According to UN-Habitat, 1.1 billion people live in inadequate housing in urban areas – and at least 100 million have no housing whatsoever. This number is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by 2025.1 As many as 4 million Europeans and 3.5 million US citizens experience homelessness every year.
Who are they?
Across the rich nations more women, youth and families are becoming homeless. This chart shows the breakdown of the 235,000 Canadians who experience homelessness in a year:2
Why are they homeless?
Homelessness has complex roots. This chart illustrates the main reasons in Australia.3
★ housing stress, unemployment
◆ housing crisis, inadequate or inappropriate dwellings
✦ time out from family, family breakdown, violence and assault
✶ mental health issues, substance abuse issues
✖ transition from care, custody, lack of support, discrimination
House Price-to-Income Ratio (2016, 2010=100)
House prices are growing faster than incomes in many countries. If we use 2010 as the base year house prices in 2016 outstripped incomes by 35% in New Zealand, 15% in the UK and almost 10% in Australia.
- For 70% of the world’s city dwellers the median house price is 5 times the annual household income, well above the recommended ratio of 3 times. Just 13% of global cities have affordable housing of any kind.4
- From 2002-12 a typical London, UK home sold for 7 times the city’s average annual salary. Today the figure is 12 times.5
- 1 in 5 renter households in Canada pay more than 50% of their income on rent.6
- 1 in 4 families in the US spend over 70% of their income on rent and utilities.7
- There are 33,000 people on the waiting list for public housing in the Australian state of Victoria. Less than 1% of private rental properties in and around Melbourne are affordable for single parents on low incomes.8
Shelter saves money
- In Canada, every $10 spent on housing and support for the chronically homeless results in $21.72 in savings on healthcare, social supports, housing and the criminal justice system.9
- An Australian study found that preventing young people from becoming homeless by strengthening school and youth services at a community level could save $626 million a year.10
- The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness found the state spends $31,000 a year on each chronically homeless person. The cost of providing each of them with permanent housing, job training and healthcare was $10,000 a year.
Public Health Emergency15
- Homeless people are 2-5 times more likely to die prematurely than the general population.
- Rates of tuberculosis infection are 20 times higher; rates of depression are 7 times higher.
- In Britain the homeless are 4 times more likely to use emergency hospital services at a cost of about £85 million ($106 m) a year.
- In the US the rate of tobacco use by the homeless is 4 times that of the overall population.
Violence, disasters & development
In 2015, 27.8 million people in 127 countries were forced to flee their homes because of conflict, violence and disasters – more than the total populations of New York, London, Paris and Cairo combined.14
- 75% of the world’s internally displaced people – 30 million – are located in just 10 countries – including Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Sudan and South Sudan.
- Disasters displaced 19.2 million people in 113 countries in 2015. Over the past 8 years 203.4 million people fled their homes due to natural disasters.
- 15 million people a year since the mid-2000s have been forced out of their homes by development schemes such as dams, urban renewal projects and mega-sporting events.
- Native Canadians are 10 times more likely than non-indigenous to end up in an emergency shelter. Nearly 1 in 5 native people who live off reserve are homeless.11
- African Americans make up 12% of the US population but nearly 40% of the people in homeless shelters.
- About 1 in 5 Black women renters in the US are evicted at some point in their lives. For white women the figure is 1 in 15.12
- Aboriginal people have 14 times the rate of homelessness of non-Indigenous Australians.13
Women fleeing violence, often accompanied by children, are a significant part of the ‘hidden homeless’, often moving between home, shelters and friends or relatives.
- 40-50% of homeless people are women and nearly 60% of people seeking specialist homelessness services are female.16
- More than 90% of homeless women have suffered physical or sexual abuse; escaping that abuse is a leading cause of their homelessness.17
- Homeless women between 18-44 are 10 times more likely to die prematurely than women the same age in the general population.18
Homeless youth make up a growing portion of the homeless. Children living on the streets are especially vulnerable to victimization, exploitation and abuse.
- 1.9 million teens are homeless each year in the US. In the UK over 83,000 youth were homeless in 2014, while in Canada 35,000 youth are homeless annually.19
- Half of homeless kids are from middle and upper income families. On average they leave home at age 15. More than 70% have suffered some form of abuse.20
- There are an estimated 150 million street kids in India.
- In the US, UK and Canada 20-40% of homeless teens identify as LGBT+.
- UN Human Settlements Programme, unhabitat.org
- The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016, nin.tl/HCan2016
- Australian Broadcasting Association, nin.tl/HVic2016
- UN-Habitat, nin.tl/13housing
- ‘Hot in the city’, 2 April 2016, The Economist.
- Beyond Housing First, a holistic response to family homelessness in Canada, 2015, nin.tl/BHF-Canada
- Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Property in the American City, 2016.
- Justice Connect, ‘Keeping Women and Children Housed’, 2017, nin.tl/JC-house
- Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2014, At Home/Chez Soi, 2014, MHCCat-home
- The cost of youth homelessness in Australia, 2016, missionaustralia.com.au
- National Shelter Study 2005-2014, nin.tl/GovCanNSS
- Desmond, see 7.
- Australian Government, nin.tl/AIHW-IA
- IDMC, 2016, nin.tl/IDMCgrid
- ‘The health of homeless people in high-income countries’, The Lancet, October 2014, nin.tl/health-hope
- Homelessness Australia, 2013, HA-2013
- National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, nlchp.org
- ‘Risk of Death Among Homeless Women’, homelesshub.ca
- Ending Youth Homelessness: A human rights guide, nin.tl/youth-rights
- Covenant House Toronto, nin.tl/cohotor