who are the homeless?
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty currently estimates that each year at least 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans sleep in shelters, transitional housing, and public places not meant for human habitation. At least an additional 7.4 million have lost their own homes and are doubled-up with others due to economic necessity.
At its root, people experience homelessness because they cannot find housing they can afford. In New York City the U.S. Bureau of the Census has recorded a steady decline in the number of affordable rental apartments, at the same time that wages for low-income New Yorkers have stagnated or fallen -- thus creating a widening affordability gap. The Coalition for the Homeless reports that :
In April 2020, there were 57,362 homeless people, including 11,115 homeless families with 19,976 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families comprise nearly four-fifths of the homeless shelter population.
Surveys of homeless families have identified the following major immediate causes of episodes of homelessness: eviction; doubled-up or severely overcrowded housing; domestic violence; and hazardous housing conditions.
Research shows that, compared to homeless families, homeless single adults have significantly higher rates of serious mental illness, addiction disorders, and other severe health problems.
The harsh reality is that for too many Americans homelessness is only one paycheck or crisis away.
Homelessness can happen to anyone.
No one should go a single night without a safe place to go to bed, but for most homelessness is a temporary crisis. At HSI we prioritize working with populations at greatest risk and for whom homelessness is cyclical: those who have lived on the streets for years, individuals struggling with serious and persistent mental illness and/or chemical addiction, families and individuals living with HIV/AIDS, very low-income seniors, and veterans with traumatic combat experience.
Meet Stanley, Deborah and Tyrone.
photos and profiles courtesy of Jessica Simkovic