The most common cause of homelessness in the United States is a lack of affordable housing. Other leading causes include mental illness, substance abuse, unplanned/unstable personal relationships, and low-paying jobs that do not provide an adequate standard of living for an individual or their family.
The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) wrote a brief on the causes of homelessness and supportive services to provide information about how homelessness can be prevented, especially among those groups that are most susceptible:
Other leading causes include mental illness, substance abuse, unplanned/unstable personal relationships, and low-paying jobs that do not provide an adequate standard of living for an individual or their family.
Wrongful eviction – An individual may experience wrongful eviction when they lawfully occupy an apartment or house but are evicted by their landlord without a court order. It is difficult for landlords to evict tenants in the state of California, but there are still cases where tenants become victims of wrongful eviction.
Drug addiction – The use of drugs or alcohol can cause homelessness in many different ways. People who are already vulnerable, such as those currently homeless or those struggling with mental illness, often turn to addictive substances as a coping mechanism. Additionally, people who have lost their jobs because of drug addiction may become homeless due to loss of income. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that almost 26 percent of single adult homeless men and women had a substance abuse disorder in 2011-2012.
Job loss -Unemployment can increase an individual’s risk for poverty, and vulnerability towards homelessness. Although unemployment rates have increased in the past few years, they are still lower than they were at their peak during the Great Recession of 2009. The 2013 Unemployment Rates for States reports that Washington D.C. has the highest percentage of unemployed individuals with 11 percent, compared to North Dakota with 3 percent who has the lowest percentage of unemployed.
Domestic violence — Of the women who seek help from a homeless shelter, domestic violence is one of the leading causes. When an individual experiences domestic violence, they may feel like they have no other choice but to leave their home. In 2012, there were 10,340 reported incidents of domestic violence towards homeless people in the United States according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Medical illness -A medical illness is a serious and often expensive condition, such as cancer or diabetes. It can be very expensive to pay for treatment, medication, therapies, etc., which could lead someone lacking medical insurance to become homeless. The U.S General Accounting Office found that 62 percent of the homeless population had at least one health condition and 73 percent do not have medical insurance.
Mental illness -The rate of mental illness among the adult homeless population is much higher than that of its housed counterpart. In 2007, 23 percent of single adult homeless people in the United States had a serious mental illness compared to 6 percent who are housed.
Lack of affordable housing
The cost of housing continues to outpace income. Adjusted for inflation, rents increased 42 percent from 1990 to 2000 while household incomes decreased 5 percent.
Blanket statements should always be avoided. This rule especially applies to the causes of homelessness. There is many different causes for homelessness, including lack of affordable housing, mental illness, substance abuse, unstable personal relationships, and low-paying jobs that do not provide an adequate standard of living. The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH)wrote a brief on the causes of homelessness and supportive services to provide information about how homelessness can be prevented, especially among those groups that are most susceptible. The following is an excerpt from this brief:
Outlined below are factors that contribute to individual experiences with homelessness, as well as recommendations for creating effective solutions…
Lack of affordable housing: The most common cause of homelessness in the United States is a lack of affordable housing. Of the total number of homeless people each year, close to 50% live in shelters or transitional housing programs while the other half live on America’s streets (National Coalition for the Homeless). Nationwide, renters occupy 76% of poor households but only 32% of all housing units. In addition to a shortage of supply, the demand for affordable housing does not match the number of low-income people who need it. The national average rent for a standard apartment is $734 per month, which exceeds what many families earning minimum wage can afford (National Coalition for the Homeless).