The Road Home

The Demographics of Homelessness

New data shows what homelessness looks like across the US as well as here in Dane County–and it reveals distinct racial disparities.

This December, HUD released their Annual Homeless Assessment Report. This report provides a sweeping picture of homelessness in the US based on January point-in-time counts (counts of people experiencing homelessness taken on one particular night throughout the country). Although there are limitations to this data since it doesn’t account for people sleeping in their cars, doubled up with family or friends or in other temporary living situations, it does provide a general overview of what homelessness looks like in the US.

While the overall number of people experiencing homelessness increased by 2% since last year, the numbers of families with children experiencing homelessness continued to decline. Of these families, 91% were staying in sheltered locations. In all, 180,000 people in families were homeless, a 25% decline from 2010. About one-third of homeless people in the US are people living in families (the others are individuals).

*Data from Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County

The report also shows significant racial disparities in homelessness. The report tells us, “While accounting for 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans account for 40 percent of all people experiencing homelessness and 51 percent of people experiencing homelessness as members of families with children.” Recently released data from the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County tells an even more striking story locally. African Americans make up only 5% of the population of Dane County. Yet, they make up almost half of the homeless population. The National Alliance to End Homelessness explains that these disparities are caused in part by rental housing discrimination as well as higher rates of untreated mental illness and incarceration.