Issues We Need To Discuss

people were chronically homeless in 2014.

%

of the homeless are chronically homeless.

dollars saved per year per person in public services if the homeless are provided housing.

Defined by long-term homelessness or repeated homelessness coupled with a disability.

◦ While people experiencing chronic homelessness make up a small number of the overall homeless population, they are among the most vulnerable. They tend to have high rates of behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance use disorders; conditions that may be exacerbated by physical illness, injury or trauma. Consequently, they are frequent users of emergency services, crisis response, and public safety systems.

◦ Research has shown that stable housing coupled with supportive services is an essential component of successful recovery. A study done in Seattle which provides housing to homeless people with the most extensive health problems, found that the program saved nearly $30,000 per tenant per year in publicly-funded services, all while achieving better housing and health outcomes for the tenants.

people in families are homeless.

%

are headed by a parent under the age of 25.

%

of families who enter shelter are able to quickly exit with little or no assistance and never return.

◦ Sometimes families living in poverty may fall into homelessness, usually due to some unforeseen financial challenge, such as a death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill, creating a situation where the family cannot maintain housing. Many are headed by a single woman with high rates of domestic violence and mental illness. About 75 percent of families who enter shelter are able to quickly exit with little or no assistance and never return.

◦ One of the most important strategies for lifting families from homelessness is rapid rehousing. The more quickly families are connected with permanent housing, and/or are reunited with their families or other supportive adults, the more quickly their homelessness can be solved and their lives can return to relative stability.

◦ Cash assistance, housing subsidies, and other services can avert homelessness before it starts.

veterans were homeless in 2014.

◦ Soldiers experiencing Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by warefare in recent years are directly correlated with homelessness, it’s no longer just a remaining issue left over from the Vietnam Conflict. In fact, homeless women veterans are far more common now than in any other time in the past.

◦ Thanks to new legislation passed by congress during the Obama Presidency as well as additional funding, we are beginning to see a decrease in these numbers overall. As with the general homeless population, rapid re-housing and Housing First strategies are critical for many veterans experiencing homelessness.

youth in the U.S. sleep on the street for six months or more and face unique developmental challenges and vulnerability.

youth were homeless on a single night in 2014.

approximate number of youths who experience homelessness for at least a week on any given year.

◦ While there are evaluations of programs to assist homeless youth, there is very little research comparing interventions and none examining how different interventions address the issues of the different subpopulations. Nevertheless, communities have reasonable evidence to increase support to family intervention efforts and to target existing housing programs to youth with the highest needs.

%

of the homeless population live in rural areas where access to resources and proper aid tends to be more limited.

◦ According to a recent report, there are approximately 14 homeless people on average for every 10,000 people in rural areas, compared with 29 homeless people out of every 10,000 in urban areas. The same structural factors that contribute to urban homelessness, lack of affordable housing and inadequate income, lead to rural homelessness.

◦ Unlike urban areas, rural homeless assistance systems lack the infrastructure to provide quick, comprehensive care to those experiencing homelessness. Reasons for this include a lack of available affordable housing, limited transportation methods, and the tendency of our federal programs to focus on urban areas. Additionally, rural areas have tendencies towards higher rates of poverty compounding the risk of becoming and staying homeless. Due to these barriers, one of the most important strategies in ending rural homelessness is prevention.

%

of the sheltered homeless population are domestic violence survivors.

%

of homeless women have experienced a severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their lives.

◦ Domestic violence is the immediate cause of homelessness for many women. Survivors of domestic violence are often isolated from support networks and financial resources by their abusers, which puts them at risk of becoming homeless. As a result, they may lack steady income, employment history, credit history, and landlord references. They often also suffer from an anxiety or panic disorder, major depression, and substance abuse.

◦ One study performed in Massachusetts found that 92 percent of homeless women had experienced a severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their lives. 63 percent had been victims of violence by an intimate partner, and 32 percent had been assaulted by their current or most recent partner.

◦ Survivors of domestic violence have both short-term and long-term housing needs, primarily an immediate need of safe housing away from the abuser.

◦ A strong investment in affordable housing is crucial to this population, so that the family or woman is able to leave the shelter system as quickly as possible without returning to the abuser.

%

of all homeless individuals suffer from a mental illness or substance abuse.

Poor Health and Homelessness

▪ Homelessness and health concerns often go hand in hand. An acute behavioral health issue, such as an episode of psychosis, may lead to homelessness, and homelessness itself can exacerbate chronic medical conditions or lead to debilitating substance abuse problems.

▪ People living in shelters are more than twice as likely to have a disability compared to the general population. On a given night in 2014, nearly 20 percent of the homeless population had serious mental illness or conditions related to chronic substance abuse. Thousands of people with HIV/AIDS experience homelessness on a given night.

Physical and Behavioral Health Issues

▪ Physical health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are found to be at higher rates among the homeless population. Many have also experienced trauma, either resulting from homelessness or in some way leading to it. Behavioral health issues and trauma are found disproportionately among unaccompanied youth who are homeless.

Health Care Access

▪ Treatment and preventive care can be difficult for homeless people to access, because they often lack insurance coverage, or are unable to engage health care providers in the community. This lack of access can lead a homeless individual to seek medical care only once his or her condition has worsened to the point that a trip to the emergency room is unavoidable.

Health Care Solutions

▪ Housing is a key component of health and health care. Effective strategies to end homelessness must always take into account the extent of health conditions and disability faced by homeless people.

▪ For chronically homeless people, the intervention of permanent supportive housing provides stable housing coupled with supportive services as needed. This is a cost effective solution to homelessness for those with the most severe health, mental health, and substance abuse challenges.

%

of people leaving the prison system will become homeless.

◦ Housing problems, including homelessness, are common among individuals leaving the corrections system. They tend to have limited or low incomes, and oftentimes have trouble finding employment due to their criminal history. As a result, one in five people who leave prison becomes homeless soon thereafter, if not immediately.

◦ Preliminary studies indicate that those who leave prison and become homeless are substantially more likely to return to prison than those with stable housing. Subsidized housing with associated intensive support services have been shown to help immensely.

◦ Another common intervention involves working with the extended families of people leaving prison. Many of these situations quickly become unstable and often result in homelessness. It has been shown, however, that providing a modest amount of services for these families can have a stabilizing impact, preventing future homelessness.

◦ Many individuals experiencing homelessness are in fact employed, have an employment history, or are seeking employment. Oftentimes, they are underemployment, experiencing low wages, and only have temporary and sporadic opportunities.

◦ Lack of experience, physical or mental health barriers, and challenges related to re-entry, and homelessness itself are often barriers to healthy employment.

◦ Increasing financial literacy as well as available job training is key required assistance for a fair chance at living a decent life. Cash assistance programs available through the federal and state government are also very important for those who are unable to work due to a disability.

◦ Employment services can help people build the skills necessary to increase their income, attain financial independence, and maintain housing. Such services have been shown to increase confidence and improve mental health, even for populations traditionally believed to be unsuitable for regular employment.

◦ Integrating homeless populations into the workforce reduces the burden on social services, broadens the base of taxpayers, and encourages scalable community collaborations and partnerships to address issues of homelessness, unemployment, and poverty.

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