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national overview
National Overview
  • Homelessness in the United States
  • Federal Spending for Low Income Housing Assistance
homelessness in the united states
Homelessness in the United States

National Homeless Census:

  • Between 2.3 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness a year

Family Homelessness:

  • 41% of the homeless population are families with children.
  • They are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
  • 1.3 million children experience homelessness a year
      • 42% of all homeless children are under 6 years old.


homeless families in the united states
Homeless Families in the United States


1987 2007 federal spending in all low income assistance by type of assistance
1987-2007 Federal Spending in All Low Income Assistance by Type of Assistance
  • The increases for federal spending in low income assistance were primarily due to increases in spending on Medicaid and other income security.
  • Federal spending in low income housing assistance has decreased from 14% of all low income assistance (1987) to 9% (2007).



Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition. "Changing priorities: The Federal Budget and Housing Assistance 1976-2005", October 2004.

US Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): FY04-FY06 Decreased Funding for Low Income Housing Assistance Programs
  • HUD’s funding for low income housing programs has decreased by a total of 3,297 million from FY04 to FY06

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Projections. " The Effects of the Federal Budget Squeeze on Low Income Housing Assistance" February 2007

For information on each of this low income housing programs visit

family homelessness in new york city
Family Homelessness in New York City
  • Since 1981 NYC has court mandated right to shelter. The city determines eligibility for emergency housing based on need.
  • The New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), is the city agency in charge of homeless services. All families with children apply for shelter services at one centralized intake building.
  • Families that apply for emergency housing are placed in shelter until eligibility for temporary emergency housing is determined. This process usually takes 10 days.
  • If the family is found eligible they remain in shelter until they find permanent housing. The average shelter stay is 325 days. Some stay as long as five years.
new york city family shelter average daily census
New York City Family Shelter Average Daily Census
  • Family census has doubled from FY1998 to FY2007, increasing by 14% during the last fiscal year
  • Currently an average of 8,000 families with children sleep in NYC shelters each night (15,000 children and 11,000 adults)*

Source: NYC Mayor’s Management Reports and NYC Department of Homeless Services

* Data includes families with no children; They account for only 16% of the homeless families population. The majority, 84% are families with children.

FY04-FY06 Monthly Number of Family Applications and Number of Families Found Eligible for Shelter Services
  • From FY04-FY06 the number of families found eligible for services has remained mostly constant.
  • On average, 2,552 families apply for shelter every month and 885 (35%) of these family applications are found eligible for services.
  • Families can apply for services multiple times. On average, 23% of families who apply every month are first- time applicants found eligible for services.
  • If the underlying issues affecting these families are not addressed, the shelter becomes a revolving door.

*The chart represents all family applications. A family can be found ineligible and then be found eligible at a later application.


the shelter as a community of opportunity

The Shelter as a Community of Opportunity

A Powerful Tool to End Family Homelessness

shelters and learning education attainment of homeless heads of household
Shelters and Learning:Education Attainment of Homeless Heads of Household
  • 52% of homeless heads of household have no high school diploma.
  • Lack of education limits homeless heads of household’s potential as well as their ability to promote their children's educational development.
  • Shelters can become frontline vehicles to support literacy efforts.
  • Adult education programs at the shelter can also provide homeless parents with basic tools needed for success at the workplace.
shelters and learning homeless children and education
Shelters and Learning: Homeless Children and Education
  • In New York City over half of homeless children change schools at least once a year resulting in education setbacks.
  • Many homeless children spend over an hour traveling to and from school, making it difficult to access after- school programs.
  • Homelessness causes children profound educational setbacks as well as health and emotional problems

Source: Institute For Children and Poverty

N= 266

shelters and learning the shelter and after school programs
Shelters and Learning: The Shelter And After School Programs
  • After-school programs offered at the shelter can help children make significant academic gains in less than six months. Success is even greater with ongoing enrollment.
  • Homeless children attending after-school programs offered at the shelter have higher school attendance rates

Source: Institute For Children and Poverty

N =266

shelters and employment
Shelters and Employment
  • The majority (81%) of homeless heads of household are unemployed and a quarter of them have no work history.
  • 76% of homeless heads of household with no work history have no high school diploma.
  • Lack of education and limited work experienced are among the top self-reported reasons for unemployment among homeless heads of household
shelters and employment16
Shelters and Employment

Most homeless heads of household lack the basic requirements needed to access job training programs offered to public assistance recipients. Job readiness and job training programs offered at the shelter can target the specific needs of homeless heads of household and give them the tools necessary to access employment opportunities.

shelters and foster care
Shelters and Foster Care

Homeless parents with a foster care history are twice as more likely to have repeated incidences of homelessness. They also tend to become homeless at a younger age.

With a third of shelter residents having spend a part of their childhood in foster care and some moving directly from the foster care system to the shelter system, there is a need to prevent their children from doing the same. Using targeted programs, the shelter can help families stay together and achieve long term stability.

shelters and teen pregnancy
Shelters and Teen Pregnancy
  • Almost half of all homeless mothers became pregnant with their first child before they reach 18 years of age.
  • Teen pregnancy prevents some homeless mothers from completing high school and entering the labor force.
  • The shelter can offer young mothers an opportunity to complete their education and access job readiness, employment training and parenting skills workshops. This allows them to develop the necessary skills to make good parenting decisions and manage their own lives.
shelters and domestic violence
Shelters and Domestic Violence
  • Due to scarcity of domestic violence shelters, victims of domestic violence are regularly placed in homeless family shelters.
  • Domestic violence is now among the top reasons for family homelessness, accounting for approximately 19% of all families that enter shelter.
  • Between 20 and 50% of all homeless parents have experienced domestic violence at some point of their lives.
  • The shelter gives us an opportunity to tackle domestic violence in a safe and nurturing environment while giving these families the services they need to address their emotional and physical health.

Source: New York City Independent Budget Office: City Spending in Domestic Violence: A Review, June 2007. Available at

shelters and children s health
Shelters and Children’s Health
  • Health problems among homeless children: New York City
  • Among homeless children:
          • 20% have asthma
          • 46% experienced a decline in health with the onset of homelessness
  • Compared to non-homeless children, homeless children suffer:
          • Three times as many gastrointestinal disorders
          • Five times as many diarrhea infections
          • 50% more ear infections
          • Twice as many hospitalizations
  • Source: Institute for Children and Poverty

In New York City almost three quarters of all homeless families rely on emergency rooms and walk-in clinics for their medical care. Shelters can provide families with the primary care services they need for staying healthy, through offering on-site medical services or by forming partnerships with local health providers and other community organizations.

concluding thoughts

Concluding Thoughts

A National Problem with a Local Solution

a national problem
A National Problem
  • There is no national agenda to end family homelessness.
    • Available federal funding targets the chronically homeless--almost exclusively single adults--leaving local governments with few resources to address family homelessness.
  • There is a limited supply of low income housing.
    • Continuous cuts in federal funding for low income housing assistance programs exacerbates the problem and leaves shelters as the only affordable housing option for very low income families.
a local solution
A Local Solution
  • Shelter infrastructure should be used as a tool to address the multiplicity of homeless family issues.
    • Local government can successfully partner with the non-profit and philanthropic sectors to target resources.
  • Local government and non-profit providers must address family homelessness as a poverty issue, not simply a housing issue.