Definition of Homelessness
According to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, persons are considered homeless when they “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence and have a primary night time residency that is:
A. a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations;
B. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or,
C. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past few decades: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Persons living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless, and demographic groups who are more likely to experience poverty are also more likely to experience homelessness.
Scope of Homelessness: Nationwide
In January 2015, there were more than 560,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. Sixty-nine percent of those who were homeless were in sheltered locations, and 31% were found in unsheltered locations (streets, abandoned buildings, cars, etc.). Nearly 1/4 of all homeless people were children, 10% were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 66% were 25 years or older.
Scope of Homelessness: Philadelphia
Each year, homeless outreach organizations engage over 5,500 individuals living on the street, in cars, abandoned buildings, train/bus stations, and other places not meant for human habitation. About 12,000 people access shelters each year. In addition, numerous individuals are turned away from shelter for various reasons. At a given point in time, the City of Philadelphia estimates that there are 650 people living on the streets, 300 of whom are in Center City. The number of homeless people living on the street fluctuates seasonally and tends to rise in the summer months.