Statistics Who Are the Homeless?

Homelessness: The Causes and Facts

WHO ARE THE HOMELESS? From Cincinnati StreetVibes Newspaper

  • · 22% of homeless people are veterans. There are more homeless veterans today than U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam.
  • The average age of a homeless person in the United States is 9 years old.
  • In the U.S., 29% of homeless families that have ever received TANF (welfare) reported having their benefits cut of reduced in the last 6 months.
  • In Chicago, 22% of homeless people are currently employed. 25% have been unemployed for more than one year. 33% have never been employed.
  • 16% of homeless people spent time in foster care, group homes, shelters or welfare hotels before they were 18.
  • As many as 25-40% of homeless people work full or part-time, but cannot afford to pay rent.


  • In Chicago, 245,000 potential low-income renters (those households making less than $12,000 per year) compete for 155,000 affordable rental units. As a result, 130,000 renters cannot find affordable housing.
  • 151,000 households in the Chicagoland area have incomes at less than 50% of area median income and either pay more than half their income in rent or live in severely substandard housing. Of those households, 106,000 are in the city of Chicago.
  • In Illinois, 40% of all households cannot afford a market-rate two-bedroom apartment and 33% cannot afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment. This ranks the state 12th worst in the nation in the gap between income and rental costs.
  • The affordable housing crisis, once concentrated in the cities, has spread to the suburbs. The number of suburban households in Chicago, for example, with critical housing needs jumped by 146,000 from 1991 to 1995-a 9% increases.
  • Nationally, 10.5 million renters compete for 6.1 million low-income units. This gap leaves 4.4 million people unable to find an affordable place to live.
  • More than 1 million families nationwide are on the waiting lists for assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Chicago, there are 61,567 households on the waiting list.
  • Nationally, requests for housing assistance have increased by 74% in the last year. Only 27% of eligible low-income households currently receive housing assistance.
  • 18,000 units of public housing in Chicago are slated for demolition, displacing 42,000 people.
  • In 1998, 44% of families nationwide lived doubled or tripled up with family or friends prior to entering homeless shelters.


  • In 1997, almost 30% of all U.S. workers were employed in part-time or temporary positions, even though many of these workers actively sought full-time work.
  • A person must work full-time and earn at least $8.29/hour to reach the federal poverty level for a family of four ($16,588). According to the most recent Census Bureau report, 2.3 million people worked full-time in 1997 yet were below the poverty line.
  • A full-time worker at the minimum wage of $5.15/hour earns an annual income of $10,300 before taxes. Minimum-wage jobs generally provide no benefits such as health insurance or day care, nor do they provide opportunity for advancement.
  • Between 1980 and 1998, the average pay of working people increased just 68%, while CEO compensation grew by 1,596%.
  • The average CEO of a major corporation made $10.6 million in 1998, 419 times more than an average blue-collar worker.


  • 50% of all children in shelters show signs of anxiety and depression.
  • Children in shelters show as high as a 70% rate of delay in immunizations, compared to 22% among low-income children who are housed.
  • 66% of students who missed 20 or more school days during the first, second or third grade will drop out of school.
  • Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

“FACTS” from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #37, August-September 1999