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Is Homelessness A National Issue? Or a Racial Issue?

Homeless People

The face of the homeless has changed dramatically over the years. Sixty years ago, the face of the homeless was a white man in his 50's. Television shows often portrayed them as hobos or bums. That was then. This is now, and the homeless have many faces.

Today's homeless include men, women and children. In fact, 41 percent of the homeless are families with children. Homelessness does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, nationality, age, sex or disability. They come from all populations and live in rural and metropolitan cities. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida has the highest rate in the nation--57 homeless people for every 10,000 residents. There are 16,000 homeless living in Tampa, and 20 percent of them are children.

Veterans represent about a third of all the homeless. The national rate is 21 per 10,000, but the rate for veterans is 31 per 10,000. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Mayors conducted a study of 29 cities in the U.S. and found these statistics:
  • 26 percent are mentally ill
  • 16 percent were physically disabled
  • 15 percent were employed but had no home
  • 13 percent were domestic violence victims
  • 4 percent were HIV positive
The study further indicated that 42 percent of the cities in the survey believed homelessness is increasing 6 percent, and 64 percent of those polled believe it will increase next year. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that while the homeless population decreased nationally, it increased in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Forty percent of the homeless live on the streets.

The poor economy, high unemployment, and the increasing lack of affordable housing are all contributing factors to homelessness. The odds are 1 in 4 that it could happen to anyone. So, while the government focuses on the national deficit, let's hope they don't forget the 636,000 homeless in the nation and those who are struggling--black, white, young, old, men, women and children--and who could be at risk. The fact is, people need affordable housing, incomes that pay the rent, health care they can afford, equal education and equal rights in order to prevent homelessness in America.

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