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Reasons for Homelessness

When looking at homelessness, people generally wonder why there is homelessness in the United States.

The reasons for homelessness vary, but researchers largely agree that people are homeless because they cannot find housing that fits their budget. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 12 million renters and homeowners pay more than 50 percent of their annual income on housing. A family with one full-time earner making minimum wage cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States at fair-market rent.

There are other contributing factors to homelessness and policy makers focus on different populations including homeless families, veterans, youth, re-entry populations, and people experiencing chronic homelessness.

The Metropolitan Homelessness Commission is currently focusing on building a Housing Crisis Resolution System and educating the public what that means.

National data published by the National Alliance to End Homelessness show that in 2013 more than 610,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States. This number is based on the annual Point In Time (PIT) counts that the federal government requires from each community.

Nashville's PIT in the past four years was as follows:

  • In 2016 - 2,365
  • In 2015 - 2,154
  • In 2014 - 2,301
  • In 2013 - 2,335
  • In 2012 - 2,224
  • In 2011 - 2,245

The count includes people staying in shelters and being found sleeping outdoors during one winter night.

In 2010, the national government under the leadership of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released a strategic plan called Opening Doors that aims to end chronic homelessness and veterans homelessness by 2017 and end homelessness among family, children, and youth by 2020.

For further information on homelessness, we suggest you begin with the websites of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Community Solutions' Built for Zero campaign, and How's Nashville.

Will Connelly talking to a homeless man who is sleeping outdoors in Nashville

Photo courtesy of Samuel M. Simpkins, The Tennessean