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Homeless and Sheltered Families

Narrative

Children and youth are considered to be homeless if they do not have a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This includes children living in shelters, transitional housing, cars, campgrounds, motels and hotels, or sharing housing with others due to loss of housing or economic hardship.1 The exact number of children and adults who are homeless is not known, however, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that approximately 1.6 million people, or one in every 200 Americans, spent at least one night in emergency shelter or transitional housing in 2009. Although the majority of those in shelter are individuals, persons in families – households with at least one adult and one child – accounted for 34.1 percent (or 535,477) of those using emergency shelters or transitional housing. Between 2007 and 2009, family homelessness (as reflected by emergency and transitional shelter use) increased approximately 30 percent while a decrease in the number of individuals using shelter was observed during the same period.2

Homeless families in emergency shelter or transitional housing differ substantially from homeless individuals. While sheltered individuals are more likely to be male (72.7 percent), over the age of 30 (75.2 percent), disabled (42.9 percent), and of veteran-status (13.0 percent), the majority of persons in sheltered families are female (79.6 percent), African American (47.9 percent), and under the age of 31 (82.4 percent). Overall, 22.2 percent of all sheltered homeless persons are under the age of 18, the majority of whom (52.6 percent) are under the age of 6.

The path into and out of emergency shelter and transitional housing is also different for families and individuals. Among adults in families, 62.6 percent entered emergency shelter or transitional housing from some other form of shelter, including a rented or owned housing unit. The same was true for only 36.6 percent of individuals, the majority of whom were already homeless before seeking emergency shelter. Families are also more likely to stay in shelter for longer periods of time than individuals. In 2009, the average number of nights spent in emergency shelter among persons in families was 36 compared to 17 among individuals.

1 National Coalition for the Homeless External Web Site Policy. Who is homeless? Accessed May 2011.
2 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Accessed May 2011.

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

homeless by household and sex graph

This image is described in the Data section.

homeless by household type and age graph

Data

Sheltered Homeless Persons by Household Type and Sex, 2009
Household Type Percent of Population
Individuals Persons in Families
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Accessed May 2011.
Individuals 72.7 27.3
Persons in Families 20.4 79.6
Sheltered Homeless Persons by Household Type and Age, 2009
Age Group Percent of Students
Individuals Persons in Families
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Accessed May 2011.
Under 18 Years 2.2 60.6
18-30 Years 22.6 21.8
31-50 Years 49.7 16.4
51-61 Years 21.3 1.1
62 and Older 4.2 0.1

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