Extending Our Reach: Reducing Homelessness Through Library Engagement

The Homeless Population in the U.S.

The label “homeless” can be difficult for many people to use and understand. In many ways this term has come to be a label for people, replacing their identity. However, it is really only a description of a particular and, frequently temporary, housing condition. 
 
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issues an Annual Homeless Assessment Report, reporting the number of individuals and families who were homeless in the previous year. The report provides results of local counts of people homeless on a single night in January (Point-In-Time counts) and patterns of all people who used residential programs during the fiscal year. 
 
According to the 2011 Annual Homeless Assessment Report:  
  • 636,017 people were experiencing homelessness during the Point-in-Time (PIT) count.
  • 77,186 families—236,181 people—were homeless on the night of the PIT count.
  • 107,148 people were chronically homeless—persons with severe disabilities and long homeless histories.
From the 2010 Report: 
  • More than 1.59 million people spent at least 1 night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

Homelessness among Youth

Homelessness among youth is a particular area of concern.  According to the 2002 National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART), conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, nearly 1.7 million youth nationwide were missing due to a runaway or throwaway episode.  The homeless youth population is equally divided between males and females.  
 
The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 20% to 40% of homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  This particular population, although resilient, may be especially vulnerable to victimization, mental health challenges, sexual exploitation and violence, and increased rates of suicide.
 
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