Volunteer helping the homeless by serving food at community kitchen

Homelessness has been an ongoing problem in the United States since its inception, but the increasing number of homeless is starting to take its toll on many major American cities.

The first step you can take to help the homeless is to learn about what can cause homelessness, the struggles of improving their situation, how it affects physical and mental health, and who homelessness affects most. This article will answer those questions and help you identify ways you can pitch in.

What causes homelessness?

There can be a wide number of causes for homelessness, ranging from lost employment to alcohol or drug abuse. What caused a person to lose their home can often prevent them from obtaining regular housing. For instance, people with a criminal record may not be able to get enough work (one well-paying or multiple minimum wage jobs) to afford rent.

How does homelessness affect people?

This living condition poses a serious risk to the health and safety of the inhabitants where homelessness is prevalent as well as to homeless people themselves. Now, let’s look at who it affects.

Homelessness Statistics:

How many people are homeless? In 2016, there were more than 500,000 homeless people across the United States. These people often live in shelters, in their vehicles, under bridges, or on the street.

Approximately 110,000 LGBTQ youth are homeless, and they are the fastest-growing population of people who are vulnerable to being homeless.

About 15 percent of homeless people are considered “chronically homeless,” which means they have been homeless for one year or longer or have had at least four instances of being homeless within the past three years.

Sadly, around eight percent of the U.S. homeless population are veterans, and this number is rising annually.

Around half of the homeless population is age 50 or older. And around 550,000 youth or young adults under the age of 24 have experienced an episode of homelessness for periods of longer than one full week.

For more information about homelessness and how you can help, check out the following resources:

  • Home Together (PDF): Provided by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, this program offers new ways the nation can work together to prevent homelessness.
  • Street Outreach Data Collection Study: This study takes a closer look at homeless youth and how they ended up there as well as statistics on location, age group, and other demographics.
  • Addressing the Crisis: Seattle, Washington, has one of the most prevalent homeless populations in the nation. This website discusses the city’s plan to help address this growing problem.
  • Why Are People Homeless? The National Coalition for the Homeless explores some of the many reasons that people may be homeless.
  • Tips on Helping the Homeless: If you see homeless people and want to help, this article provides several tips that will show you how you can offer assistance.
  • The History of Homelessness in the United States: From the late 1800s to today, this in-depth article discusses the deep history of homelessness in America and how it has changed over the decades.
  • Student Homelessness Growing Fastest in Rural America: Learn more about the little-known yet growing crisis of student homelessness in rural America.
  • Homelessness Infographic: Discover incredible statistics about homelessness in the United States and how we can help with this infographic.
  • What Teachers Can do to Help Homeless Students (PDF): This guide is designed to assist teachers and explain how they can help their homeless students.
  • Nine Ways You Can Help the Homeless: Discover this list of nine things you can do in your city to help the homeless you see.
  • Assisting Homeless People: Volunteers of America offers a few ways people can help homeless people with various forms of shelter.
  • Report on Aging Homelessness: This staggering report predicts that the aging homeless population will nearly triple by the year 2030.
  • How to Help Homeless Shelters Near You: If there are homeless shelters in your area, this page shows you ways you can help them by volunteering.
  • Causes of Homelessness: From poverty and domestic violence to systematic failures, this article discusses the many different potential causes for homelessness.
  • The Causes of Homelessness in America: Read the information on this website for an in-depth look at the many causes and statistics for homelessness in America.
  • Four Simple Ways to End Homelessness: While the homelessness problem is an ongoing issue, this page offers four simple ways it can be combated.
  • Built for Zero: This organization focuses on creating homes and communities for the homeless veteran population.
  • Public Housing: Learn more about how public housing could be a potential solution to the homelessness problem.
  • Homeless Veterans and Health Care (PDF): Written with health providers in mind, this resource offers a wealth of information about how homeless veterans can receive adequate health care.
  • 33 Ways to Help the Homeless: This comprehensive list offers 33 different ways everyday Americans can help the homeless.
  • Make Care Packages for the Homeless: If you want to help but don’t want to give money, this guide provides you with helpful information so you can create and distribute care packages to homeless people.
  • Helping Homeless in the Winter: While this page focuses on the homeless in Washington, D.C., it also provides insight for how anyone can help the homeless during the cold winter.
  • Homeless LGBT Youth: Discover more about the growing problem of homelessness in LGBT youth in our country.
  • The Connection Between Homelessness and Addiction: In many cases, addiction can cause homelessness. This website delves more into the connection between the two.
  • Housing and Shelter: Look deeper into how housing programs can help to address the issue of homelessness in America.
  • Homelessness Facts: This page presents some staggering facts and statistics relating to the homeless population in the United States.
  • The Facts About Family Homelessness: Being homeless doesn’t just affect single people, it can also have a profound effect on entire families. This article discusses the problem of family homelessness.
  • 11 Facts About Homeless Teens: Exposing some serious statistics, this page showcases 11 astounding facts relating to homeless teenagers.
  • Facts and Figures: The Homeless: PBS showcases some basic yet interesting facts about homelessness in the United States.
  • A Report Card on Child Homelessness (PDF): Explore more about the growing issue of child homelessness and how it can be prevented with this document.

What can you do to help the homeless?

Take the time to learn their stories. In addition to meeting people locally, you can watch documentaries and YouTube videos about homelessness and how people around the world are trying to help improve their standard of living and quality of life.

If you can sympathize with kindness and respect, consider volunteering at homeless shelters in your area. You can join charitable home builders near you, food banks, clothing providers, tutoring centers or resume and interview prep services, and more. Listen to and consider their needs and how you can offer your resources or abilities to those seeking assistance. Look into homelessness charities or organizations and consider how you can help.


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