One of the most shocking facts about homelessness in America is that there are over 600,000 homeless Americans as of October 2014. A quarter of these are children, many of whom are not under the care of an adult. Although 85 percent of homeless people are single individuals, many shelters are only for families, so almost half of homeless individuals are without shelter. Many cities also treat homelessness a crime.
The top two reasons that people are homeless are the lack of affordable rental housing and poverty. Not only does housing cost more than many of the working poor can afford, there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in many areas in the United States. Many state-funded cash-assistance programs also have disappeared. Only 12 states offer any cash assistance to non-disabled individuals without children.
Domestic violence is a major cause of homelessness in women, and 42 percent of homeless individuals are too disabled to work. Over 15 percent of the homeless suffer from severe, persistent mental illness. Many of these also have issues with substance abuse.
Although people often think of homelessness as an urban problem, the rate of homelessness is actually higher in non-metropolitan areas, where services are scarce. Rural homeless people are more likely to be white married women who work.