The Most Common Causes of Homelessness in America

A variety of factors can cause homelessness. However, some common issues can be identified:

38.6% of sheltered homeless individuals are disabled.

(National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty)

Disability is one of the most commonly overlooked factors. With almost 4 out of 10 sheltered homeless people being disabled, the US needs to do some serious work on improving its support policies, homelessness statistics from 2018 reveal.

Only 30% of affordable housing is available to people with extremely low income.

(National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty)

The promise to provide ELI populations with affordable housing fails to meet expectations. With only 30% of availability, most ELI households are pushed into homelessness with no other way out.

25% of renters have ELI.

(National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty)

Why are people homeless? Well, a quarter of the renting population struggle with extremely low income, making them more vulnerable to financial imbalance, where the ratio wages vs house price is disturbed.

25% of homeless people have mental illnesses.


Mental illness is one of the most common causes of homelessness, especially among single people. With a whopping quarter of the homeless population struggling with mental health, there is no doubt that mental illness and homelessness are connected.

23% of the US homeless population is chronically homeless.


Almost a quarter of homeless individuals are unaccompanied homeless with a disabling condition ranging from substance abuse to disability and mental illness. These people have been continuously homeless for at least a year or have had repeated episodes of homelessness, according to HUD’s definition.

Substance abuse and homeless: 38% alcohol abuse & 26% drug abuse.


Substance abuse, often driven by stress as a result of another condition, is a common occurrence among the homeless in America. Almost 4 out of 10 have alcohol issues, while a quarter of the homeless experience drug abuse. This highlights the lack of specialist support.

61% rise in homeless since 2008 via foreclosures.

(National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty)

This occurs when mortgage payments can’t be met, for any reason. In essence, foreclosures have affected the homeless numbers dramatically.

71% of the homeless live in central cities, homelessness statistics reveal.


Urbanization affects the most vulnerable first by increasing the cost of renting and urban life dramatically; meaning, fewer people can make ends meet.

There were 1.6 million homeless during the Great Recession.


As terrifying as it might sound, the US has not yet hit another recession as devastating as the Great Recession. Nevertheless, there are still lessons to be learned from the past that could help improve the homelessness situation.

There’s a downward trend for homelessness in the US.

(Our World In Data)

Over the past decade, the homeless situation has been steadily decreasing; there’s been a drop in veteran homelessness, chronic homelessness, and overall family and single homelessness.

You can read more here.