Home | En Español | Contact Us | A to Z 

HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 99-258
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Wednesday
Or contact your local HUD officeDecember 8, 1999


  • Summary Report (was linked to http://www.huduser.org/publications/homeless/homelessness/)
  • Technical Report (was linked to http://www.huduser.org/publications/homeless/homeless_tech.html)

WASHINGTON - A landmark study reported today that most people who become homeless have suffered severe hardships - including physical and sexual abuse, childhood trauma, poverty, a poor education, disability and disease - but are successful in escaping homelessness when they get help from federal and other programs.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo released the report, which is the most comprehensive study ever of homelessness in America. The report is titled The Forgotten Americans - Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve, and is filled with revealing statistics that tell the story of people around the nation who have fallen through the social safety net into homelessness.

The report said the top priority of homeless people it surveyed was to get a job - the first step to self-sufficiency. It said 44% of homeless people surveyed worked at least part-time during the past month.

The report also said that when homeless people get housing assistance and needed services - such as health care, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, education and job training - 76% of those living in families and 60% of those living alone end their homeless status and move to an improved living situation after completion of the assistance program.

"Homeless people are locked out of America's prosperity, but we have the key that can let them in," Cuomo said. "Assistance programs can replace the nightmare of homelessness with the American Dream of a better future."

The study shows homelessness is associated with a broad range of problems. It found that:

  • Serious problems since childhood are common among homeless people, with 25% reporting childhood physical or sexual abuse, 33% reporting running away from home, and 27% saying they lived in foster care, a group home or other institution as a child.

  • Homeless people are among the poorest in the nation, with incomes averaging half the federal poverty level. In the 30 days before they were surveyed, single homeless people reported a mean income of $348, and homeless families reported a mean income of $475. In addition, 40% of homeless people surveyed went without food one or more days in the previous month because they couldn't afford food, compared with 3% of other poor Americans.

  • Health and disability problems are common among homeless people. When survey participants were asked about their health in the previous month, 46% said they had a chronic health problem such as arthritis or cancer, 39% reported a mental health problem, 38% reported an alcohol problem, and 26% reported a drug problem. 55% said they had no medical insurance.

  • Homeless people have low educational levels. The survey found that 38% of homeless people have less than a high school diploma, compared with 18% of the overall population. This makes it harder for homeless people to get jobs.

The release of the report comes shortly after HUD's Continuum of Care program - which helps homeless people around the nation get housing and needed services and works to help them become self-sufficient - won the prestigious Harvard University Kennedy School of Government/Ford Foundation Innovations in American Government Award for its effective approach to addressing homelessness.

Cuomo released the report this morning at the House of Ruth transitional housing facility for homeless families in Washington, where he and William Baldwin - an actor and President of the Creative Coalition - participated in a roundtable discussion on homeless issues with residents Tuesday night and then stayed overnight. The Creative Coalition is the leading non-profit, non-partisan social and political advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment industry.

Baldwin is participating in HUD's December to Remember campaign, which is encouraging pledges by the private sector, non-profit groups and individuals to help homeless people.

"This report shows homeless people are victims of a downward spiral of personal problems that finally force them onto the streets," Baldwin said. "But it also shows that if we give homeless people a helping hand they can come back and turn their lives around. We can accomplish a lot more by unlocking the potential of homeless people to succeed than we can by locking them in jail cells or ignoring their needs."

Baldwin pointed out that the cost of homeless assistance is substantially less than the cost of putting homeless people in jail to get them off the streets. For example, the Supportive Housing Network estimates that in New York City in 1998 it cost $40,000 per year to jail someone, compared with just $12,500 to provide affordable housing and a variety of supportive services.

The study issued today was designed and funded by 12 federal agencies under the auspices of the Interagency Council on the Homeless, which is chaired by Cuomo. Tipper Gore is an advisor to the Interagency Council. In addition to HUD, the Council members that funded the survey are the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Justice, Labor, and Transportation as well as the Social Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The report is based on interviews completed in 1996 with 4,207 people - most homeless at the time and the rest people living in poverty who benefit from homeless assistance programs such as soup kitchens. The study is also based on interviews with representatives of 11,909 programs that serve homeless people. Interviews were conducted in 76 metropolitan areas, small cities and rural areas. The U.S. Census Bureau collected the data and the report was prepared by the Urban Institute.

"This survey is important because it paints the most detailed picture we've ever had of America's homeless population," Cuomo said. "It gives us the information we need to improve our programs by tailoring them to the needs of homeless people."

The survey also found that:

  • 68% of homeless program clients are male, and 32% are female. 43% are black, 38% are white, 15% are Hispanic, 3% are Native American, and 1% are other races. 52% are married. 60% of homeless women and 41% of homeless men have children 17 or younger. While 65% of the mothers live with at least one minor child, only 7% of homeless fathers live with a minor child.

  • 33% of homeless men surveyed are military veterans.

  • 38% of those surveyed said they were robbed, 41% were victims of theft, 22% were physically assaulted, and 7% were sexually assaulted since becoming homeless.

  • 71% of homeless people live in central cities, 21% in suburbs, and 9% in rural areas.

HUD's Continuum of Care initiative, which was developed by Cuomo when he was an Assistant Secretary at HUD, is the centerpiece of the federal policy on homelessness. It has helped more than 300,000 homeless people get housing and jobs to become self-sufficient.

The Continuum of Care stresses permanent solutions to homelessness through comprehensive and collaborative community planning. Communities submit plans to HUD that reflect efforts to address the complexities of homelessness through a range of housing and services. The services provide emergency assistance and assessment of a homeless person's needs, and help the person to obtain permanent housing and become self-sufficient.

HUD has invested nearly $5 billion in programs to help homeless people since President Clinton took office - more than three times as much as the $1.5 billion HUD spent on homeless assistance programs from 1987 to 1993. HUD's Fiscal Year 2000 Budget provides for $1.02 billion in funding for homeless programs - a $45 million increase over 1999.


Content Archived: January 20, 2009

FOIA Privacy Web Policies and Important Links [logo: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity]
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
Telephone: (202) 708-1112 TTY: (202) 708-1455