Homelessness

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Homeless family sleeping in the streets of Kolkata, India (top); a homeless man in Paris, France (bottom).

Homelessness is lacking stable and appropriate housing. People can be categorized as homeless if they are: living on the streets (primary homelessness); moving between temporary shelters, including houses of friends, family and emergency accommodation (secondary homelessness); living in private boarding houses without a private bathroom or security of tenure (tertiary homelessness).[1] The legal definition of homeless varies from country to country, or among different jurisdictions in the same country or region.[2] United States government homeless enumeration studies[3][4] also include people who sleep in a public or private place not designed for use as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.[5][6] People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing due to income that is inconsistent or lacking altogether. Homelessness and poverty are interrelated.[1] There is no methodological consensus on counting homeless people and identifying their needs; therefore in most cities only estimated homeless populations are known.[7]

In 2005, an estimated 100 million people worldwide were homeless and as many as one billion people (one in 6.5 at the time) live as squatters, refugees or in temporary shelter, all lacking adequate housing.[8][9][10] Historically in the Western countries, the majority of homeless have been men (50–80%), with single males particularly over represented.[11][12][13]

Homeless child and adult living on the streets

When compared to the general population, people who are homeless experience higher rates of adverse physical and mental health outcomes. Chronic disease severity, respiratory conditions, rates of mental health illnesses and substance use are all often greater in homeless populations than the general population.[14][15] Homelessness is also associated with a high risk of suicide attempts.[16]

There are a number of organizations that provide help for homeless people.[17] Most countries provide a variety of services to assist homeless people. These services often provide food, shelter (beds), and clothing and may be organized and run by community organizations (often with the help of volunteers) or by government departments or agencies. These programs may be supported by the government, charities, churches, and individual donors. Many cities also have street newspapers, which are publications designed to provide employment opportunities to homeless people. While some homeless people have jobs, some must seek other methods to make a living. Begging or panhandling is one option, but is becoming increasingly illegal in many cities. People who are homeless may have additional conditions, such as physical or mental health issues or substance addiction; these issues make resolving homelessness a challenging policy issue.

Definition and classification[edit]

United Nations definition[edit]

In 2004, the United Nations sector of Economic and Social Affairs defined a homeless household as those households without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters due to a lack of a steady income. They carry their few possessions with them, sleeping in the streets, in doorways or on piers, or in another space, on a more or less random basis.[18]

In 2009, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Conference of European Statisticians (CES), held in Geneva, Switzerland, the Group of Experts on Population and Housing Censuses defined homelessness as:

In its Recommendations for the Censuses of Population and Housing, the CES identifies homeless people under two broad groups:
(a) Primary homelessness (or rooflessness). This category includes persons living in the streets without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters;
(b) Secondary homelessness. This category may include persons with no place of usual residence who move frequently between various types of accommodations (including dwellings, shelters, and institutions for the homeless or other living quarters). This category includes persons living in private dwellings but reporting 'no usual address on their census form.
The CES acknowledges that the above approach does not provide a full definition of the 'homeless'.[19]

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 10 December 1948 by the UN General Assembly, contains this text regarding housing and quality of living:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.[20]

The ETHOS Typology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion was developed as a means of improving understanding and measurement of homelessness in Europe, and to provide a common "language" for transnational exchanges on homelessness. The ETHOS approach confirms that homelessness is a process (rather than a static phenomenon) that affects many vulnerable households at different points in their lives.[21]

The typology was launched in 2005 and is used for different purposes: as a framework for debate,[22] for data collection purposes, for policy purposes, monitoring purposes, and in the media. This typology is an open exercise that makes abstraction of existing legal definitions in the EU member states. It exists in 25 language versions, the translations being provided mainly by volunteer translators.

Other terms[edit]

Recent homeless enumeration survey documentation utilizes the term unsheltered homeless. The common colloquial term street people does not fully encompass all unsheltered people, in that many such persons do not spend their time in urban street environments. Many shun such locales, because homeless people in urban environments may face the risk of being robbed or assaulted. Some people convert unoccupied or abandoned buildings ("squatting"), or inhabit mountainous areas or, more often, lowland meadows, creek banks, and beaches.[23] Many jurisdictions have developed programs to provide short-term emergency shelter during particularly cold spells, often in churches or other institutional properties. These are referred to as warming centers, and are credited by their advocates as lifesaving.[24]

History[edit]

Early history through the 1800s[edit]

The Bowery Mission in New York City, United States, in the 1800s
German illustration of a homeless mother and her children in the street, before 1883
A homeless man living in a sewer, Vienna, Austria, c. 1900
Homeless memorial in Toronto, Canada

United Kingdom[edit]

Following the Peasants' Revolt, English constables were authorized under 1383 English Poor Laws statute to collar vagabonds and force them to show support; if they could not, the penalty was gaol.[25] Vagabonds could be sentenced to the stocks for three days and nights; in 1530, whipping was added. The presumption was that vagabonds were unlicensed beggars.[25] In 1547, a bill was passed that subjected vagrants to some of the more extreme provisions of the criminal law, namely two years servitude and branding with a "V" as the penalty for the first offense and death for the second. Large numbers of vagabonds were among the convicts transported to the American colonies in the 18th century.[26] During the 16th century in England, the state first tried to give housing to vagrants instead of punishing them, by introducing bridewells to take vagrants and train them for a profession. In the 17th and 18th centuries, these were replaced by workhouses but these were intended to discourage too much reliance on state help.

United States[edit]

In the Antebellum South, the availability of slave labor made it difficult for poor white people to find work. To prevent poor white people from cooperating with enslaved black people, slaveowners policed poor whites with vagrancy laws.[27]

After American Civil War, a large number of homeless men formed part of a counterculture known as "hobohemia" all over the United States. In smaller towns, hobos temporarily lived near train tracks and hopped onto trains to various destinations.[28][29]

The growing movement toward social concern sparked the development of rescue missions, such as the U.S. first rescue mission, the New York City Rescue Mission, founded in 1872 by Jerry and Maria McAuley.[30][31]

Modern[edit]

Food line at the Yonge Street Mission, 381 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in the 1930s

1900s[edit]

The Great Depression of the 1930s caused a devastating epidemic of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in the United States. When Franklin D. Roosevelt took over the presidency from Herbert Hoover in 1933, he passed the New Deal, which greatly expanded social welfare, including providing funds to build public housing. This marked the end of the Great Depression.[32]

How the Other Half Lives and Jack London's The People of the Abyss (1903) discussed homelessness and raised public awareness, which caused some changes in building codes and some social conditions. In England, dormitory housing called "spikes" was provided by local boroughs. By the 1930s in England, there were 30,000 people living in these facilities. In 1933, George Orwell wrote about poverty in London and Paris, in his book Down and Out in Paris and London. In general, in most countries, many towns and cities had an area that contained the poor, transients, and afflicted, such as a "skid row". In New York City, for example, there was an area known as "the Bowery", traditionally, where people with an alcohol use disorder were to be found sleeping on the streets, bottle in hand.

In the 1960s in the UK, nature and growing problem of homelessness changed in England as public concern grew. The number of people living "rough" in the streets had increased dramatically. However, beginning with the Conservative administration's Rough Sleeper Initiative, the number of people sleeping rough in London fell dramatically. This initiative was supported further by the incoming Labour administration from 2009 onwards with the publication of the 'Coming in from the Cold' strategy published by the Rough Sleepers Unit, which proposed and delivered a massive increase in the number of hostel bed spaces in the capital and an increase in funding for street outreach teams, who work with rough sleepers to enable them to access services.[33]

2000s[edit]

In 2002, research showed that children and families were the largest growing segment of the homeless population in the United States,[34][35] and this has presented new challenges to agencies.

In the US, the government asked many major cities to come up with a ten-year plan to end homelessness.[when?] One of the results of this was a "Housing First" solution. The Housing First program offers homeless people access to housing without having to undergo tests for sobriety and drug usage. The Housing First program seems to benefit homeless people in every aspect except for substance abuse, for which the program offers little accountability.[36] An emerging consensus is that the Housing First program still gives clients a higher chance at retaining their housing once they get it.[37] A few critical voices argue that it misuses resources and does more harm than good; they suggest that it encourages rent-seeking and that there is not yet enough evidence-based research on the effects of this program on the homeless population.[38] Some formerly homeless people, who were finally able to obtain housing and other assets which helped to return to a normal lifestyle, have donated money and volunteer services to the organizations that provided aid to them during their homelessness.[39] Alternatively, some social service entities that help homeless people now employ formerly homeless individuals to assist in the care process.

Homeless children in the United States.[40] The number of homeless children reached record highs in 2011,[41] 2012,[42] and 2013[43] at about three times their number in 1983.[42]

Homelessness has migrated toward rural and suburban areas. The number of homeless people has not changed dramatically but the number of homeless families has increased according to a report of HUD.[44] The United States Congress appropriated $25 million in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants for 2008 to show the effectiveness of Rapid Re-housing programs in reducing family homelessness.[45][46][47] In February 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, part of which addressed homelessness prevention, allocating $1.5 billion for a Homeless Prevention Fund. The Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) program's name was changed to Emergency Solution Grant (ESG) program, and funds were re-allocated to assist with homeless prevention and rapid re-housing for families and individuals.[48]

Social science[edit]

Causes[edit]

Major reasons and information about homelessness as documented by many reports and studies include:[49][50][51][52][53]

  • Domestic violence. Compared to housed women, homeless women were more likely to report childhood histories of abuse, as well as more current physical abuse by male partners.[54]
  • Forced eviction. In many countries, people lose their homes by government orders to make way for newer upscale high-rise buildings, roadways, and other governmental needs.[55] The compensation may be minimal, in which case the former occupants cannot find appropriate new housing and become homeless.
  • Foreclosures on landlords often lead to the eviction of their tenants. "The Sarasota, Florida, Herald Tribune noted that, by some estimates, more than 311,000 tenants nationwide have been evicted from homes this year after lenders took over the properties."[49][56]
  • Gender. The experiences of homeless women and women in poverty are often overlooked, however, they experience specific gender-based victimization. As individuals with little to no physical or material capital, homeless women are particularly targeted by male law enforcement and men living on the street. It has been found that "street-based homelessness dominates mainstream understanding of homelessness and it is indeed an environment in which males have far greater power (O'Grady and Gaietz, 2004)."[57] Women on the street are often motivated to gain capital through affiliation and relationships with men, rather than facing homelessness alone. Within these relationships, women are still likely to be physically and sexually abused.[57]
  • Gentrification, the process where a neighborhood becomes popular with wealthier people, and the poor residents are priced out
  • Lack of accessible healthcare
  • Lack of affordable housing. In Oregon specifically, inadequate housing is also a driver of foster care placements increasing from 13% to 17% over a two-year period of time.[58]
  • Transitions from foster care and other public systems; specifically youth who have been involved in or are a part of the foster care system are more likely to become homeless. Most leaving the system have no support and no income, making it nearly impossible to break the cycle and forcing them to live on the streets. There is also a lack of shelter beds for youth; various shelters have strict and stringent admissions policies.[59]
Homeless man declaring himself to be a military veteran in New York, United States

A substantial percentage of the US homeless population are individuals who are chronically unemployed or have difficulty managing their lives effectively due to prolonged and severe substance or alcohol use.[69] Substance abuse can cause homelessness from behavioral patterns associated with addiction that alienate an addicted individual's family and friends who could otherwise provide support during difficult economic times. Increased wealth disparity and income inequality causes distortions in the housing market that push rent burdens higher, making housing unaffordable.[70] Paul Koegel of RAND Corporation, a seminal researcher in first-generation homelessness studies and beyond, divided the causes of homelessness into structural aspects and then individual vulnerabilities.[53]

Challenges[edit]

The basic problem of homelessness is the need for personal shelter, warmth, and safety. Other difficulties include:

Homeless people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Hygiene and sanitary facilities
  • Hostility from the public and laws against urban vagrancy
  • Cleaning and drying of clothes
  • Obtaining, preparing, and storing food
  • Keeping contact with friends, family, and government service providers without a permanent location or mailing address
  • Medical problems, including issues caused by an individual's homeless state (e.g., hypothermia or frostbite from sleeping outside in cold weather), or issues which are exacerbated by homelessness due to lack of access to treatment (e.g., mental health and the individual not having a place to store prescription drugs for conditions such as schizophrenia)
  • Personal security, quiet, and privacy, especially for sleeping, bathing, and other hygiene activities
  • Safekeeping of bedding, clothing, and possessions, which may have to be carried at all times

Homeless people face many problems beyond the lack of a safe and suitable home. They are often faced with reduced access to private and public services and vital necessities:[71]

  • General rejection or discrimination from other people
  • Increased risk of suffering violence and abuse
  • Limited access to education
  • Loss of usual relationships with the mainstream
  • Not being seen as suitable for employment
  • Reduced access to banking services
  • Reduced access to communications technology
  • Reduced access to healthcare and dental services
  • Targeting by municipalities to exclude from public space[72]
  • Implication of hostile architecture[73]
  • Difficulty forming trust in relation to services, systems, and other people; exacerbating pre-existing difficulty accessing aid and escaping homelessness, particularly present in the chronically homeless[74]

There is sometimes corruption and theft by the employees of a shelter, as evidenced by a 2011 investigative report by FOX 25 TV in Boston wherein a number of Boston public shelter employees were found stealing large amounts of food over a period of time from the shelter's kitchen for their private use and catering.[75][76] Homeless people are often obliged to adopt various strategies of self-presentation in order to maintain a sense of dignity, which constrains their interaction with passers-by and leads to suspicion and stigmatization by the mainstream public.[77]

Homelessness is also a risk factor for depression caused by prejudice. When someone is prejudiced against people who are homeless and then becomes homeless themselves, their anti-homelessness prejudice turns inward, causing depression. "Mental disorders, physical disability, homelessness, and having a sexually transmitted infection are all stigmatized statuses someone can gain despite having negative stereotypes about those groups."[78] Difficulties can compound exponentially. A study found that in the city of Hong Kong over half of the homeless people in the city (56%) had some degree of mental illness. Only 13% of the 56% were receiving treatment for their condition leaving a huge portion of homeless untreated for their mental illness.[79]

The issue of anti-homeless architecture came to light in 2014 after a photo displayed hostile features (spikes on the floor) in London and took social media by storm. The photo of an anti-homeless structure was a classic example of hostile architecture in an attempt to discourage people from attempting to access or use public space in irregular ways. However, although this has only recent came to light, hostile architecture has been around for a long time in many places.[80]: 68  An example of this is a low overpass that was put in place between New York City and Long Island. Robert Moses was the artist that designed it this way in an attempt to ban public buses from being able to pass through it.[81]

Victimization by violent crimes[edit]

Homeless people are often the victims of violent crime. A 2007 study found that the rate of violent crimes against homeless people in the United States is increasing.[82] A study of women veterans found that homelessness is associated with domestic violence, both directly as the result of leaving an abusive partner and indirectly due to trauma, mental health conditions, and substance abuse.[83]

Rent control[edit]

Rent regulation has a small effect on shelter and street populations.[84] This is largely due to rent control reducing the quality and quantity of housing. For example, a 2019 study found that San Francisco's rent control laws reduced tenant displacement from rent controlled units in the short-term, but resulted in landlords removing 30% of the rent controlled units from the rental market, (by conversion to condos or TICs) which led to a 15% citywide decrease in total rental units, and a 7% increase in citywide rents.[85]

Stigma[edit]

Conditions such as alcohol use disorder and mental illness are often associated with homelessness.[86] Many people fear homeless people due to the stigma surrounding the homeless community. Surveys have revealed that before spending time with the homeless, most people fear them, but after spending time with homeless people, that fear is lessened or is no longer there.[87] Another effect of this stigma is isolation.[88]

Assistance and resources[edit]

Most countries provide a variety of services to assist homeless people. Provisions of food, shelter, and clothing and may be organized and run by community organizations, often with the help of volunteers, or by government departments. Assistance programs may be supported by government, charities, churches, and individual donors. In 1998, a study by Koegel and Schoeni of a homeless population in Los Angeles, California, found that a significant minority of homeless did not participate in government assistance programs, with high transaction costs being a likely contributing factor.[89]

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Administration have a special Section 8 housing voucher program called VASH (Veterans Administration Supported Housing), or HUD-VASH, which gives out a certain number of Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers to eligible homeless and otherwise vulnerable US armed forces veterans.[90] The HUD-VASH program has shown success in housing many homeless veterans.[91] The support available to homeless veterans varies internationally, however. For example, in England, where there is a national right to housing, veterans are only prioritized by local authority homelessness teams if they are found to be vulnerable due to having served in the Armed Forces.[92]

Non-governmental organizations also house or redirect homeless veterans to care facilities. Social Security Income/Social Security Disability Income, Access, Outreach, Recovery Program (SOAR) is a national project funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is designed to increase access to SSI/SSDI for eligible adults who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and have a mental illness or a co-occurring substance use disorder. Using a three-pronged approach of Strategic Planning, Training, and Technical Assistance (TA), the SOAR TA Center coordinates this effort at the state and community level.[93]

Social supports[edit]

While some homeless people are known to have a community with one another,[94] providing each other various types of support,[95] people who are not homeless also may provide them friendship, food, relational care, and other forms of assistance. Such social supports may occur through a formal process, such as under the auspices of a non-governmental organization, religious organization, or homeless ministry, or may be done on an individual basis. In Los Angeles, a collaboration between the Ostrow School of Dentistry of the University of Southern California and the Union Rescue Mission shelter offer homeless people in the Skid Row area free dental services.[96]

Income sources[edit]

Homeless people can also provide waste management services to earn money. Some homeless people find returnable bottles and cans and bring them to recycling centers to earn money. For example, they can sort out organic trash from other trash or separate out trash made of the same material (for example, different types of plastics, and different types of metal). Especially in Brazil, many people are already engaged in such activities.[97] In addition, rather than sorting waste at landfills, ... they can also collect litter found on/beside the road to earn an income.[98] Invented in 2005, in Seattle, Bumvertising, an informal system of hiring homeless people to advertise, has provided food, money, and bottles of water to sign-holding homeless in the Northwest. Homeless advocates have accused its founder, Ben Rogovy, and the process, of exploiting the poor and take particular offense to the use of the word "bum" which is generally considered pejorative.[99][100] In October 2009, The Boston Globe carried a story on so-called cyberbegging, or Internet begging, which was reported to be a new trend worldwide.[101] Income assistance appears to be effective in improving housing outcomes.[102] Cost increases associated with income assistance appear to be offset by the benefits it provides.[102]

Employment[edit]

The United States Department of Labor has sought to address one of the main causes of homelessness, a lack of meaningful and sustainable employment, through targeted training programs and increased access to employment opportunities that can help homeless people develop sustainable lifestyles.[103] This has included the development of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which addresses homelessness on the federal level in addition to connecting homeless individuals to resources at the state level.[104] All individuals who are in need of assistance are able, in theory, to access employment and training services under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), although this is contingent upon funding and program support by the government, with veterans also being able to use the Veterans Workforce Investment Program.[103]

Under the Department of Labor, the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) offers a variety of programs targeted at ending homelessness among veterans.[103] The Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP) is the only national program that is exclusively focused on assisting veterans as they reenter the workforce.[103] The VETS program also has an Incarcerated Veterans' Transition Program, as well as services that are unique to female Veterans.[103] Mainstream programs initiated by the Department of Labor have included the Workforce Investment Act, One-Stop Career Centers, and a Community Voice Mail system that helps to connect homeless individuals around the United States with local resources.[105] Targeted labor programs have included the Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Project, the Disability Program Navigator Initiative, efforts to end chronic homelessness through providing employment and housing projects, Job Corps, and the Veterans Workforce Investment Program (VWIP).[105]

Street newspapers[edit]

A street newspaper vendor, selling Street Sheet, in San Francisco, United States

Street newspapers are newspapers or magazines sold by homeless or poor individuals and produced mainly to support these populations. Most such newspapers primarily provide coverage about homelessness and poverty-related issues and seek to strengthen social networks within homeless communities, making them a tool for allowing homeless individuals to work.[106]

Housing[edit]

Permanent supportive housing (PSH) interventions appear to have improvements in housing stability for people living with homelessness even in long-term. [107][102]

Organizing in homeless shelters[edit]

Homeless shelters can become grounds for community organization and the recruitment of homeless individuals into social movements for their own cause. Cooperation between the shelter and an elected representative from the homeless community at each shelter can serve as the backbone of this type of initiative. The representative presents and forwards problems raises concerns and provides new ideas to the director and staff of the shelters. Examples of possible problems are ways to deal with substance use disorders by certain shelter users, and resolution of interpersonal conflicts. SAND, the Danish National Organization for Homeless People, is one example of an organization that uses this empowerment approach.[108] Issues reported at the homeless shelters are then addressed by SAND at the regional or national level. To open further dialogue, SAND organizes regional discussion forums where staff and leaders from the shelters, homeless representatives, and local authorities meet to discuss issues and good practices at the shelters.[109]

Homeless Housing Innovations[edit]

Los Angeles conducted a competition promoted by Mayor Eric Garcetti soliciting ideas from developers to use bond money more efficiently in building housing for the city's homeless population. The top five winners were announced on 1 February 2019 and the concepts included using assembly-ready molded polymer panels that can be put together with basic tools, prefabricated 5-story stack-able houses, erecting privately financed modular buildings on properties that do not require City Council approval, using bond money to convert residential garages into small apartments which are then dedicated to homeless rentals, and the redeveloping of Bungalow-court units, the small low-income iconic buildings that housed 7% of the city's population in the 1920s.[110]

In the neighborhood of Westlake, Los Angeles, the city is funding the first transitionally homeless housing building using "Cargotecture", or "architecture built from repurposed shipping containers." The Hope on Alvarado micro-apartment building will consist of 4-stories of 84 containers stacked together like Lego bricks on top of a traditionally constructed ground floor. Completion is anticipated by the end of 2019.[111]

Political action: voting[edit]

Voting for elected officials is important for the homeless population to have a voice in the democratic process.[109]

Services[edit]

There are many community organizations and social movements around the world which are taking action to reduce homelessness. They have sought to counteract the causes and reduce the consequences by starting initiatives that help homeless people transition to self-sufficiency. Social movements and initiatives tend to follow a grassroots, community-based model of organization – generally characterized by a loose, informal and decentralized structure, with an emphasis on radical protest politics. By contrast, an interest group aims to influence government policies by relying on more of a formal organizational structure.[109] These groups share a common element: they are both made up of and run by a mix of allies of the homeless population and former or current members of the homeless population. Both grassroots groups and interest groups aim to break stereotyped images of homeless people as being weak and hapless, or defiant criminals and drug addicts, and to ensure that the voice of homeless people and their representatives is clearly heard by policymakers.

Accommodation-based approaches are mostly effective for increasing housing stability and health outcomes, with many interventions having evolved to incorporate support and services beyond delivery of housing, including health, employment, crime and wellbeing. An accommodation-based approach which provides the highest levels of support and does not place rules on the person receiving the intervention is best at improving housing stability and health outcomes. For an intervention to work best, it must have a balance of staff, resources, time and engagement of the person experiecing homelessness. On the other hand, interventions which are described as Basic/Unconditional (i.e., those that only satisfy very basic human needs such as a bed and food) harm people: meaning they had worse health and housing stability outcomes even when compared to receiving nothing at all.[112]

Housing[edit]

Homeless shelter in Poznan, Poland

Urban homeless shelters[edit]

Many homeless people keep all their possessions with them because they have no access to storage. There have been "bag" people, shopping cart people, and soda can collectors (known as binners or dumpster divers) who sort through garbage to find items to sell, trade, or eat. Such people have typically carried all their possessions with them all the time. If they had no access to or ability to get to a shelter and possible bathing, or access to toilets and laundry facilities, their hygiene was lacking. This has created social tensions in public places.[citation needed]

A homeless camp in Eugene, Oregon, 2013

These conditions have created an upsurge in tuberculosis and other diseases in urban areas.[113][114][115]

Refuges and alternative accommodation[edit]

There are various places where a homeless person might seek refuge:

  • 24-hour Internet cafes are now used by over 5,000 Japanese "Net cafe refugees". An estimated 75% of Japan's 3,200 all-night internet cafes cater to regular overnight guests, who in some cases have become their main source of income.[116]
  • 24-hour McDonald's restaurants are used by "McRefugees" in Japan, China and Hong Kong. There are about 250 McRefugees in Hong Kong.[117]
  • Couch surfing: temporary sleeping arrangements in dwellings of friends or family members ("couch surfing"). This can also include housing in exchange for labor or sex. Couch surfers may be harder to recognize than street homeless people and are often omitted from housing counts.[118]
  • Homeless shelters: including emergency cold-weather shelters opened by churches or community agencies, which may consist of cots in a heated warehouse, or temporary Christmas Shelters. More elaborate homeless shelters such as Pinellas Hope in Florida provide residents with a recreation tent, a dining tent, laundry facilities, outdoor tents, casitas, and shuttle services that help inhabitants get to their jobs each day.[119]
  • Inexpensive boarding houses: have also been called flophouses. They offer cheap, low-quality temporary lodging.
  • Inexpensive motels offer cheap, low-quality temporary lodging. However, some who can afford housing live in a motel by choice. For example, David and Jean Davidson spent 22 years at various UK Travelodges.[120]
  • Public places: Parks, bus or train stations, public libraries, airports, public transportation vehicles (by continual riding where unlimited passes are available), hospital lobbies or waiting areas, college campuses, and 24-hour businesses such as coffee shops. Many public places use security guards or police to prevent people from loitering or sleeping at these locations for a variety of reasons, including image, safety, and comfort of patrons.[121][122]
  • Shantytowns: ad hoc dwelling sites of improvised shelters and shacks, usually near rail yards, interstates and high transportation veins. Some shantytowns have interstitial tenting areas, but the predominant feature consists of hard structures. Each pad or site tends to accumulate roofing, sheathing, plywood, and nailed two by fours.
  • Single room occupancy (more commonly abbreviated to SRO):a form of housing that is typically aimed at residents with low or minimal incomes who rent small, furnished single rooms with a bed, chair, and sometimes a small desk.[123] SRO units are rented out as permanent residence or primary residence[124] to individuals, within a multi-tenant building where tenants share a kitchen, toilets or bathrooms. In the 2010s, some SRO units may have a small refrigerator, microwave and sink.[123] (also called a "residential hotel").
  • Squatting in an unoccupied structure where a homeless person may live without payment and without the owner's knowledge or permission. Often these buildings are long abandoned and not safe to occupy.
  • Tent cities: ad hoc campsites of tents and improvised shelters consisting of tarpaulins and blankets, often near industrial and institutionally zoned real estate such as rail yards, highways and high transportation veins. A few more elaborate tent cities, such as Dignity Village, are hybrids of tent cities and shantytowns. Tent cities frequently consist only of tents and fabric improvised structures, with no semi-permanent structures at all.
  • Outdoors: on the ground or in a sleeping bag, tent, or improvised shelter, such as a large cardboard box, under a bridge, in an urban doorway, in a park or a vacant lot.
  • Tunnels such as abandoned subway, maintenance, or train tunnels are popular among the long-term or permanent homeless.[125][126] The inhabitants of such refuges are called in some places, like New York City, "Mole People". Natural caves beneath urban centers allow for places where people can congregate. Leaking water pipes, electric wires, and steam pipes allow for some of the essentials of living.
  • Vehicles: cars or trucks used as temporary or sometimes long-term living quarters, for example by those recently evicted from a home. Some people live in recreational vehicles (RVs), school buses, vans, sport utility vehicles, covered pickup trucks, station wagons, sedans, or hatchbacks. The vehicular homeless, according to homeless advocates and researchers, comprise the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.[127] Many cities have safe parking programs in which lawful sites are permitted at churches or in other out-of-the-way locations. For example, because it is illegal to park on the street in Santa Barbara, the New Beginnings Counseling Center worked with the city to make designated parking lots available to homeless people.[119]

Other housing options[edit]

Transitional housing
Transitional housing provides temporary housing for certain segments of the homeless population, including the working homeless, and is meant to transition residents into permanent, affordable housing. This is usually a room or apartment in a residence with support services. The transitional time can be relatively short, for example, one or two years, and in that time the person must file for and obtain permanent housing along with gainful employment or income, even if Social Security or assistance. Sometimes transitional housing programs charge a room and board fee, maybe 30% of an individual's income, which is sometimes partially or fully refunded after the person procures a permanent residence. In the U.S., federal funding for transitional housing programs was originally allocated in the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1986.[128][129][130]

Foyers
Foyers are a specific type of transitional housing designed for homeless or at-risk teens. Foyers are generally institutions that provide affordable accommodation as well as support and training services for residents. They were pioneered in the 1990s in the United Kingdom, but have been adopted in areas in Australia and the United States as well.

Supportive housing
Supportive housing is a combination of housing and services intended as a cost-effective way to help people live more stable, productive lives. Supportive housing works well for those who face the most complex challenges – individuals and families confronted with homelessness who also have very low incomes or serious, persistent issues such as substance use disorder, addictions, alcohol use disorder, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, or other serious challenges. A 2021 systematic review of 28 interventions, mostly in North America, showed that interventions with highest levels of support led to improved outcomes for both housing stability, and health outcomes.[131][132]

Government initiatives
In South Australia, the state government of Premier Mike Rann (2002–2011) committed substantial funding to a series of initiatives designed to combat homelessness. Advised by Social Inclusion Commissioner David Cappo and the founder of New York's Common Ground program, Rosanne Haggerty, the Rann government established Common Ground Adelaide,[133] building high-quality inner city apartments (combined with intensive support) for "rough sleeping" homeless people. The government also funded the Street to Home program and a hospital liaison service designed to assist homeless people admitted to the emergency departments of Adelaide's major public hospitals. Rather than being released back into homelessness, patients identified as rough sleepers were found accommodation backed by professional support. Common Ground and Street to Home now operate across Australia in other States.[134]

Savings from housing homeless in the US[edit]

In 2013, a Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study indicated that the region spends $31,000 a year per homeless person to cover "salaries of law enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals – largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks – as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues. This did not include "money spent by nonprofit agencies to feed, clothe and sometimes shelter these individuals". In contrast, the report estimated the cost of permanent supportive housing at "$10,051 per person per year" and concluded that "[h]ousing even half of the region's chronically homeless population would save taxpayers $149 million over the next decade – even allowing for 10 percent to end up back on the streets again." This particular study followed 107 long-term-homeless residents living in Orange, Osceola or Seminole Counties.[135] There are similar studies showing large financial savings in Charlotte and Southeastern Colorado from focusing on simply housing the homeless."[136]

In general, housing interventions had mixed economic results on cost-analysis studies.[102]

Standard Case Management[edit]

Standard case management entails several services where homeless people with multiple health problems are supported by case managers in accessing social, health-care and other services in order to maintain good health and social relationships.[102] This type of intervention has showed the potential to improve housing, however it did not show benefits on cost-analysis.[102]

Health care[edit]

Student nurse at Jacksonville University School of Nursing takes the blood pressure of a homeless veteran during the annual Stand Down for Homelessness activity in Savannah, Georgia.

Health care for homeless people is a major public health challenge.[137] Homeless people are more likely to suffer injuries and medical problems from their lifestyle on the street, which includes poor nutrition,[138] exposure to the severe elements of weather, and a higher exposure to violence. Yet at the same time, they have reduced access to public medical services or clinics,[139] in part because they often lack identification or registration for public healthcare services. There are significant challenges in treating homeless people who have psychiatric disorders because clinical appointments may not be kept, their continuing whereabouts are unknown, their medicines may not be taken as prescribed, medical and psychiatric histories are not accurate, and other reasons. Because many homeless people have mental illnesses, this has presented a crisis in care.[61][140][141]

Homeless people may find it difficult to document their date of birth or their address. Because homeless people usually have no place to store possessions, they often lose their belongings, including identification and other documents, or find them destroyed by police or others. Without a photo ID, homeless persons cannot get a job or access many social services, including healthcare. They can be denied access to even the most basic assistance: clothing closets, food pantries, certain public benefits, and in some cases, emergency shelters. Obtaining replacement identification is difficult. Without an address, birth certificates cannot be mailed. Fees may be cost-prohibitive for impoverished persons. And some states will not issue birth certificates unless the person has photo identification, creating a Catch-22.[142] This problem is far less acute in countries that provide free-at-use health care, such as the UK, where hospitals are open-access day and night and make no charges for treatment. In the U.S., free-care clinics for homeless people and other people do exist in major cities, but often attract more demand than they can meet.[143]

The conditions affecting homeless people are somewhat specialized and have opened a new area of medicine tailored to this population. Skin conditions, including scabies, are common because homeless people are exposed to extreme cold in the winter and have little access to bathing facilities. They have problems caring for their feet[144] and have more severe dental problems than the general population.[145] Diabetes, especially untreated, is widespread in the homeless population.[146] Specialized medical textbooks have been written to address this for providers.[147]

There are many organizations providing free care to homeless people in countries which do not offer free state-run medical treatment, but the services are in great demand given the limited number of medical practitioners. For example, it might take months to get a minimal dental appointment in a free-care clinic. Communicable diseases are of great concern, especially tuberculosis, which spreads more easily in crowded homeless shelters in high-density urban settings.[148] There has been ongoing concern and studies about the health and wellness of the older homeless population, typically ages 50 to 64, and older, as to whether they are significantly more sickly than their younger counterparts and if they are under-served.[149][150]

In 1985, the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program was founded to assist the growing numbers of homeless living on the streets and in shelters in Boston and who were suffering from a lack of effective medical services.[151][152] In 2004, Boston Health Care for the Homeless in conjunction with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council published a medical manual called The Health Care of Homeless Persons, edited by James J. O'Connell, M.D., specifically for the treatment of the homeless population.[153] In June 2008 in Boston, the Jean Yawkey Place, a four-story, 7,214.2-square-metre (77,653 sq ft) building, was opened by the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. It is an entire full-service building on the Boston Medical Center campus dedicated to providing healthcare for homeless people. It also contains a long-term care facility, the Barbara McInnis House, which expanded to 104 beds and is the first and largest medical respite program for homeless people in the United States.[154][155][156]

A 2011 study led by Dr. Rebecca T. Brown in Boston, conducted by the Institute for Aging Research (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program found the elderly homeless population had "higher rates of geriatric syndromes, including functional decline, falls, frailty and depression than seniors in the general population and that many of these conditions may be easily treated if detected". The report was published in the Journal of Geriatric Internal Medicine.[157] There are government avenues which provide resources for the development of healthcare for homeless people. In the United States, the Bureau of Primary Health Care has a program that provides grants to fund the delivery of healthcare to homeless people.[158] According to 2011 UDS data community health centers were able to provide service to 1,087,431 homeless individuals.[159] There are also many nonprofit and religious organizations which provide healthcare services to homeless people. These organizations help meet the large need which exists for expanding healthcare for homeless people.

The 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could provide new healthcare options for homeless people in the United States, particularly through the optional expansion of Medicaid. A 2013 Yale study indicated that a substantial proportion of the chronically homeless population in America would be able to obtain Medicaid coverage if states expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.[160]

There have been significant numbers of unsheltered persons dying of hypothermia, adding impetus to the trend of establishing warming centers as well as extending enumeration surveys with vulnerability indexes.[161][162]

Studies on the effects of intensive mental health interventions have demonstrated some improvements in housing stability and to be economically beneficial on cost-analysis.[102]

Effect on life expectancy[edit]

In 1999, Dr. Susan Barrow of the Columbia University Center for Homelessness Prevention Studies reported in a study that the "age-adjusted death rates of homeless men and women were four times those of the general U.S. population and two to three times those of the general population of New York City".[163] A report commissioned by homeless charity Crisis in 2011 found that on average, homeless people in the UK have a life expectancy of 47 years, 30 years younger than the rest of the population.[164]

Health impacts of extreme weather events[edit]

People experiencing homelessness are at a significant increased risk to the effects of extreme weather events. Such weather events include extreme heat and cold, floods, storm surges, heavy rain and droughts. While there are many contributing factors to these events, climate change is driving an increasing frequency and intensity of these events.[165] The homeless population is considerably more vulnerable to these weather events due to their higher rates of chronic disease and lower socioeconomic status. Despite having a minimal carbon footprint, homeless people unfortunately experience a disproportionate burden of the effects of climate change.[166]

Homeless persons have increased vulnerability to extreme weather events for many reasons. They are disadvantaged in most social determinants of health, including lack of housing and access to adequate food and water, reduced access to health care, and difficulty in maintaining health care.[166] They have significantly higher rates of chronic disease including respiratory disease and infections, gastrointestinal disease, musculoskeletal problems and mental health disease.[167] In fact, self-reported rates of respiratory diseases (including asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema) are double that of the general population.[166]

The homeless population often live in higher risk urban areas with increased exposure and little protection from the elements. They also have limited access to clean drinking water and other methods of cooling down.[167] The built environment in urban areas also contributes to the "heat island effect", the phenomenon whereby cities experience higher temperatures due to the predominance of dark, paved surfaces and lack of vegetation.[168] Homeless populations are often excluded from disaster planning efforts, further increasing their vulnerability when these events occur.[169] Without the means to escape extreme temperatures and seek proper shelter and cooling or warming resources, homeless people are often left to suffer the brunt of the extreme weather.

The health effects that result from extreme weather include exacerbation of chronic diseases and acute illnesses. Pre-existing conditions can be greatly exacerbated by extreme heat and cold, including cardiovascular, respiratory, skin and renal disease, often resulting in higher morbidity and mortality during extreme weather. Acute conditions such as sunburn, dehydration, heat stroke and allergic reactions are also common. In addition, a rise in insect bites can lead to vector-borne infections.[167] Mental health conditions can also be impacted by extreme weather events as a result of lack of sleep, increased alcohol consumption, reduced access to resources and reduced ability to adjust to the environmental changes.[167] In fact, pre-existing psychiatric illness has been shown to triple the risk of death from extreme heat.[170] Overall, extreme weather events appear to have a "magnifying effect" in exacerbating the underlying prevalent mental and physical health conditions of homeless populations.[169]

Case study: Hurricane Katrina[edit]

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane, made landfall on Florida and Louisiana. It particularly affected the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest hurricane in the US in seven decades with more than 1,600 confirmed deaths and more than 1,000 people missing. The hurricane disproportionately affected marginalized individuals and individuals with lower socioeconomic status (i.e., 93% of shelter residents were African–American, 32% had household incomes below $10,000/year and 54% were uninsured).[166] The storm nearly doubled the number of homeless people in New Orleans. While in most cities homeless people account for 1% of the population, in New Orleans' the homeless account for 4% of the population. In addition to its devastating effects on infrastructure and the economy, the estimated prevalence of mental illness and the incidence of West Nile Virus more than doubled after Hurricane Katrina in the hurricane-affected regions.[166]

Standard Case Management[edit]

Standard case management entails several services where homeless people with multiple health problems are supported by case managers in accessing social, health-care and other services necessary for maintaining good health and social relationships. This intervention has showed some potential to improve housing[102]

Global statistics[edit]

Demographics[edit]

Homeless man sleeping in London, 2015

In western countries such as the United States, the typical homeless person is male and single,[171] with the Netherlands reporting 80% of homeless people aged 18–65 to be men. Some cities have particularly high percentages of males in homeless populations, with men comprising eighty-five percent of the homeless in Dublin.[172] Non-white people are also overrepresented in homeless populations, with such groups two and one-half times more likely to be homeless in the U.S. The median age of homeless people is approximately 35.[173]

Statistics for developed countries[edit]

In 2005, an estimated 100 million people worldwide were homeless.[174] The following statistics indicate the approximate average number of homeless people at any one time. Each country has a different approach to counting homeless people, and estimates of homelessness made by different organizations vary wildly, so comparisons should be made with caution.

European Union: 3,000,000 (UN-HABITAT 2004)
United Kingdom: 10,459 rough sleepers, 98,750 households in temporary accommodation (Department for Communities and Local Government 2005)
Canada: 150,000[175]
Australia: On census night in 2006 there were 105,000 people homeless across Australia, an increase from the 99,900 Australians who were counted as homeless in the 2001 census[176]
Tents of homeless people in San Francisco, California, May 2020
United States:[177] The HUD 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress reports that in a single night, roughly 553,000 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States.[178] According to HUD's July 2010 5th Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, in a single night in January 2010, single-point analysis reported to HUD showed 649,917 people experiencing homelessness. This number had increased from January 2009's 643,067. The unsheltered count increased by 2.8 percent while the sheltered count remained the same. Also, HUD reported the number of chronically homeless people (persons with severe disabilities and long homeless histories) decreased one percent between 2009 and 2010, from 110,917 to 109,812. Since 2007 this number had decreased by 11 percent. This was mostly due to the expansion of permanent supportive housing programs.
The change in numbers has occurred due to the prevalence of homelessness in local communities rather than other changes. According to HUD's July 2010 Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, more than 1.59 million people spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program during the 2010 reporting period, a 2.2 percent increase from 2009. Most users of homeless shelters used only an emergency shelter, while 17 percent used only transitional housing, and less than 5 percent used both during the reporting period. Since 2007, the annual number of those using homeless shelters in cities has decreased from 1.22 million to 1.02 million, a 17 percent decrease. The number of persons using homeless shelters in suburban and rural areas increased 57 percent, from 367,000 to 576,000.[179] In the U.S., the federal government's HUD agency has required federally-funded organizations to use a computer tracking system for homeless people and their statistics, called HMIS (Homeless Management Information System).[180][181][182] There has been some opposition to this kind of tracking by privacy advocacy groups, such as EPIC.[183]
However, HUD considers its reporting techniques to be reasonably accurate for homeless in shelters and programs in its Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.[184][185] Actually determining and counting the number of homeless is very difficult in general due to their lifestyle habits.[186][187] There are so-called "hidden homeless" out of sight of the normal population and perhaps staying on private property.[188] Various countries, states, and cities have come up with differing means and techniques to calculate an approximate count. For example, a one night "homeless census count", called a point-in-time (PIT) count, usually held in early winter for the year, is a technique used by a number of American cities, such as Boston.[189][190][191] Los Angeles uses a mixed set of techniques for counting, including the PIT street count.[188][192]
In 2003, The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had begun requiring a PIT count in all "Continuum of Care" communities which required them to report a count of people, housing status, and geographic locations of individuals counted. Some communities provide sub-population information to the PIT, such as information on veterans, youth, and elderly individuals, as done in Boston.[193]
Japan: 20,000–100,000 (some figures put it at 200,000–400,000).[194] Reports show that homelessness is on the rise in Japan since the mid-1990s.[195] There are more homeless men than homeless women in Japan because it is usually easier for women to get a job and they are less isolated than men. Also Japanese families usually provide more support for women than they do for men.[196]

Developing and undeveloped countries[edit]

Street child in Kenya

The number of homeless people worldwide has grown steadily in recent years.[197][198] In some developing countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, homelessness is rampant, with millions of children living and working on the streets.[199][200] Homelessness has become a problem in the countries of China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines despite their growing prosperity, partly due to migrant workers who have trouble finding permanent homes.[201][dead link]

Determining the true number of homeless people worldwide varies between 100 million and 1 billion people based on the exact definition used.[202] Refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons can also be considered homeless in that they, too, experience "marginalization, minority status, socioeconomic disadvantage, poor physical health, collapse of social supports, psychological distress, and difficulty adapting to host cultures" such as the domestic homeless.[203]

In the past twenty years, scholars such as Tipple and Speak have begun to refer to homelessness as the "antithesis or absence of home" rather than rooflessness or the "lack of physical shelter." This complication in the homelessness debate further delineates the idea that home actually consists of an adequate shelter, an experienced and dynamic place that serves as a "base" for nurturing human relationships and the "free development of individuals" and their identity.[204] Thus, the home is perceived to be an extension of one's self and identity. In contrast, the homeless experience, according to Moore, constitutes more as a "lack of belonging" and a loss of identity that leads to individuals or communities feeling "out of place" once they can no longer call a place of their own home.[205]

This new perspective on homelessness sheds light on the plight of refugees, a population of stateless people who are not normally included in the mainstream definition of homelessness. It has also created problems for researchers because the nature of "counting" homeless people across the globe relies heavily on who is considered a homeless person. Homeless individuals, and by extension refugees, can be seen as lacking lack the "crucible of our modern society" and lacking a way of actively belonging to and engaging with their respective communities or cultures[206] As Casavant demonstrates, a spectrum of definitions for homelessness, called the "continuum of homelessness", should refer to refugees as homeless individuals because they not only lose their home, but they are also afflicted with a myriad of problems that parallel those affecting the domestic homeless, such as "[a lack of] stable, safe and healthy housing, an extremely low income, adverse discrimination in access to services, with problems of mental health, alcohol, and drug abuse or social disorganization".[207] Refugees, like the domestic homeless, lose their source of identity and way of connecting with their culture for an indefinite period of time.

Refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2013

Thus, the current definition of homelessness unfortunately allows people to simplistically assume that homeless people, including refugees, are merely "without a place to live" when that is not the case. As numerous studies show, forced migration and displacement brings with it another host of problems including socioeconomic instability, "increased stress, isolation, and new responsibilities" in a completely new environment.[208]

For people in Russia, especially the youth, alcohol and substance use is a major cause and reason for becoming and continuing to be homeless.[209] The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat) wrote in its Global Report on Human Settlements in 1995: "Homelessness is a problem in developed as well as in developing countries. In London, for example, life expectancy among homeless people is more than 25 years lower than the national average."

Poor urban housing conditions are a global problem, but conditions are worst in developing countries. Habitat says that today 600 million people live in life- and health-threatening homes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For example, more than three in four young people had insufficient means of shelter and sanitation in some African countries like Malawi.[210] "The threat of mass homelessness is greatest in those regions because that is where population is growing fastest. By 2015, the 10 largest cities in the world will be in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Nine of them will be in developing countries: Mumbai, India – 27.4 million; Lagos, Nigeria – 24.4; Shanghai, China – 23.4; Jakarta, Indonesia – 21.2; São Paulo, Brazil – 20.8; Karachi, Pakistan – 20.6; Beijing, China – 19.4; Dhaka, Bangladesh – 19; Mexico City, Mexico – 18.8. The only city in a developed country that will be in the top ten is Tokyo, Japan – 28.7 million."[211]

In 2008, Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of UN-HABITAT, referring to the recent report "State of the World's Cities Report 2008/2009",[212] said that the world economic crisis we are in should be viewed as a "housing finance crisis" in which the poorest of poor were left to fend for themselves.[213]

By country[edit]

Australia[edit]

A homeless person's shelter under a fallen willow tree in Australia
Abandoned transient encampment in Mawson, ACT

In Australia the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) is a joint Commonwealth and state government program which provides funding for more than 1,200 organizations which are aimed to assist homeless people or those in danger of becoming homeless, as well as women and children escaping domestic violence.[214] They provide accommodation such as refuges, shelters, and half-way houses, and offer a range of supported services. The Commonwealth has assigned over $800 million between 2000 and 2005 for the continuation of SAAP. The current program, governed by the Supported Assistance Act 1994, specifies that "the overall aim of SAAP is to provide transitional supported accommodation and related support services, in order to help people who are homeless to achieve the maximum possible degree of self-reliance and independence. This legislation has been established to help the homeless people of the nation and help rebuild the lives of those in need. The cooperation of the states also helps enhance the meaning of the legislation and demonstrates their desire to improve the nation as best they can." In 2011, the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) program replaced the SAAP program.[215]

Canada[edit]

Graffiti of homeless in Quebec City

Homelessness in Canada has grown in hugeness and complexity since 1997.[216] While historically known as a crisis only of urban centres such as Montreal, Laval, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto, increasing homelessness in suburban communities requires new services and resources.[217]

In recent years homelessness has become a major social issue in Canada. In Action Plan 2011, the Federal Government of Canada proposed $120 million annually from April 2014 until April 2019—with $70 million in new funding—to renew its Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). In dealing with homelessness in Canada, the government focus is on the Housing First model. Thus, private or public organizations across Canada are eligible to receive HPS subsidies to implement Housing First programs. Canada spends more than 30 billion annually on social service programs for the homeless.[218]

China[edit]

In 2011, there were approximately 2.41 million homeless adults and 179,000 homeless children living in the country.[219] However, one publication estimated that there were one million homeless children in China in 2012.[220]

Housing in China is highly regulated by the Hukou system. This gives rise to a large number of migrant workers, numbering at 290.77 million in 2019.[221] These migrant workers have rural Hukou, but they move to the cities in order to find better jobs, though due to their rural Hukou they are entitled to fewer privileges than those with urban Hukou.[citation needed] According to Huili et al.,[222] these migrant workers "live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions" and are always at risk of displacement to make way for new real estate developments. In 2017, the government responded to a deadly fire in a crowded building in Beijing by cracking down on dense illegal shared accommodations and evicting the residents, leaving many migrant laborers homeless.[223] This comes in the context of larger attempts by the government to limit the population increase in Beijing, often targeting migrant laborers.[224] However, according to official government statistics,[221] migrant workers in China have an average of 20.4 square metres (220 sq ft) of living space per capita, and the vast majority of migrant workers have basic living facilities such as heating, bathing, refrigerators, and washing machines.

Several natural disasters have led to homelessness in China. The 2000 Yunnan earthquake left 92,479 homeless and destroyed over 41,000 homes.[225]

Homelessness among people with mental health problems is 'much less common' in China than in high-income countries, due to stronger family ties, but is increasing due to migration within families and as a result of the one-child policy. A study in Xiangtan found at least 2439 schizophrenic people that have been homeless on a total population of 2.8 million. It was found that "homelessness was more common in individuals from rural communities (where social support services are limited), among those who wander away from their communities (i.e., those not from Xiangtan municipality), and among those with limited education (who are less able to mobilize social supports). Homelessness was also associated with greater age; [the cause] may be that older patients have ‘burned their bridges’ with relatives and, thus, end up on the streets."[226]

During the Cultural Revolution a large part of child welfare homes were closed down, leaving their inhabitants homeless. By the late 1990s, many new homes were set up to accommodate abandoned children. In 1999, the Ministry of Civil Affairs estimated the number of abandoned children in welfare homes to be 66,000.[227]

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, China had approximately 2,000 shelters and 20,000 social workers to aid approximately 3 million homeless people in 2014.[228]

From 2017 to 2019, the government of Guangdong Province assisted 5,388 homeless people in reuniting with relatives elsewhere in China. The Guangdong government assisted more than 150,000 people over a three-year period.[229]

In 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs announced several actions of the Central Committee in response to homelessness, including increasing support services and reuniting homeless people with their families.[230] In Wuhan, the situation for homeless people was particularly bad, as the lockdown made it impossible for homeless migrants to return to other parts of the country. The Wuhan Civil Affairs Bureau set up 69 shelters in the city to house 4,843 people.[231]

Denmark[edit]

Homelessness in Denmark is considered a significant social issue in the country.[232][233] Since 2007, comprehensive counts have been performed every other year in week six (early February). The latest, from 2017, counted 6,635 homeless people in Denmark.[234][235] The total number of people experiencing homelessness at some point in 2017 was estimated at 13,000,[234] while earlier estimates have placed it between 10,000 and 15,000.[236] Roughly half the homeless are in the Capital Region.[235] When compared to many other countries, such as the United States, the rate of Denmark's homeless is significantly lower, which has been linked to the relatively comprehensive welfare system.[237]

The number of homeless people in Denmark has risen in recent decades, but this has been most pronounced in people that are between 18 and 29 years old (although 30 to 59 years old remains the largest age group, at 70%), women (although men remains the largest group, at 75%) and immigrants (although Danish citizens remain the largest group).[234][235][238][239] Among the foreign, a high percentage are Eastern or Southern European men that seek work in Denmark.[239] Many of these only stay in Denmark during the summer, returning to their respective countries during the relatively cold Danish winter.[240]

Based on the comprehensive count in February 2017, roughly one-tenth of homeless people in Denmark are "street sleepers" (which also includes people sleeping in stairways, sheds and other places not intended for human habitation), with the remaining sleeping in the homes of friends/family, in hotels/hostels, in shelters or alike.[234][235] The number of street sleepers is higher during the summer,[234] and homeless foreigners are overrepresented among them.[240] Among homeless in Denmark, the primary issue is psychiatric disease at 36% (24% receive treatment), drug addiction at 27% (17% receive treatment) and alcohol addiction at 23% (9% receive treatment). Overall it is estimated that more than half of all homeless people have mental health issues.[235] Compared to many other countries such as the United States, a higher percentage of Denmark's homeless have mental health issues or substance abuse, as countries with weaker welfare systems tend to have higher homeless rates but the homeless will more likely to include from a wide range of groups.[237]

The government of Denmark's approach to homelessness include commissioning national surveys on homelessness during the last decade that allow for direct comparison between Denmark, Norway and Sweden.[241] The three countries have very similar definitions of homelessness, with minor variations.[242]

Egypt[edit]

Homelessness in Egypt is a significant social issue affecting some 12 million people in the country. Egypt has over 1,200 areas designated for irregular dwellings that do not conform to standard building laws, allowing homeless people to build shacks and other shelters for themselves.[243]

Reportedly, in Egypt, homelessness is defined to include those living in marginal housing.[244] Some scholars have stated that there is no agreed upon definition of homelessness in Egypt due to the difficulties government would face if an official definition were accepted.[245]

According to UNICEF, there are 1 million children living on the streets in Egypt.[246] Other researchers estimate the number to be some 3 million.[247] Homelessness NGOs assisting street children include those such as Hope Village Society,[246] and NAFAS.[244] Other NGOs, such as Plan International Egypt, work to reintegrate street children back into their families.[248]

Finland[edit]

Homelessness in Finland affects approximately 4 thousand people.[249]

In Finland the municipalities are required by law to offer apartments or shelters to every Finnish citizen who does not have a residence. In 2007 the center-right government of Matti Vanhanen began a special program of four wise men modeled after a US-originated Housing First policy to eliminate homelessness in Finland by 2015.[250][251]

Finland is the only European Union country where homelessness is currently falling.[252] The country has adopted a Housing First policy, whereby social services assign homeless individuals rental homes first, and issues like mental health and substance abuse are treated second.[253][254] Since its launch in 2008, the number of homeless people in Finland has decreased by roughly 30%, and the number of long-term homeless people has fallen by more than 35%.[252] "Sleeping rough", the practice of sleeping outside, has been largely eradicated in Helsinki, where only one 50-bed night shelter remains.[252]

The Constitution of Finland mandates that public authorities "promote the right of everyone to housing".[255] In addition, the constitution grants Finnish citizens "the right to receive indispensable subsistence and care", if needed.[255]

Since 2002, the Night of the Homeless event has been hosted throughout the country.[256] The events include demonstrations, food distribution, and movie screenings, among other activities.[257]

A "night café" in Helsinki, Kalkkers (run by the non-governmental organisation Vailla vakinaista asuntoa ry), operates as a temporary overnight resting place for approximately 15 people each night.[258][259] Here showers, a meal and place to be with no questions asked is provided.

France[edit]

Homelessness in France is a significant social issue that is estimated to affect around 300,000 people - a figure that has doubled since 2012 (141,500) and tripled since 2001 (93,000). Around 185,000 people are currently staying in shelters, some 100,000 are in temporary housing for people seeking asylum and 16,000 live in slums.[260][261][262]

One study of homeless in Paris found that homeless people have a high degree of social proximity to other people living in conditions of poverty.[263] And terms in the media used to describe homelessness are formed around poverty and vagrancy.[264]

Some researchers maintain that a Housing First policy would not solve the homelessness issue in France.[265][266]

Some researchers maintain that industrial restructuring in France led to the loss of some jobs among blue-collar workers whose skills did not transfer readily to other job sectors, which in turn led to a rise in homelessness.[267]

Homeless children in France is not a new phenomenon; the writer Emile Zola wrote about homeless children in late nineteenth century France.[268]

The homeless emergency number in France is 115.[269] The line is operated by SAMU Social.[citation needed]

Germany[edit]

Homelessness in Germany is a significant social issue, one that is estimated to affect around 678,000 people.[270] Since 2014, there has been a 150% increase in the homeless population within the country due to the inclusion of refugees.[271] Reportedly, around 22,000 of the homeless population are children.[270][citation needed]

Researchers maintain that the legal definition of homelessness in Germany is quite narrow.[270] In addition, the country has yet to publish statistics on homelessness at a Federal Level[272] despite it being an ongoing and widespread matter.

Greece[edit]

Homelessness in Greece refers to the state or process of sleeping in housing that is below the minimum standard or lacking secure tenure, in relation to the nation of Greece. Austerity measures and the ongoing fiscal crisis have significantly spurred the rise in homelessness in Greece in the 21st century.[273] Instances of homelessness have been dominantly concentrated in the city of Athens.[274] Homelessness remains a relatively under-examined area of social policy in Greece, with the first organised counting for homeless people taking place in May 2018.[274] Governments and non-profit organisations alike have made efforts to counter this phenomenon.

A definition of homelessness was written into Greece’s national legislation in 2012.[275] Article 29 of Law 4052 includes two defining provisions.[275] Firstly, the homeless are “all persons legally residing in the country, that have no access, or have unsafe access to sufficient privately owned, rented or bestowed housing that meets the required specification and has basic water services and electricity.”[275] Secondly, the term homeless includes those who live in temporary institutions, hostels, on the street, or “other inappropriate accommodation.”[275]

Hungary[edit]

There are estimated to be 15,000 homeless persons in Hungary of which about 6,500 live in Budapest (2016).[276] There have been repeated attempts at criminalizing homelessness in Hungary by the Fidesz government and homeless people face severe restrictions in many cities.[277] 131 homeless people died of cold exposure in Budapest between 2006 and 2010.[278]

India[edit]

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines 'homeless' as those who do not live in a regular residence due to lack of adequate housing, safety, and availability.[279] The United Nations Economic and Social Council Statement has a broader definition for homelessness; it defines homelessness as follows: ‘When we are talking about housing, we are not just talking about four walls and a roof. The right to adequate housing is about security of tenure, affordability, access to services and cultural adequacy. It is about protection from forced eviction and displacement, fighting homelessness, poverty and exclusion.[280] India defines 'homeless' as those who do not live in Census houses, but rather stay on pavements, roadsides, railway platforms, staircases, temples, streets, in pipes, or other open spaces.[279] There are 1.77 million homeless people in India, or 0.15% of the country's total population, according to the 2011 census consisting of single men, women, mothers, the elderly, and the disabled.[279][281] However, it is argued that the numbers are far greater than accounted by the point in time method. For example, while the Census of 2011 counted 46.724 homeless individuals in Delhi, the Indo-Global Social Service Society counted them to be 88,410, and another organization called the Delhi Development Authority counted them to be 150,000.[280] Furthermore, there is a high proportion of mentally ill and street children in the homeless population.[282] There are 18 million street children in India, the largest number of any country in the world, with 11 million being urban.[283][284] Finally, more than three million men and women are homeless in India's capital city of New Delhi; the same population in Canada would make up approximately 30 electoral districts.[285] A family of four members has an average of five homeless generations in India.[279]

There is a shortage of 18.78 million houses in the country. Total number of houses has increased from 52.06 million to 78.48 million (as per 2011 census). However, the country still ranks as the 124th wealthiest country in the world as of 2003.[286] More than 90 million people in India make less than US$1 per day, thus setting them below the global poverty threshold.[286] The ability of the Government of India to tackle urban homelessness and poverty may be affected in the future by both external and internal factors.[286] The number of people living in slums in India has more than doubled in the past two decades and now exceeds the entire population of Britain, the Indian Government has announced.[287] About 78 million people in India live in slums and tenements.[288] 17% of the world's slum dwellers reside in India.[286] Subsequent to the release of Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, Mumbai was a slum tourist destination for slumming where homeless people and slum dwellers alike could be openly viewed by tourists.[289]

Indonesia[edit]

Homelessness in Indonesia refers to the issue of homelessness, a condition wherein people lack a stable and appropriate place of housing. The number of homeless people in Indonesia is estimated to be up to 3 million people in the country, over 28,000 in Jakarta alone.[290][291] A number of terms are used to describe homeless people in Indonesia, including tunawisma, which is used by the government, and gelandangan, meaning "tramp".[292][293]

Squatters and street homeless people are often targeted by police raids who say that homeless people "disturb the attractiveness of the city".[291]

One cause of homelessness in Indonesia is forced evictions. According to researchers, between the years 2000 and 2005 over 92,000 people were forcefully evicted from their homes.[294]

Ireland[edit]

During the 19th century, homelessness was a pervasive impact of the Great Famine (1845–1852).[295] During the 20th century, homelessness in Ireland was associated with older males who may have had alcoholism or other addiction issues. However, since the 1990s and into the 21st century, it has been recognised that the homeless population includes increasing numbers of women and children.[296][297] Commentators have attributed the ongoing events (described in the news media as the 'homelessness crisis')[298] to the post-2008 Irish economic downturn and 'subsequent fiscal adjustments',[299][300] and the parallel impacts of reduced familial incomes, mortgage arrears[301] and rental increases which followed impacts to housing supply.[302][303]

In 2013, spokespersons of the Irish government stated that they would have "eradicated homelessness" in Ireland by 2016.[304] However, this goal was not achieved. Rather, by 2017, the issue and prevalence of homelessness had increased,[305] with the number of homeless people in Ireland rising by 25% between September 2016 and September 2017.[306] Figures published during 2016 and early 2017 indicated that there were then 4,377 people living in emergency accommodation, the highest figure seen in Ireland to that date.[307][308] By mid-2019 this had increased further, with figures indicating that more than 10,000 people were homeless in Ireland, with approximately one-third of these being children.[309][310] As of February 2021, there were reportedly 8,313 homeless people in Ireland (of which 5,987 were adults and 2,326 children).[311]

A "Homelessness Report" by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in November 2016, indicated that while there were hundreds of homeless families and individuals in other regions also, the issue was most prevalent in the Dublin area.[312] As of February 2021, approximately 70% of homeless people were in Dublin.[311]

Youth homelessness is often defined as a separate issue to homelessness. Though the issue was not recognized by government until the late 1980s, since the mid-1960s youth homelessness was gradually articulated as a form of homelessness different from that experienced by adults.[313]

Israel[edit]

Homelessness in Israel is a phenomenon that mostly developed after the mid-1980s.[314]

Homelessness increased following the wave of Soviet immigration in 1991. As many as 70 percent of homeless people in Tel Aviv are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, nearly all of them men. According to homeless shelter founder Gilad Harish, "when the recession hit Israel in the early 90s, the principle of 'last in, first out' kicked in, and many Russian immigrants lost their jobs. Being new to the country, they didn't have a strong family support system to fall back on like other Israelis do. Some ended up on the street with nowhere to go."[315]

The number of homeless people in Israel grew in the 2000s, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel claimed that the authorities were ignoring the issue.[316]

Some 2,000 families in Israel lose their homes every year after defaulting on their mortgage loans. However, a law amendment passed in 2009 protects the rights of mortgage debtors and ensures that they are not evicted after failing to meet mortgage payments. The amendment is part of a wider reform in the law in the wake of a lengthy battle by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and other human rights groups.[317]

In 2007, the number of homeless youth was on the rise. More than 25% of all homeless youth in 2007 were girls, compared to 15% in 2004. A report by Elem, a non-profit organization that helps youth at risk, pointed to a 5% rise in the number of youths either homeless or wandering the streets late at night while their parents worked or due to strained relations at home. The organization estimated that in 2007 it provided programs or temporary shelter to roughly 32,000 youths in some 30 locations countrywide.[318]

In 2014, the number of homeless individuals in Israel was estimated at 1,831, about 600 of whom were living on the streets of Tel Aviv.[319] This makes up 0.02% of the country's population, a low figure compared to other developed nations. In July 2015, the Welfare Ministry estimated the number of homeless to be between 800 and 900, including 450 receiving services and treatment from their municipalities but continuing to live on the streets. Elem claimed the true figure was much higher. In December 2015, a large study by the Welfare Ministry found that 2,300 people in Israel were homeless.[320][321]

Homeless people in Israel are entitled to a monthly government stipend of NIS 1,000.[320] In addition, there are both state-run homeless shelters operated by the Welfare Ministry and privately-run shelters.

Adi Nes, an Israeli photographer, has brought public attention to the issue by taking pictures of Israel's homeless.[322]

Japan[edit]

Homelessness in Japan (ホームレス, 浮浪者) is a social issue primarily affecting middle-aged and elderly males. Homelessness is thought to have peaked in the 1990s as a consequence of the collapse of the Japanese asset price bubble and has largely fallen since then.

According to the "Special Act in regards to Supporting the Autonomy of the Homeless Population" (Japanese: ホームレスの自立の支援等に関する特別措置法), the term "homeless" is defined as "those who utilize city parks, river banks, roads, train stations, and other facilities as their place of stay in order to live their daily lives".[323]

Names for the homeless in Japan include hōmuresu (ホームレス, from the English "homeless"), furousha (浮浪者, meaning "wandering person"), kojiki (乞食, meaning beggar), and runpen (ルンペン, from German Lumpen). More recently, nojukusha (野宿者, "person who sleeps outside") and nojuku roudousha (野宿労働者, "laborer who sleeps outside") have been used to avoid negative connotations associated with the word "homeless".[324]

Netherlands[edit]

Homelessness in the Netherlands affects 39,300 people in 2018. The homeless population has risen between the years of 2009 and 2019.[325][326]

In 2015, 31,000 people did not have a permanent place to stay, 13,000 more than in 2009 (74% increase over 6 years).[327] The increase of non-Western population was larger, about 100%.[327] Especially among young people homelessness is high. Between January 2015 and 2016 homelessness among people aged 18 through 30 increased from 8,000 to 12,400,[328] an increase of 55% in just one year. In 2018, the number of homeless has risen to 39,300.[329]

In international comparison, the proportion of homelessness among legal residents of the Netherlands (0.23%) is higher than homelessness in the United States (0.18%), slightly higher than in France (0.21%), and lower than in the United Kingdom (0.31%) and Germany (0.35%). Official statistics of homelessness in the Netherlands are collected by Statistics Netherlands and do not include numbers of people who live in the Netherlands who are homeless, but do not have legal immigration status in the country.[327]

Several organizations in the Netherlands, like the Salvation Army, offer places to stay for a night.[330] Reasons that many homeless people do not want to sleep in shelters, sometimes even when it freezes, include high drunkenness among residents, fighting, screaming, sexual harassment, and stealing of personal properties by residents of shelters.[331]

Homeless people sleep in the streets, alleys, under bridges, in fields, dunes, along highways, in forests or illegally enter buildings.[331] The number of outside dwellers is higher in the summer than in the winter, when additional places are offered in the shelters. It is illegal to sleep without a permit on property that isn't one's own, so homeless people regularly get fined.

New Zealand[edit]

Homelessness in New Zealand has been linked to the general issue of lack of suitable housing.[332] The homeless population is generally measured through the country's census and by universities and other academic centres. In 2009, urban homelessness (rough sleepers or improvised dwellings) were estimated at less than 300, while rural homelessness (improvised dwellings) was estimated between 500 and 1000. An additional 8,000–20,000 live in "temporary accommodation unsuited for long-term habitation (caravans, campgrounds, substandard housing and boarding houses)."[333] Homelessness in New Zealand has traditionally been reduced by the provision of state housing, similar to Germany and other developed countries.[citation needed]

Statistical authorities in New Zealand have expanded their definition of homelessness to include ‘people living in improvised shelters’, ‘people staying in camping grounds/motor camps’ and ‘people sharing accommodation with someone else’s household’.[334]

The issue is believed to have become increasingly visible in recent years.[332] Media in New Zealand have published an accusatory account of the presence of homeless people in public spaces, positioning homeless men as disruptive threats. Though community members have shown support though writing opinion pieces.[335]

In late January 2019, the New York Times reported rising housing prices to be a major factor in the increasing homelessness in New Zealand so that "smaller markets like Tauranga, a coastal city on the North Island with a population of 128,000, had seen an influx of people who had left Auckland in search of more affordable housing. Average property values in Tauranga had risen to $497,000 from $304,000 in the last five years, and Demographia now rated it among the 10 least affordable cities in the world — along with famously expensive locales such as Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sydney and Vancouver, British Columbia."[336]

In mid August 2019, the Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced that the Government would be launching a NZ$54 million program to tackle homelessness in New Zealand. This includes investing $31 million over the next four years for 67 intensive case managers and navigators to work with homeless people and a further $16 million for the Sustaining Tenancies Programme. This funding complements the Government's Housing First programme.[337][338]

Portugal[edit]

In 2018, there were 3,396 homeless people in Portugal, having risen 157% from 2014.[339] Most of these lived in Lisbon, where there were 361 people living in the streets, and 1,967 people living in shelters.[340]

Currently, there is no official information on Portuguese homelessness in the national level, but a 2013 one-night survey conducted in Porto found 300 people sleeping on the street and 1,300 in temporary accommodation and initial unapproved data from the Social Security Institute shows that there were 4,420 people recorded in “active homeless situations” in 2013. Portugal’s 2009-2016 strategy for tackling homelessness has received criticism due to a lack of political support, transparency and funding allocation.[341]

Philippines[edit]

There are approximately 4.5 million homeless people in the Philippines, about 3 million of them in Manila.[342]

Russia and the USSR[edit]

After the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861, major cities experienced a large influx of former peasants who sought jobs as industrial workers in rapidly developing Russian industry. These people often lived in harsh conditions, sometimes renting a room shared between several families. There also was a large number of shelterless homeless. Immediately after the October Revolution a special program of "compression" ("уплотнение") was enabled: people who had no shelter were settled in flats of those who had large (4, 5, or 6-room) flats with only one room left to previous owners. The flat was declared state property. This led to a large number of shared flats where several families lived simultaneously. Nevertheless, the problem of complete homelessness was mostly solved as anybody could apply for a room or a place in dormitory (the number of shared flats steadily decreased after large-scale residential building program was implemented starting in the 1960s).

Homeless people sleeping outside in Yekaterinburg

By 1922 there were at least 7 million homeless children in Russia as a result of nearly a decade of devastation from World War I and the Russian Civil War.[343] This led to the creation of a large number of orphanages. By the 1930s the USSR declared the abolition of homelessness and any citizen was obliged to have a propiska – a place of permanent residency. Nobody could be stripped of propiska without substitution or refuse it without a confirmed permission (called "order") to register in another place. If someone wanted to move to another city or expand their living area, he had to find a partner who wanted to mutually exchange the flats. The right for shelter was secured in the Soviet constitution. Not having permanent residency was legally considered a crime.

After the breakup of the USSR, the problem of homelessness sharpened dramatically, partially because of the legal vacuum of the early 1990s with some laws contradicting each other and partially because of a high rate of frauds in the realty market. In 1991 articles 198 and 209 of Russian criminal code which instituted a criminal penalty for not having permanent residence were abolished. In Moscow, the first overnight shelter for homeless was opened in 1992.[344] In the late 1990s, certain amendments in law were implemented to reduce the rise in homelessness, such as the prohibition of selling last flat with registered children.

Nevertheless, the state is still obliged to give permanent shelter for free to anybody who needs better living conditions or has no permanent registration, because the right to shelter is still included in the constitution. Several projects of special cheap 'social' flats for those who failed to repay mortgages were proposed to facilitate mortgage market.[345]

South Africa[edit]

Homelessness in South Africa dates back to the apartheid period.[346] Increasing unemployment, lack of affordable housing, social disintegration, and social and economic policies have all been identified as contributing factors to the issue.[347] Some scholars argue that solutions to homelessness in South Africa lie more within the private sphere than in the legal and political spheres.[348]

There is no national census on homeless people in South Africa, researchers instead rely on individual studies of homeless persons in particular cities.[349] The South African homeless population has been estimated at approximately 200,000 people from a diverse range of backgrounds.[350][351] Most South African municipalities primarily view homelessness as a social dependency issue, responding with social interventions.

One study found that three out of four South African metropolitan municipalities viewed homelessness primarily as a social dependency issue, responding with social interventions. At the same time, homeless South Africans indicated that the most important thing the municipality could assist them with was employment and well-located affordable housing.[352]

A homeless person collecting recyclable materials in Stellenbosch, South Africa

Spain[edit]

Homelessness in Spain affects some 40,000 people[353] (0.09% of the population). Migrants are disproportionately represented among the homeless population.[354] Young people are also highly represented among the homeless, some studies estimating that 30% of Spain's homeless are aged 18–29.[355]

Mental illness among homeless is thought to occur less frequently than the US; this may be attributed to Spain's universal healthcare system and Spain's lower population.[356] One study found high levels of substance-related disorders, but these rates were comparatively lower than US and UK samples.[357] Other researchers note that such comparative studies run the challenge of lack of prepared official definition of homelessness, as well as few well-controlled studies.[358]

Sweden[edit]

Homelessness in Sweden affects some 34,000 people.[359][360]

In Sweden, municipalities are required to provide a home to any citizen who does not have one. However, landlords and lessors have the right to select guests among applicants. Owners, including municipalities themselves, avoid homeless people, unemployed people or people with a bad credit score. People who cannot pay their rent will be evicted, including families with small children. In 2009, 618 children were evicted.[361]

According to the National Board of Health and Welfare the number of homeless people in Sweden was approximately 33,000 in 2019.[362]

The Swedish government's response to homelessness has included commissioning national surveys on homelessness during the last decade that allow for direct comparison between Sweden, Denmark and Norway.[241] The three countries have very similar definitions of homelessness, with minor variations.[242]

Some researchers maintain that measures to counteract homelessness in Sweden are largely dependent on a general premise equating homelessness with addiction, mental illness and deviance.[363] On the other hand, youth homelessness is considered a child protection problem.[364]

There are several street newspapers in Sweden. Situation Sthlm,[365] was founded in 1995 and was Sweden's only street newspaper until Faktum and Aluma were founded early in the 2000s.[366]

In 2006 the three street newspapers were awarded the grand prize of Publicistklubben (Swedish Publicists' Association).[365][367]

In 2013, a Swedish tech company created software for the homeless newspaper vendors to accept credit card payments via a mobile app.[368]

In 2015, a Swedish art exhibition at Malmö Konsthall titled “The Alien Within: A Living Laboratory of Western Society” included two homeless people from Romania. The homeless people were not accepting money from visitors but were paid at hourly rate by the event organizers.[369]

Researchers have found that excess mortality among homeless men and women in Stockholm is entirely related to alcohol and drug abuse.[370]

Some researchers have conducted studies on the oral health of homeless people in Sweden and found that they have fewer remaining teeth than the general population.[371]

Switzerland[edit]

Homelessness in Switzerland is a known social issue, however, there are few estimates as to the number of Swiss people affected.[372] Homelessness is less visible in Switzerland than in many other Western countries. The majority of homeless people in Geneva are Swiss or French, with a minority from other countries.[373]

One Swiss study found that 1.6 percent of all patients admitted to psychiatric wards were homeless. The study reported that social factors and psychopathology are independently contributing to the risk of homelessness.[374]

In 2014, Swiss authorities reportedly began allowing homeless people to sleep in fallout shelters built during the Cold War.[373]

There are a number of centers for providing food for the homeless, including the Suneboge community center.[375]

United Kingdom[edit]

Number of homeless in England per 100,000 people, 1998–2014

Since the late 1990s, housing policy has been a devolved matter, and state support for homeless people, together with legal rights in housing, have therefore diverged to a certain degree. A national service, called Streetlink, was established in 2012 to help members of the public obtain near-immediate assistance for specific rough sleepers, with the support of the Government (as housing is a devolved matter, the service currently only extends to England).

The annual number of homeless households in England peaked in 2003–04 at 135,420 before falling to a low of 40,020 in 2009–10.[376] In 2017-18, there were 56,600 homeless households, which was 60 per cent below the 2003–04 peak, and 40 per cent higher than the 2009-10 low.[377] The UK has more than 120,000 children in temporary accommodation, a number which has increased from 69,050 children in 2010.[378][379]

In 2007 the official figures for England were that an average of 498 people slept rough each night, with 248 of those in London.[380]

Homelessness in England since 2010 has been rising. By 2016 it is estimated the numbers sleeping rough had more than doubled since 2010.[381] The National Audit Office say in relation to homelessness in England 2010–17 there has been a 60% rise in households living in temporary accommodation and a rise of 134% in rough sleepers.[382][383] It is estimated 4,751 people bedded down outside overnight in England in 2017, up 15% on previous year.[384] The housing charity Shelter used data from four sets of official 2016 statistics and calculated 254,514 people in England were homeless.[385]

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places a new duty on local authorities in England to assist people threatened with homelessness within 56 days and to assess, prevent and relieve homelessness for all eligible applicants including single homeless people from April 2018.[386] Before the 2017 HRA, homeless households were defined and measured as those who were owed a 'main homelessness duty' by local authorities. But since 2018, the definition of homeless households has broadened as households are owed a new relief duty and a prevention duty. The main homelessness duty definition has not been changed by the 2017 HRA. However, these households are now only owed a main duty if their homelessness has not been successfully prevented or relieved.[387] In 2019-20, 288,470 households were owed the new prevention or relief duties, which is four times the number of households owed the 'main duty' in 2017-18 prior to implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act.[388]

United States[edit]

A woman giving a homeless man food in New York City, United States (2008)

After Franklin D. Roosevelt took over the presidency from Herbert Hoover in 1933, he oversaw passage of the New Deal, which greatly expanded social welfare, including providing funds to build public housing. This marked the end of the Great Depression.[389] However, the number of homeless people grew in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan decimated the public housing budget in the 1980s, including the federally funded affordable housing production put in place by the New Deal.[390] By the mid-1980s, there was a dramatic increase in family homelessness. Tied into this was an increasing number of impoverished and runaway children, teenagers, and young adults, which created a new substratum of the homeless population (street children or street youth).[391]

In 2015, the United States reported that there were 564,708 homeless people within its borders, one of the higher reported figures worldwide.[392]

Housing First is an initiative to help homeless people reintegrate into society, and out of homeless shelters. It was initiated by the federal government's Interagency Council on Homelessness. It asks cities to come up with a plan to end chronic homelessness. In this direction, there is the belief that if homeless people are given independent housing to start, with some proper social supports, then there would be no need for emergency homeless shelters, which it considers a good outcome. However this is a controversial position.[393][394][395]

There is evidence that the Housing First program works more efficiently than Treatment First programs. Studies show that having the stability of housing through the Housing First program will encourage homeless people to focus on other struggles they are facing, such as substance abuse. Meanwhile, Treatment First programs promote an "all or nothing" approach which require clients to participate in programs applicable to their struggles as a condition for housing assistance. Treatment First utilizes a less individualistic approach than Housing First and solutions are created under one standard rather than fit to each client's specific needs.[395]

Skid Row, Los Angeles contains one of the largest stable populations, between 5,000 and 8,000, of homeless people in the United States.[396]

In 2009 it was estimated that one out of 50 children or 1.5 million children in the United States would experience some form of homelessness each year.[397]

In 2010 in New York City, where there were over 36,000 homeless people in 2009,[398] there was a mobile video exhibit in the streets showing a homeless person on a screen and asking onlookers and passersby to text with their cellphones a message for him, and they also could donate money by cellphones to the organization Pathways to Housing.[399][400] In September 2010, it was reported that the Housing First Initiative had significantly reduced the chronic homeless single person population in Boston, Massachusetts, although homeless families were still increasing in number. Some shelters were reducing the number of beds due to lowered numbers of homeless, and some emergency shelter facilities were closing, especially the emergency Boston Night Center.[401] In 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veterans Families Initiative, SSVF, began funding private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives to provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families living in or transitioning to permanent housing.[402]

In 2019, in an interview with CBS News, scholar Sara Goldrick-Rab said that her study on college student homelessness found that "[n]early one in ten college students said they were homeless in the last year, meaning they had at least one night where they did not know where they were going to sleep."[403]

Puerto Rico[edit]

According to the most recent count by the Puerto Rico Department of Family, in January 2017 there were 3,501 homeless persons in the territory. The study shows that 26.2% of this population live in the capital, San Juan. Other municipalities percentage of this population was Ponce with 6.3%, Arecibo with 6%, Caguas with 5.3%, and Mayagüez with 4.7%. Results from the study determined that 76% of the homeless population were men and 24% were women and that both men and women populations, were on average age, 40 years old. This steadily increasing population, might have increased more drastically as a result of Hurricane María which caused over 90 billion dollars in damage to the island of Puerto Rico.[404]

Data provided by the Department of Community Social Development of San Juan, indicates that in 1988 the number of homeless in the municipality was of 368, while in 2017 there are about 877 persons without a home. While the average age for the overall homeless population is 40 years old for both women and men, in San Juan the median is 48 years for men and 43 years for women. Other data obtained showed that more than 50% have university level education. Also it revealed that 35% of men and 25% of women have relapsed more than four times after unsuccessful attempts to reinsert themselves socially. Reasons given to wander are varied with the most common causes being drug abuse (30.6%), family problems (22.4%), financial or economic problems (15.0%), and others such as unemployment, mental health problems, domestic violence, evictions, or lack of support when released from prison.[405]

Popular culture[edit]

A street bench in Kitsilano, British Columbia, Canada, with a snowman depicting a homeless person

Homelessness in popular culture is depicted in various works.

Films[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Glossary defining homelessness". Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  3. ^ Bogard, Cynthia J., "Advocacy and Enumeration: Counting Homeless People in a Suburban Community", American Behavioral Scientist September 2001 vol. 45 no. 1 105–120
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  15. ^ Shelton, Katherine; Taylor, Pamela; Bonner, Adrian; van den Bree, Marianne (2009). "Risk Factors for Homelessness: Evidence From a Population-Based Study". Psychiatric Services. 60 (4): 465–472. doi:10.1176/ps.2009.60.4.465. PMID 19339321.
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  18. ^ "United Nations Demographic Yearbook review: National reporting of household characteristics, living arrangements and homeless households: Implications for international recommendations", United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, 14 April 2004
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  20. ^ "Article 25". Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  21. ^ "ETHOS Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion". www.feantsa.org. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  22. ^ Amore, Kate, Michael Baker and Philippa Howden-Chapman. "The ETHOS Definition and Classification of Homelessness: An Analysis" (PDF). The European Journal of Homelessness, Volume 5.2, December 2011. FEANTSA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 January 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Inside Straight Edge". Writer: David Shadrack Smith. Directors: Jim Gaffey and David Shadrack Smith. Inside. National Geographic Society. 9 April 2008. Retrieved on 28 January 2011.
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  25. ^ a b Marjorie Keniston McIntosh (1998). Controlling Misbehavior in England,1370–1600. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-89404-3.
  26. ^ Convict Voyages (1): Overview, by Anthony Vaver, Early American Crime, 6 January 2009
  27. ^ Merritt, K. L. (2017). Masterless men: poor whites and slavery in the Antebellum South. Cambridge University Press.
  28. ^ Depastino, Todd, "Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America", Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2003. ISBN 0-226-14378-3. (Interview with Todd Depastino)
  29. ^ "Riding the Rails". PBS. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
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