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16th February
written by naehblog

Have you ever heard the saying, “Homelessness can happen to anyone, it can even happen to you!”? Well, I have, and it seems a bit unhelpful and vague. Can homelessness really happen to a guy like Donald Trump? Probably, the answer is no.

To me, the way to bring the discussion down to earth—from “homelessness can happen to anyone”—is by analyzing the at-risk populations with a bit of data. By doing so, we know that some people are at increased risk.

As an American, your odds of experiencing homelessness in the course of a year are 1 in 200. But if you are an individual who is poor, you are at an increased risk, with odds at 1 in 25. These odds are alarming. And to me, these odds also helpfully demonstrate the very reality that homelessness is largely a problem explained by economics.

While the relationship between economics and homelessness exist (and it’s something we have discussed before), it is important to note that there are also people who are at increased risk of experiencing homelessness based on other demographic factors.

People who are at increased risk are those who are living with friends or family for economic reasons, or doubled up people (odds of 1 in 10), people discharged from prison (1 in 11), and people who have aged out of foster care (1 in 6).

When the odds of experiencing homelessness increase so dramatically based on these demographic factors, you can see why we paid particular attention to these populations, along with the population of people who lack insurance, in the State of Homelessness in America.

The doubled up population, which had an increase of nearly 12 percent from 2008 to 2009, is the demographic factor where conditions have worsened the most, with more than 635,000 people doubled up in 2009. Among the other three factors, changes were all under 2 percent increase.

While working on data analysis for the demographics included in the State of Homelessness, it became clear to me that, in addition to the recessionary effects that have increased the populations who are at-risk of homelessness due to economic reasons, the populations at- risk of homelessness based on demographic factors have also increased, or, at best, these populations have remained constant.

On the other hand, it is also clear that the central component to the solution of ending homelessness is housing (or permanent supportive housing). It’s possible, and it’s necessary, to increase access to affordable housing for all people. The worsening economic and demographic conditions point out that the need to increase access to affordable housing is increasingly urgent.

Top photo courtesy of Kate Dreyer


  1. Jennifer

    “Doubled up” or “couch surfing” is homeless. I work for an agency in Portland, Maine that provides day shelter services for the homeless and we define homeless very specifically- “I do not have a permanent residence”. It’s unfortunate that they have to be suffering- sleeping outside or in unbearable shelter conditions- to have homeless status.

  2. Jennifer

    Also, why isn’t “mental illness” on here as an at-risk category? A rough estimate of the people we serve at our shelter would say that about half of the people are moderately to severely mentally ill. Is this something the government doesn’t consider?

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Felicity Reynolds, End Homelessness. End Homelessness said: Can homelessness happen to anyone? On the blog today Pete talks about demographic factors that increase the risk: [...]