People Experiencing Homelessness

On a single night in January 2023, over 650,000 Americans were experiencing homelessness. Over 20% of those were people experiencing chronic homelessness.  Additionally, veterans make up roughly 40,000 and unaccompanied youths make up around 34,000 people who are homeless.  At least 20 people experiencing homelessness die every day in the U.S., and in 2020, close to 8,000 homeless people lost their lives, a number that increased in 2019 and 2018. Thirty-eight percent of homeless people are physically challenged, 25% have mental illness, and the average life expectancy of a homeless individual is only 50 years. 


From 2010 to 2017, the United States witnessed an increase in homelessness for the first time in seven years, reaching over half a million people. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated homelessness in the U.S. Most shelters closed their doors creating a void in social support to aid the crisis. This upward trend contributes to a breakdown in quality of life over time. For example, families with children make up 30 percent of the homeless population and there the number of homeless students has also increased. The homeless population often faces lack of access to quality health care, nutrition, and treatment regimens, leaving them vulnerable to poor health outcomes. Although the homeless population in the U.S. is diverse, there is evidence of inequalities among subgroups. Homelessness risk in the U.S. is linked to race, ethnicity, and gender. Males are more likely to experience homelessness compared to females and the number of people from the LGBTQ+ population is on the rise. Although white people make up the highest percentage of the homeless population in the U.S. by race, most minority groups—especially Black and Indigenous people—experience homelessness at higher rates than white people. The most striking disparity can be found among Black people, who represent 13% of the general population but account for 37% of people experiencing homelessness.


The homeless population is more at risk for poor mental health, and as a result more police encounters leading to arrest. This victimizes homeless people and prevents them from experiencing re-entry to society. All of these factors can create despair and can lead to substance abuse over time.  The rise of homelessness is caused in part by stagnant wages, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable healthcare, poverty, lack of mental health and addiction treatment services, racial inequality, domestic violence, family conflict, and systemic failures.


Communities can work to prevent and decrease homelessness by using proactive screening of populations at heightened risk of homelessness, investing in eviction prevention programs, and advocating for permanent deep rental property subsidies. Homeless people often rely on emergency rooms for healthcare services, which is a financial burden on the system—mobile and street clinics in cities most in need can be implemented at the systems level to help alleviate the burden of health care cost. Other solutions include increasing access and awareness of public health services, access to medical care, health insurance coverage.

Resources & Tools


Screen capture of Police Know Arrests Won’t Fix Homelessness. They Keep Making Them Anyway. article
Police Know Arrests Won’t Fix Homelessness. They Keep Making Them Anyway.
Story - Written
Brought to you by Center for Investigative Reporting
Published on 06/23/2022
Portrait of Katya Fels Smyth and Commons Good logo
Commons Good Podcast: Katya Fels Smyth
Story - Audio
Brought to you by CI
Published on 10/29/2021
Screen capture of An Experiment Doled Out Money to Homeless People in Denver, No Strings Attached. Here’s What Happened. article
An Experiment Doled Out Money to Homeless People in Denver, No Strings Attached. Here’s What Happened.
Story - Written
Brought to you by The Colorado Sun
Published on 06/19/2024
Group at a Community Health Leadership Academy convening
Downtown Women’s Center: A Journey Towards a Trauma-Informed Community
Story - Written
Brought to you by Community Commons
Screen shot of the headline of the story
CityLab University: Understanding Homelessness in America
Story - Written
Brought to you by CityLab
Screen grab of Hotel Rooms for the Homeless Change Health Outcomes Beyond COVID
Hotel Rooms for the Homeless Change Health Outcomes Beyond COVID
Story - Written
Brought to you by Shelterforce
This American Life Podcast Page
Not It!
Story - Audio
the bed of a homeless person on the street photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Humane Housing and COVID-19
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Screen grab of One Wa School District Helped Homeless Students Graduate. Can Others?
One WA School District Helped Homeless Students Graduate. Can Others?
Story - Written
Brought to you by The Seattle Times
Social worker in a library
Social Worker in the Library Chicago
Story - Written
Brought to you by 100MHL
Screen capture of California Bets Big on Housing in Medicaid
California Bets Big on Housing in Medicaid
Story - Written
Brought to you by Tradeoffs
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Crook County Master Plan which includes icons related to the following: active transportion; general population; Urban; Primary research; basic needs for health and safety
Crook County Master Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Screen grab of Disease Risks and Homelessness
Disease Risks and Homelessness
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by US HUD
Webpage of COVID-19 & Housing/Homelessness
COVID-19 & Housing/Homelessness
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by NLIHC
Screen capture of State Laws to Support Youth Experiencing Homelessness webpage
State Laws to Support Youth Experiencing Homelessness
Resource
Brought to you by SchoolHouse Connection
four women walking in a line Photo by sk on Unsplash
Bright Spot: DiaBEATit! Walking Group
Resource - Model Policy
Brought to you by 100MHL
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled The Long Road Home: Decreasing Barriers to Public Housing for People With Criminal Records which includes icons related to the following: housing; justice-involved populations; Urban; Qualitative research; humane housing
The Long Road Home: Decreasing Barriers to Public Housing for People With Criminal Records
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 04/30/2016
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Cowlitz County Coal Export Terminal which includes icons related to the following: built environment; general population; Mixed methods;
Cowlitz County Coal Export Terminal
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Cover page of The Long Road Home: Decreasing Barriers to Public Housing for People With Criminal Records
The Long Road Home: Decreasing Barriers to Public Housing for People With Criminal Records
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Cover page for PIT methodology guide
Point-in-Time Count Methodology Guide
Resource
Brought to you by US HUD
Data Sharing Helps Reduce the Number of Homeless Veterans
Resource
Brought to you by The Pew Charitable Trusts
Cover page of A Perfect Storm report
A Perfect Storm: Extreme Weather as an Affordable Housing Crisis Multiplier
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Center for American Progress
Ending Veteran Homelessness Map
Ending Veteran Homelessness Map
Resource - Map
Brought to you by National Alliance to End Homelessness
First page of guide on Pathways to Partnership: Early Childhood
Pathways to Partnership: Early Childhood
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by SchoolHouse Connection
Deeper Dives for Schools Home Page
Deeper Dives for Schools: Practical Strategies to Serve Young Children Experiencing Homelessness
Resource - Fact Sheet
Brought to you by SchoolHouse Connection
screenshot of the front page of the report
Los Angeles Homeless Initiative
Resource - Fact Sheet
Brought to you by American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences
Cover page of Michigan Statewide Housing Needs Assessment
Michigan Statewide Housing Needs Assessment
Resource - Report
Brought to you by University of Michigan School of Public Health
First page of Indiana SB 464: Homeless Children and Youths Health Note
Indiana SB 464: Homeless Children and Youths
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
First page of Family Residential Instability: What Can States and Localities Do? document
Family Residential Instability: What Can States and Localities Do?
Resource - Policy Brief
Brought to you by Urban Institute
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Charlotte Area Transit System Blue Line Extension which includes icons related to the following: Safe and affordable public transit; Urban; Mixed methods; reliable transportation
Charlotte Area Transit System Blue Line Extension
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 06/30/2015
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commission Biosolids Storage Facility which includes icons related to the following: built environment; Primary research;
Neenah-Menasha Sewerage Commission Biosolids Storage Facility
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Measure H: Preventing and Reducing Homelessness in Los Angeles County which includes icons related to the following: healthcare access; ; Urban; Primary research; basic needs for health and safety
Measure H: Preventing and Reducing Homelessness in Los Angeles County
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 02/01/2017
First page of Fact Sheet: Cost of Homelessness
Fact Sheet: Cost of Homelessness
Resource - Fact Sheet
Brought to you by National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Metro Westside Subway Extension (Wilshire Corridor) which includes icons related to the following: active transportation; urban communities; Urban; Primary research; reliable transportation
Metro Westside Subway Extension (Wilshire Corridor)
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 01/01/2012
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Pioneer Square Neighborhood Plan which includes icons related to the following: complete communities; people experiencing homelessness; Urban; Mixed methods
Pioneer Square Neighborhood Plan
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Cover page of Recent Trends in Housing Cost Burden Among U.S. Military Veterans report
Recent Trends in Housing Cost Burden Among U.S. Military Veterans
Resource - Report
Brought to you by RAND Corporation
Screen grab on the five steps to end veteran homelessness
Five Steps to End Veteran Homelessness
Resource - Blog
Brought to you by National Alliance to End Homelessness
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Concord Naval Weapons Station Reuse Project which includes icons related to the following: clean air; Urban; Mixed methods; thriving natural world
Concord Naval Weapons Station Reuse Project
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Published on 12/31/2008
Screen capture of Housing First: A Review of the Evidence article
Housing First: A Review of the Evidence
Resource - Journal Article
Brought to you by US HUD
Screen capture of BIPOC? Latinx? Here's How to Describe People Accurately
BIPOC? Latinx? Here's How to Describe People Accurately
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by NPR
Screen capture of Words Matter: Using Humanizing Language webpage
Words Matter: Using Humanizing Language
Resource
Brought to you by The Fortune Society
Table of contents of Health Affairs February 2024: Housing and Health
Health Affairs February 2024: Housing and Health
Resource
Brought to you by Health Affairs
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program which includes icons related to the following: affordable housing; children and youth; Stakeholder interviews; humane housing
Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Replacing Public Housing Units Destroyed by Hurricane Ike which includes icons related to the following: affordable housing; people living in poverty; Urban; Mixed methods; humane housing
Replacing Public Housing Units Destroyed by Hurricane Ike
Resource - Assessment
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Focus Population: Unhoused Individuals
Focus Population: Unhoused Individuals
Resource - Fact Sheet
Brought to you by Well Being Trust
Screen capture of Substance Abuse and Homelessness: Statistics and Rehab Treatment webpage
Substance Abuse and Homelessness: Statistics and Rehab Treatment
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by American Addiction Centers
Screen grab of SOH: State and CoC Dashboards
SOH: State and CoC Dashboards
Resource - Data Bank/repository
Brought to you by National Alliance to End Homelessness

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