has increased. This increase is due to a combination of factors, including a rising demand for affordable housing and limited supply of such housing, high rents, increasing costs of other services such as utilities, food and medicine, and declining public assistance programs.

The population of homeless people varies across cities, states, and counties. Some jurisdictions have large numbers of homeless people compared to the size of their populations. Other communities have smaller-than-expected homeless populations, indicating that they may be implementing solutions that are worth studying by other jurisdictions.

A variety of strategies can be employed to assist people who are experiencing homelessness, including providing housing assistance, offering job training and education, preventing evictions, and addressing other issues that impact homelessness, such as mental health problems. However, it is important to remember that homelessness is a complex issue and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

In addition, policies that address homelessness must take into account the differing needs of different groups, such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, and veterans. The United Nations recognizes the right to adequate housing as a human right. To fulfill this right, it is imperative that governments around the world take action to ensure access to affordable housing for all. Whether by enacting legislation to protect against homelessness or providing direct services to those who need it, countries must find solutions that will work for the most vulnerable in their societies. Those who have the most to lose if they do not have safe and secure homes are the low-income families, female-headed households, and those in rural areas.