750,000 homeless Americans

750,000 homeless Americans

750,000 homeless Americans

I just read a quote of Erica Eichelberger’s from Mother Jones. Her quote was kind but she made a claim “of the country’s roughly 643,000 street folk” which is often repeated by people supportive of the rights of the homeless. Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West quote this figure in their great book “The Rich and the Rest of Us – A Poverty Manifesto.”

This figure however has been reported since at least 1987 and maybe even before that. If you google 750,000 Americans you will find that this number has been used year after year yet as someone that has been sharing food with the hungry since 1980 I can assure you that the numbers are increasing every year. After the 2008 housing crisis the numbers sky rocketed. I have the two quotes at the end that are by people that seek to support the homeless but report that the number is still about 750,000. It is clear that there has been a huge increase in the number of people living on our streets. This doesn’t even start to account for the tens of thousands of “new” homeless in Europe or other countries because of the current economic crisis.

I think it is important to do what we can to determine how many millions of us are living on the streets. To claim that the number has not changed in over 20 years can give the impression the economy has been stable and the capitalism is not failing millions in our country. Sure for each homeless person it is tragic having to struggle against anti-homeless laws and  face all the hardships of cold, heat, hunger and the difficulty of accessing showers and toilets but when viewed as a personal crisis for millions that is increasing every year this becomes the national emergency it really is.

The debate around the number of homeless is also important in a second way. The people working with the homeless can be divided into two camps. One line of thought is that the homeless are in this condition because of personal failing and that the the economic system is basically fine. The other line of thought is that the increase in homelessness is directly caused by intentional economic policies that have cause an increase in unemployment, foreclosed houses and larger numbers seeking food and shelter. If we claim the number of homeless has remained the same since 1987 this supports the idea that we have a population of people that are afflicted with personal issues like addictions and poor morals that keeps these people on the streets and suggests that the best we can do is provide charity. If as is the fact that the number of people forced to live on our streets has increased this suggests that the housing crisis, failure to fund healthcare and education and policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement are responsible for the crisis not personal failings.

When I started sharing food on the streets in Boston in 1980 there were very few homeless. On March 26, 1981 I spoke at the Pine Street Inn about a protest against the Bank of Boston to be held later that day at noon. We warned that if the Bank of Boston and the Reagan administration implemented their new policies Americans would find themselves eating at soup kitchens. The veterans at the inn came to the protests and suggested we start providing food every day because Boston didn’t have any soup kitchens in 1981. When I tell this story today people are visibly shocked to learn that  there were not thousands of homeless people wondering the streets of America. It is clear we can end homelessness by ending the policies that cause homelessness. There are more than two abandoned foreclosed homes for every homeless American. This is the struggle the first camp does not want to acknowledge. This is one reason I feel Food Not Bombs should be more than a charity but should bring signs, banners and literature to every meal and figure out how they can reach the most people possible. It is not enough to feed people when you know it is possible for everyone to have a safe home and food they can cook in their own kitchen.


Dec 30, 1987
Nation’s Homeless Veterans Battle a New Foe: Defeatism – New …
Dec 30, 1987 – Hundreds of homeless people live in the park behind the sprawling … Tent 31, where Jay Martin lives, is decorated with a small American … Estimates of homeless veterans range from 230,000 to more than 750,000, about ..

Sep 13, 1989
Sep 13, 1989 – For want of a few hundred dollars, more than 750,000 Americans temporarily … The number of people homeless at some time during the year is …

Dec 2, 1993
Homeless Veterans Get A Break – Chicago Tribune
articles.chicagotribune.com › Featured Articles
Dec 2, 1993 – In any given month, as many as 50 homeless veterans were turned away … about one-third, or 250,000, of the 750,000 homeless people are veterans. … “This is a classic American tragedy, and it must not be allowed to stand …

Homelessness Comes to School – Page 62 – Google Books Result
Joseph Murphy, Kerri Tobin – 2011 – Education
In 1995, the U.S. Department of Education reported about 750,000 homeless … groups, with 43% of African American descent

Jan 26, 1996
Helping the Homeless – The CQ Researcher Online
Jan 26, 1996 – On any given night, the alliance estimated, some 750,000 Americans will be homeless. It further estimated that between 1.3 million and 2 …

Nov 12, 1998
Homeless veterans tell their stories – The GW Hatchet
Nov 12, 1998 – Stoops said of the 750,000 homeless in America, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 are veterans. A lack of affordable housing, defaulted …

Jun 24, 1999
Emil W. Naschinski – House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Jun 24, 1999 – The American Legion is pleased to have this opportunity to share its … on any given night there are 750,000 homeless persons in this country.

Jan 10, 2007
Schools Matter: America’s Homeless and the Decider’s War
Jan 10, 2007 – Tonight while the Decider was holding Americans spellbound with his … I figure we could put each of the 750,000 homeless people in a new …

Mar 19, 2007
Dealing with Homelessness in America – Yahoo! Voices – voices …
Mar 19, 2007 – This report is in line with earlier, smaller studies that were carried out that suggested America’s homeless numbered around 750,000, or 0.25%

Nov 15, 2007
AFP: Nearly half Americans have housed homeless: study
Nov 15, 2007 – Nearly half Americans have housed homeless: study … End Homelessness, the United States has around 750,000 homeless people, including …

Jun 24, 2009
Ending Homelessness in America – Yahoo! Voices – voices.yahoo.com
Jun 24, 2009 – On any given night there are 750,000 adults and children in America without a place to call home (National Alliance to End Homelessness, …

Homelessness in America [Three Volumes] – Page 47 – Google Books Result
Robert Hartmann McNamara – 2008 – Political Science
… more than 750,000 homeless people on any given night in America.1 Given the sheer number of people, being homeless in America raises numerous legal …

Dec 1, 2010
Homeless Services Non-Profit In Long Beach Wins – Long Beach Post
www.lbpost.com › News
Dec 1, 2010 – Efforts to address and tackle the problem of homelessness received a … as Mental Health America will receive grants worth $750000 over the …

Aug 1, 2012
Homelessness & Affordable Housing Sunday | Unbound
Aug 1, 2012 – 750,000 to 1 million people sleep on the streets every night. … already a crippling situation for a growing not-so-invisible class of Americans.

The use of this figure in recent articles and books 2012 – 2013
A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West

At the time of this writing, about 680,00 people were experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. There is no reason to believe that number has been reduced by any significant amount since. 72
The Rich and the Rest of Us – A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West on Page 111

Erica Eichelberger Mother Jones
“A recent report by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness blasted the national wave of out-of-sight-out-of-mind laws affecting many of the country’s roughly 643,000 street folk: “Criminalization policies further marginalize men and women who are experiencing homelessness, fuel inflammatory attitudes, and may even unduly restrict constitutionally protected liberties.”
—By Erica Eichelberger Mother Jones

The figure of 750,000 homeless Americans can be found at Naeh.org

750,000 homeless Americans

750,000 homeless Americans