Lifetime and 5-year prevalence of homelessness in the United States

Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY.
American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.55). 01/1995; 84(12):1907-12. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.84.12.1907
Source: PubMed


Intense debate exists concerning the number of homeless people in the United States. Previous studies, counting currently homeless people, have provided point-prevalence estimates of homelessness but have been criticized on methodological grounds. This study reports lifetime and 5-year prevalence estimates of homelessness using a different methodological approach.
Random-digit dialing was used to interview 1507 adults living in households with telephones in the 48 contiguous states in the fall of 1990. Respondents were asked whether they had ever been homeless and if so, where they had slept while homeless.
Lifetime and 5-year prevalence of all types of homelessness combined were 14.0% (26 million people) and 4.6% (8.5 million people), respectively. Lifetime "literal homelessness" (sleeping in shelters, abandoned buildings, bus and train stations, etc.) was 7.4% (13.5 million people). Five-year (1985 through 1990) prevalence of self-reported homelessness among those who had ever been literally homeless was 3.1% (5.7 million people).
The magnitude of the problem of homelessness is much greater than most previous attempts to enumerate homeless people have led us to believe. This finding requires reconsideration of inferences about the causes of homelessness that were derived from point-prevalence studies of currently homeless people.

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    • "The extent of the problem is difficult to quantify for a number of reasons. The homeless are underrepresented in surveys, many of which are household-based; there is no standard methodology for counting the homeless; and homelessness is often a transient state (Link et al. 1994). Even the definition of homelessness is evolving and subject to debate (Lee, Tyler and Wright 2010). "
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    • "Asunnottomien tai asunnottomina olleiden kokemuksista on aiemmin tehty vähänlaisesti tutkimusta. Asunnottomuutta on yksilönäkökulmaa enemmän tarkasteltu esimerkiksi keskittymällä asunnottomuuteen väestötasolla (Link ym. 1994; Kärkkäinen 1995) tai kuvaamalla ja arvioimalla asunnottomien auttamiseen ja asunnottomuuden poistamiseen tähtääviä palveluita ja ohjelmia (McGraw ym. 2009; Nousiainen & Sunikka 2009; Greenberg & Rosenheck 2010; Olivet ym. 2010)."

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    • "homelessness; rural health; veterans; health services research Over 6% of the United States population has been homeless, and at any time, as many as 31 million people are—or are at imminent risk of being—homeless (Link et al., 1994). Homelessness is defined as the lack of a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence ( " Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistant Act " ) and is associated with poor health and subsequent morbidity. "
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