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Homeless Population in the US


Homelessness in the United States is as a revolving-door crisis. This means that a person can be homeless on a given night and not be homeless the following night. One is homeless if he or she spends a night in a shelter for homeless people or a place that is not for human accommodation. Many other definitions exist. However, the main consensus on homelessness is that it is a condition and not an attribute or status. Many also agree that the Federal government should invest now more than ever towards reducing homelessness. One of the hurdles faced by the government is how to determine the portion of the population that is homeless.

In the United States, estimates on the number of homeless people are often inaccurate. One of the reasons for this inaccuracy is because local counts are of homeless people usually rare. The main reason, however, stems from the fluctuation of the number of homeless people. How then can the size of the homeless population be determined?

One of the ways counts can be designed is by establishing the number of homeless people in a given night. The Census Bureau refers to this as a point-in-time (PIT) count. Another complex variation of the PIT method involves determining the number of people homeless for one night or more within a given time. Point-in-time-count methods vary and are not perfect. However, when these counts are compared over a time, the trend in numbers can be used to determine whether the homeless population has decreased or increased. For example, PIT estimated the homeless population in the US at 643,067 and decreased by 1% to 636,017 in 2011. This was as decrease of approximately 7,000 people.

The size of the homeless population in the U.S. as established through PIT counts depends on a number of factors such as the housing market conditions, shelter rules and prevailing weather conditions. However, housing market conditions contribute the biggest percentage to the homeless population. This is because most homeless people are either poor or severely poor. Most homeless people are male. In 2007, 44% of shelter residents were male. A large portion of the homeless population consists of mentally-ill people.


Determining the size of the population that is homeless in the U.S. is a daunting task. This is because homelessness is a condition and not an attribute or status. Additionally, most people are homeless only on some nights. Because of this, most counts of homeless populations involve methods of determining the count number of people homeless on a given night. This is a Point-In-Time count (PIT). Many people agree that the investment of Federal resources will reduce homelessness in the U.S.