What are the causes of homelessness?

The causes vary widely, but often homelessness and poverty are linked. People who are poor generally are unable to pay for necessities such as housing, food, childcare, healthcare, and education. Being poor can mean a person is one illness, one accident, or one paycheck away from living on the streets. Below is a list of the top causes of homelessness among families and individuals:

  1. Lack of affordable housing
  2. Unemployment
  3. Poverty
  4. Low wages
  5. Mental illness and the lack of needed services (Single adult individuals)
  6. Substance abuse and the lack of needed services (Single adult individuals)

To view additional top causes of homelessness, click here.

National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) has identified several factors that have affected the growth of homelessness over the last three decades including:

  1. Housing has become more scarce for those with limited incomes;
  2. Earnings from employment and benefits have not kept pace with the cost of housing for people with limited incomes;
  3. Services that every family needs for support and stability have become harder for poor people to access and afford.

According to NAEH, in 1970 there were 300,000 more affordable housing units available than there were low-income households needing to rent them. By 2002, there were over 5 million fewer affordable units than low-income households that needed them.