What does homelessness mean to you? Is a crisis, or a choice? Do you see the homeless as victims of the economy, or victims of their own decisions? Dec. 21 is National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, and it could be a moment to just reflect on what your focus is, and why. While the statistics cited here are from last year, they are among the best-supported findings of the national research on homelessness.
From the National Health Care for the Homeless Council: “On National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day (HPMD) – commemorated annually since 1990 on or about December 21, the first day of winter and longest night of the year – communities across the country come together to remember those who have died without stable housing, to reflect on the shocking inhumanity of homelessness, and to call for meaningful policy changes to ensure that no life is lived or lost in homelessness. Each HPMD event is unique to its community, but the commemorations often include reading of names, candles, prayers, personal remembrances, marches, and moments of silence.”
The 2018 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness (Key Findings) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
“On a single night in 2018, roughly 553,000 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. About two-thirds (65%) were staying in sheltered locations—emergency shelters or transitional housing programs—and about one-third (35%) were in unsheltered locations such as on the street, in abandoned buildings, or in other places not suitable for human habitation.
“Homelessness increased (though modestly) for the second year in a row. The number of homeless people on a single night increased by 0.3 percent between 2017 and 2018. The increase reflects declines in the number of people staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs being offset by increases in the number of people staying in unsheltered locations. Between 2017 and 2018, the unsheltered population increased by two percent (or 4,300 people).”
As many of us celebrate our end-of-the-year abundance, think about what you can do to help.