The homeless population includes people from all walks of life: • In the U.S., more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year. • 35% of the homeless population are families with children, which is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. • 23% are U.S. military veterans. • 25% are children under the age of 18 years. • 30% have experienced domestic violence. • 20-25% suffer from mental illness. • In urban communities, people experience homelessness for an average of eight months.
We see many women as we make our rounds of the homeless camps. I ask if they will allow me to take their picture and most refuse. They may have been battered and don’t want their ex-spouses to know where they are. Some are embarrassed by their situation, especially the mentally ill. Many of the homeless women have been arrested. While in jail they can lose their social security. They can try to get it reinstated but often there are complications. A permanent address being one. Meanwhile they may be without any income. The homeless get arrested for many different reasons: sometimes just for loitering. More than 80 percent of homeless women are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse, and escaping that abuse is a leading cause of their homelessness. Unfortunately, they may be subject to abuse while homeless.
Many homeless are veterans. Many have psychological problems and many are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year. On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S. Approx. 33% of homeless males in the U.S. are veterans. Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless. Veterans represent 11% of the adult civilian population, but 23% of the homeless population, according to the Homeless Research Institute (2007). The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war. Primary causes of homelessness among veterans are: Lack of income due to limited education and lack of transferable skills from military to civilian life (especially true of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan); Combat-related mental health issues and disabilities; Substance abuse problems that interfere with job retention; Weak social networks due to problems adjusting to civilian life; Lack of services.
Photography by Bob Carey