What Is Family Homelessness? (The Problem)


Every year, hundreds of thousands of American families become homeless, including more than 1.6 million children. These families are hidden from our view. They move frequently, and many are doubled-up in overcrowded apartments with relatives or friends. Others sleep in cars and campgrounds or send their children to stay with relatives to avoid shelter life. Once in shelter, despite the efforts of dedicated staff, life can be noisy, chaotic, and lack privacy. Homelessness increases the likelihood that families will separate or dissolve.

Family homelessness is caused by the combined effects of lack of affordable housing, unemployment, limited access to resources and supports, health and mental health challenges, the challenges of raising children as a single parent, and experiences of violence. As the gap between housing costs and income continues to widen, more and more families are at risk of homelessness. Even a seemingly minor event can trigger a catastrophic outcome and catapult a family onto the streets.

Families experiencing homelessness are under considerable stress. Homelessness is a devastating experience that significantly impacts the health and well-being of adults and children. Often, members of homeless families have experienced trauma. These experiences affect how children and adults think, feel, behave, relate, and cope.

Read our Fact Sheet on Family and Child Homelessness to learn more about the demographics, causes, and impacts.

Additional resources and publications.