Families Experiencing Homelessness

This resource provides facts concerning families experiencing homelessness.

Families Experiencing Homelessness

According to the 2010 AHAR, “A typical homeless family consists of a mother and two children,” and people in families experiencing homelessness are more likely to be headed by a woman, to identify as minorities, and are significantly less likely to have a disability.i

On a given night in January 2010ii:

  • 241,951 persons in families were homeless in shelters, transitional housing programs, or on the streets (37.2% of all homeless persons)

Over the course of a year (October 2009-September 2010)iii:

  • 567,334 persons in families were homeless in shelters or transitional housing programs (35.2% of the total sheltered homeless population)
  • Of the total number of sheltered households (rather than separate people), 168,000 households were families (14.0%)
  • Among homeless families in shelters, women comprise 77.9% of adultsiv

In 2009, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 1.5 million children experience homelessness in a yearv.

According to 1996 data from the NSHAPCvi:

  • 32% of people who were homeless were women
  • Among these women, 84% were members of homeless families
  • About 200,000 children were members of homeless familiesvii
  • Among these children, 42% were under six years oldviii

Gender, Age, Race/Ethnicity

Among all sheltered persons in families over the course of a year (October 2009-September 2010)ix:

  • 77.9% were female
  • 22.1% were male
  • 59.3% were under age 18
  • 23.2% were ages 18-30
  • 16.2% were ages 31-50
  • 1.2% were ages 51-61
  • Less than 1% were 62 and older

Among all families residing in shelters or transitional housing programs over the course of a year (October 2009-September 2010):

  • 42% were African-American
  • 31% were White, Non-Hispanic
  • 12% were White, Hispanic
  • 8.5% were Multiple Races; 6.4% were Other Single Race

According to 1996 NSHAPC datax:

  • 43% are African-American
  • 38% are White, Non-Hispanic
  • 15% are Hispanic
  • 3% are Native American

Serious Mental Illness, Traumatic Stress & Substance Use

  • Over 92% of mothers who are homeless have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetimexi xii.
  • About two-thirds of homeless mothers have histories of domestic violence.
  • Compared to low-income housed women, mothers who are homeless havexiii:
    • Three times the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (36%)
    • Twice the rate of drug and alcohol dependence (41%)
  • About 50% of homeless mothers have experienced a major depression since becoming homelessxiv.
  • Among homeless children, within a single year:
    • 97% move, many up to three timesxv.
    • 22% are separated from familiesxvi.
    • 25% witness violencexvii xviii xix xx.
  • Children who are homeless experience higher rates of emotional and behavioral problemsxxi xxii than low-income housed childrenxxiii.

View the HRC's additional factsheets:


Publication Date: 
Rockville, MD, USA