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Geography of Homelessness, Part 3: Subpopulations by Geographic Type
NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END HOMELESSNESS
Report | September 29, 2009
Share \|In Parts 1 and 2 of the Geography of Homelessness Series we examined the scope and prevalence of homelessness within geographic categories ranging from completely rural to completely urban (see Geography of Homelessness, Part 1: Defining the Spectrum for the category definitions). To do this, we established geographic categories and analyzed the total number of homeless people in each geographic category as collected by Continua of Care (CoCs). In addition to the total homeless count, CoCs also disaggregate their homeless count data along three primary dimensions. First, persons counted in shelters and transitional housing programs are differentiated from those counted on the streets and in other places not meant for human habitation. Second, persons in families with children are distinguished from non-family individuals. Lastly, chronically homeless individuals are singled out from among the individuals.
Nationally, persons in families with children account for 37 percent of the total homeless population and non-family individuals account for the other 63 percent of homeless persons. Chronically homeless persons, a subset of individuals, account for 29 percent of individuals and 18 percent of the total homeless population. In this brief, we refer to persons in families, chronically homeless individuals, and non-chronically homeless individuals as subpopulations. Living situation – sheltered or unsheltered - is another important distinction. Unsheltered homeless persons account for 42 percent of the total homeless population, and persons counted in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs make up the other 58 percent. Each subpopulation can be broken out into sheltered and unsheltered subgroups. Collectively, these distinctions are used in this brief to create the following six mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories:
Homeless Population by Subpopulation and Geography
We begin by looking at how the geographic distributions of the three subpopulations – persons in families with children, non-chronically homeless individuals, and chronically individuals – compare to each other and to the distribution of the total homeless population. Part 1 of this series revealed that the total homeless population is heavily concentrated in urban areas. Specifically, 77 percent of the total homeless population was counted in Urban CoCs, 5 percent in Mostly Urban CoCs, 11 percent in Urban-Rural Mix CoCs, 3 percent in Mostly Rural CoCs and 4 percent in Rural CoCs (see Geography of Homelessness, Part 1: Defining the Spectrum for the category definitions). The mosaic chart in Figure 1 illustrates the distribution of persons in families, non-chronic individuals, and chronic individuals across the geographic spectrum. Each block in the chart is sized and labeled according to its share of the total homeless population. The chart reveals that a large majority of each of the subpopulations is urban; however, persons in families are less concentrated in urban areas than chronically homeless and non-chronically homeless individuals.
Figure 1. Composition of Total Homeless Population by Geography and Subpopulation
Distribution of Subgroups within Geographic Categories
On one hand, the chart illustrates the similarities in the composition of the homeless populations in each geographic category. In each geographic category across the spectrum, persons in families and non-chronically homeless individuals are the two largest subpopulations and are of similar size. In this way, each of the subpopulations is similar in geographic distribution to the total homeless population. There are, however, three observations that stand out as noteworthy.