The Issue

A look at who experiences homelessness in our country, how we got to where we are, and why we promote specific solutions.

A snapshot of homelessness in America, based on data from HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report and our national and state grantee partners.

How big is the problem?
  • Roughly 568,000 people experience homelessness in the United States.
  • Homelessness impacts some communities much more than others. African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population but account for 40% of all people experiencing homelessness and 52% of people in families with children who are living without a home.
  • Early estimates suggest an addition 250,000 people will experience homelessness due to COVID-19 related unemployment and recession.
  • Thanks to the ‘housing first' approach and other targeted interventions, homelessness has declined by 12% since 2007—meaning 79,000 fewer people live without homes.
  • Since 2009 the number of veterans experiencing homelessness declined by 50%.
  • About 35,000 unaccompanied youth—people under the age of 25—experience homelessness. They are often the hidden homeless, at least half are sleeping outside, in a car or other places not meant for human habitation.
  • In 2017, 7 million households spent more than 50 percent of their income on rent and, two-thirds of those families earn $15,000 a year or less. With no financial cushion, these families are living on the brink of homelessness. One medical emergency or a missed paycheck could mean the difference between having a home and losing it.

Source:  HUD's Annual Homeless Assessment Report)

For a more information on homelessness across the nation visit our grantee partner, The National Alliance to End Homelessness and for additional in-depth data on homelessness see the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual homeless assessment report.

For data on the state of housing and homelessness in Connecticut see information from our grantee partners, the Partnership for Strong Communities and Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

Why do people become homeless?

Homelessness as we know it today can be traced to massive funding cuts to federal affordable housing programs, welfare and mental health care, which began in the 1970's.

Most individuals and families become homeless due to a loss of income, a lack of affordable housing, a major health problem, or fleeing an unsafe home. These are some of the major causes of homelessness:

  • At its core, homelessness is about a lack of affordable housing—rents are outpacing incomes and 75% of those eligible for rental assistance do not receive it. Many people who experience homelessness are employed yet still unable to find housing they can afford.
  • A medical emergency and sky-high medical bills.
  • A divorce or death of a spouse.
  • Domestic violence and family conflict: Between 22 and 57 percent of all women experiencing homelessness report that domestic violence is the immediate cause of their homelessness. For youth, family conflict is a leading cause of homelessness.
  • People with poor mental health are more susceptible to factors that can lead to homelessness.
  • While many people who struggle with addiction never become homeless, someone who is experiencing housing instability has an increased risk of losing their home if they abuse substances.
  • Young people aging out of foster care or individuals exiting the justice system without supports in place. Between 11 and 37 percent of youth aging out of foster care experience homelessness and an additional 25 to 50 percent live in unstable housing after they leave the foster care system.
What is our commitment?

Getting to a country with zero homelessness will take the commitment of front-line service providers, policymakers, advocates, funders, and researchers all working towards the same goal. We have already seen that by using proven strategies and providing adequate investment, our country can move the needle on this issue.

Over the past 25 years, we have worked in deep partnership to identify, pilot, refine, and promote models that effectively move people into homes and help them stay there.

We will continue to:

  • Invest in permanent affordable housing and opportunity for all as a cornerstone to ending homelessness and encourage our peers in the philanthropic sector to do the same.
  • Focus our work through a racial equity lens.
  • Support our grantee partners’ work, in collaboration with government, to develop policies and programs and serve our shared goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-reoccurring.
  • Partner with other funders to advance a common vision and alignment for the most effective use of philanthropic resources.
  • Change the narrative around homelessness to increase understanding of who becomes homeless and why, and focus public interest on proven solutions to end homelessness.
  • Invest in advocates working toward larger systemic shifts we need to end homelessness, including those with lived experience, to create greater awareness of the solutions that exist, call for substantial increases in affordable housing, or figure out the best ways for community partners to work together.
  • Accelerate the progress of all of our partners working to end homelessness by building capacity within organizations and across networks.