Library Index » Social Issues & Debate Topics » The Demographics of Homelessness - The Authoritative Estimates, How Numbers Are Used, Growth Patterns, Profiles Of The Homeless, Children And Youths

The Demographics of Homelessness - Profiles Of The Homeless

veterans city population survey

Gender and Race

Studies of homeless people and surveys of officials knowledgeable about homeless clients conducted in the 1990s and 2000s have shown similar patterns of gender and racial data for the homeless, although the percentages varied from study to study.

Data collected for the 2004 U.S. Conference of Mayors survey showed that in almost all cities surveyed, single males greatly outnumbered single females among the homeless. (See Table 2.7.) Single males were most overrepresented in Nashville, Tennessee (79% of the homeless), followed closely by Santa Monica, California (72%), Miami, Florida (70%), and San Francisco, California (69%). Chicago, Illinois, had the highest proportion of single women among homeless individuals (43%). Women most likely headed the large percentage of single-parent families; for example, in Kansas City, Missouri, 100% of the homeless population belonged to families, and 88% of those families were headed by a TABLE 2.6
Most deteriorated city conditions, 2004
SOURCE: Christiana Brennan and Christopher Hoene, "Most Deteriorated City Conditions," in The State of America's Cities 2004: The Annual Opinion Survey of Municipal Elected Officials, National League of Cities, 2004, http://www.nlc.org/content/Files/RMPstateAmerCitiesrpt04.pdf (accessed February 11, 2005)

1. Traffic 27%
2. Unemployment 22%
3. Impacts of unfunded mandates/preemption 22%
4. Overall economic conditions 22%
5. City fiscal conditions 21%
6. Cost and availability of health services 20%
7. Availability of quality affordable housing 13%
8. State relations with your city 13%
9. Infrastructure 11%
10. Drugs/alcohol abuse 10%
11. Quality of public education 8%
12. Youth violence and crime 8%
13. Public transportation/transit service 7%
14. Violent crime 6%
15. Cable TV rates/broadband availability 6%
16. Regional/area-wide problem solving 6%
17. Vitality of downtown/main street 4%
18. Civility in public life 4%
19. Poverty 4%
20. Vitality of neighborhoods 4%
21. Family stability 3%
22. Federal relations with your city 3%
23. Public school relations with your city 3%
24. Race/ethnic relations 2%
25. Local environmental quality 2%
26. Availability of child care 2%
27. Homeland security/emergency preparedness 2%
28. Volunteerism 1%
29. Homelessness 1%
30. Recreation 1%
31. Overall sense of "community" 1%
32. Efficiency of municipal service delivery 1%
33. Police/community relations 1%
34. City relations with community groups 0%
35. Family-friendliness of city 0%
36. Availability of quality after-school programs 0%

single parent. Data from all twenty-seven cities surveyed suggest that homeless adult men are most often not part of family groups, and homeless adult women are most often responsible for one or more children.

The racial composition of the homeless varied from city to city in the Conference of Mayors survey. (See Table 2.7.) Whites were the largest group in Burlington, Vermont (77%), Salt Lake City, Utah (63%), Portland, Oregon (62%), Cedar Rapids, Iowa (61%), Santa Monica (52%), Louisville, Kentucky (44%), Denver, Colorado (39%), and Seattle, Washington (34%). Hispanics were the largest group in San Antonio, Texas (45%). In all other cities surveyed, African-Americans were the largest group among the homeless, with the highest percentages in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (77%), Chicago (75%), Norfolk, Virginia (73%), and Trenton, New Jersey (72%).

The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), formerly International Union of Gospel Missions (IUGM), has surveyed the homeless population at more than 100 missions serving inner cities. The AGRM surveys are based on large numbers of homeless served. In 2004, for example, 20,500 homeless were surveyed at 154 rescue missions. AGRM data showed that men were 82% of the homeless in 1994 but 77% in 2004. (See Table 1.3 in Chapter 1.) Homeless women have been rising as a proportion of the homeless population at a steady rate for more than a decade.

According to an AGRM survey in 1994, the racial/ethnic composition of the homeless population they served was 42% white, 44% African-American, 12% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 4% Native American. By 2004 the proportion of white homeless people had risen to 44%; the African-American proportion and Hispanic proportion had dropped to 40% and 10% respectively, and the Asian and Native American proportion had stayed essentially the same. (See Table 1.3 in Chapter 1.)

In the Urban Institute's 1996 survey, 68% of the homeless population were male, and 32% were female. Forty-one percent of the homeless were white, 40% black, 11% Hispanic, 8% Native American, and 1% of other races. (See Table 1.4 in Chapter 1.)

The surveys thus exhibit similar patterns. More of the homeless were male than female, but these proportions have been gradually changing. While in the 1996 homeless survey, 40% of the homeless were African-American, according to the Census Bureau's population estimate for July 2003, only 12.7% of the total population was African-American (National Population Estimates, "Annual Estimates of the Population by Sex, Race and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2003," NC-EST2003-03, U.S. Census Bureau). African-Americans were thus overrepresented among the ranks of the homeless. Hispanic representation among the homeless was near their share of total population (13.7%). Native Americans were homeless in greater proportion to their share of total population (1.2%), and Asians were homeless in lower proportion to their population (4.5%).

Family Structure

According to the 1996 Urban Institute study, 62% of homeless men and 16% of homeless women were single—meaning they were homeless without a spouse or children. (See Table 1.4 in Chapter 1). The 2004 Conference of Mayors survey found that 40% of homeless people were in families with children, 41% were single men, 14% were single women, and 5% were unaccompanied youth. (See Table 2.4.) Since 1989 the proportion of men on their own among the homeless population had declined, while the proportion of families with children had risen. Data from the Conference of Mayors survey show city-by-city estimates of children as a percent of homeless family members. (See Table 2.7.) Values range TABLE 2.7
Composition of the homeless population, 2003
SOURCE: "Composition of the Homeless Population," in Hunger and Homelessness Survey: A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities: A 27-City Survey, December 2004 http://www.usmayors.org/uscm/hungersurvey/2004/onlinereport/HungerAndHomelessnessReport2004.pdf(accessed february 2, 2005)

City Families Men Women Youth African-American White Hispanic Asian Native American Mentally ill Substance abusers Employed Veterans Single parent families Family members who are children
Boston 38 53 8 1 42 39 18 0 1 30 46 44 17 90 59
Burlington 43 34 4 19 8 77 5 0.5 3 20 18 28 3 40 60
Cedar Rapids 62 17 15 6 27 61 2 1 2 43 32 50 13 83 65
Charleston 26 65 8 1 49 46 5 0 0 42 33 69 32 79 30
Charlotte 45 29 23 3 65 23 7 2.5 2.5 28 55 32 25 83 8.2
Chicago 12 44 43 3.5 75 13 8.7 0.4 1.5 31 61 25 2.9 79 67
Cleveland 25 54 20 1 0 0 0 0 0 25 40 20 18 98 70
Denver 58 28 11 3 35 39 21 1 4 30 50 30 14 80 42
Detroit 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kansas City 100 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 26 44 0 10 8 61
Los Angeles 41 37 16 5 50 14 33 2 0.1 16 34 16 15 61 39
Louisville Metro 16 56 18 10 43 44 4 1 7 14 11 22 19 38 9.6
Miami 11 70 19 0 46 31 22 1 0.2 0 0 0 0 90 65
Nashville 8 79 13 1 53 42 4 1 0 11 15 12 13 90 50
New Orleans 35 44 16 5 67 29 2 0.5 1 25 42 22 25 65 55
Norfolk 33 56 11 0 73 24 3 0 0 10 15 16 14 91 66
Philadelphia 50 38 12 0 77 13 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 93 69
Phoenix 41 59 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Portland 39 38 21 2 19 62 14 2 3 18 30 12 8 65 63
Providence 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 25
Salt Lake City 51 36 13 0.02 7 63 21 1 3 8 15 0 8 78 62
San Antonio 38 46 12 4 19 35 45 0.5 0.5 19 13 26 13 47 43
San Francisco 4 69 26 1 53 21 23 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0 60 55
Santa Monica 0 72 28 0 24 52 19 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Seattle 24 46 13 2 29 34 10 2 3 22 26 17 0 78 24
St. Paul 20 60 14 0 47 36 9 1 5 0 0 0 0 78 61
Trenton 45 35 13 1 72 21 6 0 1 7 8 0 0 92 75

from 8.2% of family members in Charlotte, North Carolina, to 75% in Trenton, New Jersey.

The AGRM survey presents data about the family structure of homeless families. (See Table 1.3 in Chapter 1.) According to the survey, 16% of homeless families in 2004 were couples without children; 60% were women with children; 7% were men with children; and 16% were "intact" families—couples with children.

Age

The Urban Institute, in its comprehensive 1996 study (see Table 1.4 in Chapter 1), found that 38% of the homeless were between thirty-five and forty-four years of age, 25% were between twenty-five and thirty-four, and 17% were between forty-five and fifty-four. The AGRM survey for 2004 showed that 18% of the homeless were between twenty-six and thirty-five, 30% were between thirty-six and forty-five, and 29% were between forty-six and sixty-five. (See Table 1.3 in Chapter 1.) The largest group in both surveys was the thirty-five–forty-five group, adults in their middle years.

Education

When the Urban Institute investigated the education of homeless people, it found that 38% had less than a high school diploma, 34% had completed high school, and 28% had some education beyond high school. (See Table 1.4 in Chapter 1.) The homeless were less educated than the population as a whole. In 1996, 18% of the population had less than a high school education, 34% had a high school diploma, and 48% had some education beyond high school.

Military Background

The Urban Institute study also reported that 23% of the homeless were veterans (See Table 1.4 in Chapter 1.) Among homeless men, 33% were veterans; only 13% of the general population were veterans. According to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), in 1990 veterans were present in shelters at a rate of 149 per 100,000 compared with 126 per 100,000 of other males (Data on the Socioeconomic Status of Veterans and on VA Program Usage, Washington, DC, May 2001).

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, citing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sources, stated on its Web site in 2005 that of homeless veterans, 98% were male and 2% were female. Forty-five percent of homeless veterans had mental illness and half had abused drugs or alcohol. An estimated 299,321 were homeless on any given night; over the course of a year; more than 500,000 were homeless at least one night over the course of a year. The majority were single. Almost half (47%) of homeless veterans served in Vietnam.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conducted a small survey of nineteen homeless veteran service providers to determine the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on homeless veteran numbers ("Survey Confirms 'War on Terror' Veterans Are Seeking Homeless Assistance," National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, January 12, 2005). The survey found that those nineteen service providers had served sixty-seven veterans from these wars. Linda Boone, executive director of the organization, stated that these veterans were likely to request assistance sooner and in greater numbers than did veterans of other foreign wars.

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

over 4 years ago

Hello,

I am commenting about the data presented on this site:
http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/2287/Demographics-Homelessness-PROFILES-HOMELESS.html

Although your intentions are noble, and you are one of the few agencies that are trying to help raise awareness for homeless issues, the numbers presented on this page are misleading in a bad way. The data is old (2005), and doesn't clearly state how the sample was derived, and what the estimated total population was. It really doesn't do just to predictive value either.

As you know, statistics like those presented here are used by governments, media, and political institutions that govern policy, and affect all of our lives. Data methods need to be accurate and fully disclosed, not some careless comment like "authoritative" source. Some of the other pages that on the site make more sense and provide better source data, however, this page bothers me. Someone could read this and assume that we only have 24 homeless families in Seattle. We both know this is wrong, however, others may not because the page isn't very clear.

There are currently over 2,000 unsheltered homeless in Seattle that we know about. These people are living on benches, parking garages, bushes/undergrowth, bus stops, alleys, walking around, in city parks, doorways, under railways, and in/near cars and trucks. This doesn't even include the homes that are living in shelters with bare minimum amenities, and staffed by volunteers like myself.

Please, let's do a better job telling our story together. There are way too many people out there who simply don't care about our bothers and sisters who are without shelter. Unfortunately, there are still a few non-enlightened politicians who use ambiguous statistics like this to justify and perpetuate their apathy.


Thanks for listening,

Dan

Vote down Vote up

over 3 years ago

I really appreciate this data. I hope in the near future we could have more up to date information that pin-point areas and region of this major problem. I thank you again for such wealth of information as we fight against homelessness in America.