You might not be surprised to hear that a problem that affects millions of people all over North America is homelessness. We see them when we’re walking downtown in our major cities and we might participate in things like food drives during the holidays, but do you really understand this issue? Here are some facts that might help you to understand what the homeless deal with on a daily basis and might inspire you to become an advocate for this cause.
1. More than one third of homeless people are children.
When we think of that stereotypical image of a homeless person, usually what comes to mind is an adult who has removed themselves from society – either because of an addiction, a misfortune or a mental illness. And while these people are present and need support, the average age of a homeless person in the United States is actually nine years old. The majority of women and children who are homeless are fleeing domestic violence.
2. One in five homeless youth identify as LGBTQI+.
Some are forced out of their homes while others are escaping from abusive home lives. One of the major causes of these young people fleeing from home is to escape sexual assault. Unfortunately, LGBTQI+ youth are seven times more likely to be assaulted while homeless and a staggering 62% commit suicide while living on the streets.
3. Up to one in four homeless adult are employed.
While you might think that you could spot any homeless person, the truth is that you could be working alongside one every day. Housing is a huge expense that even people with full-time employment sometimes can’t afford. There are many people who put in a full day’s hard work and then them and their family have to struggle to try to get into a shelter or find a roof to put over their head at night.
4. Many people become addicts after they become homeless.
You might think that addiction is a leading cause of homelessness, but while there are people with addictions that cause them to lose their job and home, there are also those that start doing drugs and alcohol to help cope with the despair of homelessness. It is true that a large percentage of homeless people do have substance abuse problems, but many started out more like you and me than you might think.
5. The housing options for the homeless are diminishing.
In the past 15 years, low-income housing options in the United States has dropped by more than ten percent. It is estimated that to get all families that qualify into housing, it would take 7 million more homes to become available.
6. The majority of homeless people are without a home for less than two months.
Most people who find themselves homeless will do anything that they can to find a permanent residence. Only about 6% of homeless people are there by choice.
7. One in five homeless adults suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness.
While it is estimated that about 6% of the general population suffers from mental illness, between 20-25% of those who are homeless suffer from severe mental illnesses. This is one of the reasons that so many choose to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.
8. Many cities have laws that increasingly make homelessness a crime.
Some cities make it illegal to beg, others have laws against sleeping in public places, while more even make it illegal to stand or loiter in the same spot for too long. While these laws might cut down on what some people consider public annoyances, they really also make it difficult for homeless people to even survive.
9. Almost one quarter of homeless people in America are veterans.
Statistics say that it is around 22%. There are more homeless veterans living on the streets today then there were soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam.
10. The homeless are more often the victim of crimes than the perpetrators.
They are actually one of the least threatening and most vulnerable groups in our society.
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