Three-quarters of a million homeless in USA

There is an astonishingly large underclass in the world’s richest nation:

Gov’t estimates 754,000 homeless people

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press

The nation has three-quarters of a million homeless people, filling emergency shelters through the year and spilling into special seasonal shelters in the coldest months, the government said Wednesday.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated there were 754,000 homeless people in 2005, including those living in shelters, transitional housing and on the street. That’s about 300,000 more people than available beds in shelters and transitional housing.

The report is the government’s latest attempt to count people who are notoriously difficult to track. The estimate is similar to one by an advocacy group in January.

The 2000 Census pegged the number of homeless people at 170,700, but it was widely considered an undercount. In 1996, the Urban Institute used data collected by the Census Bureau to estimate there were between 640,000 and 840,000.

… Among the findings for people in shelters and transitional housing:_Nearly half were single adult men.

_Nearly a quarter were minors.

_Less than 2 percent were older than 65.

_About 59 percent were members of minority groups.

_About 45 percent were black.

_About a quarter had a disability, though experts said the percentage is probably much higher.

The Urban Institute recently did a study on homeless people in Santa Monica, Calif., and found only 6 percent of those using services for the homeless did not have a mental illness or a substance abuse problem, said Martha Burt, a researcher at the institute.

Emergency shelters are more than 90 percent full on average nights, the report said. They would be over capacity if not for seasonal shelters.

By comparison, less than three-quarters of transitional housing units for families are occupied on an average night.

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