The State of Homelessness in America 2013: Chapter 3

written by Sam Batko
April 23, 2013

All this month, we’ve been doing weekly posts about our recently released report The State of Homelessness in America 2013. This week we’ll be taking a look at Chapter 3 of the report. Chapter 3 includes an examination of demographic and household factors among groups that are particularly at risk of homelessness: poor households living doubled up, poor single individuals, poor families headed by a single adult, and poor adults accessing safety net benefits.

“Doubling-up” refers to when a family or individual is living in another family member or friend’s house for economic reasons. It is the most often cited previous living situation for individuals and families entering the homelessness system. Nationally, the number of doubled up poor households increased by almost 10 percent. This increase is part of a trend over the last several years, increasing from 4.6 million in 2007 to 7.4 million in 2011.

Additionally, the majority of the homeless population is made up of single unaccompanied adults, and the majority of homeless families are headed by a single adult—usually female. The populations of poor individuals and poor families headed by a single person both increased and, like “doubled up” households, the size of these at-risk populations have been steadily growing over the last 5 years.

The most striking increase over the past five years is the increase, from almost four million in 2007 to over 15 million in 2012, in the number of poor adults accessing safety net benefits. An increase in the number of adults accessing the safety net does not necessarily indicate increased risk or increased protection from homelessness, but it does indicate an increase in the number of households eligible for benefits. It also may indicate a possible need for additional resources to provide for essential needs for those households.