According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, homelessness is defined as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation” [Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)].
According to the January 2017 point-in-time estimate, there are approximately 553,742 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in America. This represents a rate of 17 people experiencing homelessness for every 10,000 people (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2018; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2017). At the time of the 2017 point-in-time count, approximately 66% of individuals experiencing homelessness lived in shelters or transitional housing, 34% in places not meant for human habitation, including abandoned buildings or on the street. 66.7% of people experiencing homelessness were single individuals, 33.3% were families with children. 7.2% of the total count were veterans, and 7.4% were unaccompanied children and young adults. Between 2016 and 2017, homelessness rose nationally by 0.7%, with the largest increases among unaccompanied children and young adults (14.3% increase), individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (12.2% increase), and people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (9.4% increase). Families experiencing homelessness decreased by 5.2% (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2018; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2017).