Causes of Homelessness: National

Lack of Affordable Housing

  • In 1970 there were 300,000 more affordable housing units than needed
  • In 1995 there were 4.4 million fewer than needed
  • Growing shortage of affordable rental housing
    • The time households spent on waiting lists for HUD housing assistance rose from 22 to 33 months from 1996 to 1998
    • Average waiting period for a Section 8 rental assistance voucher rose from 26 months to 28 months between 1996 and 1998

Domestic Violence

  • A primary cause of homelessness among women
  • Nearly half of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence
  • Women must choose abuse or homelessness

Declining Public assistance, Shelter Space, and Other Services

  • More than 750,000 homeless people on any given night and only 250,000 spaces available in shelters
  • 20% of homeless say they eat one meal a day or less
  • 52% of emergency shelter requests from families were denied

Eroding Employment Opportunities

  • Wages are not enough to cover cost of housing
  • Minimum wage worker would have to work 89-114 hours/ week to afford a 2 bedroom apartment (HUD standards of affordable housing)

Health Care

  • In 2000, ~38.7 million Americans had no health care - for many who do, coverage is inadequate
  • 675,000 people (400,000 children) lost health insurance in 1997 as result of welfare reform legislation

Increase in Poverty

  • Poverty line for family of three is $17,170; for family of four, $20,650
  • A livable wage for family of four is $41,300 which is twice the poverty level
  • Median TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) benefit for a family of three is ~1/3 of poverty level
  • Welfare does not provide relief from poverty

Mental Illness

  • 5-7% of homeless persons with mental illness need to be institutionalized
  • Most can live in community with appropriate supportive housing options

Lack of Substance Abuse Services

  • 38% of homeless report indicators of alcohol use problems, 26% report indicators of drug use problems
  • 39% report indictors of mental health problems
  • 66% of homeless report indicators of one or more of these problems


  • (9/02)
  • National law Center on Homelessness:
  • /uscm/news/press_releases/documents/hunger_121802.asp, a 12/02 survey of 25 cities
  • Survey done by the US Conf. Of Mayors 2002
  • Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless
  • Families USA, 1999
  • 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients: