Giving Compass' Take:

• More data on homelessness indicates that individual homelessness is increasing, and the most significant subgroups of this category are transgender individuals, Asian and American Indians. 

• How are organizations poised to respond to individual homelessness? 

• Read more about this issue area in the Giving Compass Ending Homelessness content collection.

In preparing the recently released State of Homelessness: 2020 Edition, it was evident that one group was associated with a long list of particularly troubling statistics—individuals. The most recent data suggests that far too many people experiencing homelessness fall into this category. Systemic progress on their behalf has been slow and, in recent years, has turned into decline. Significant disparities among subpopulations are impossible to ignore. Failures to address these challenges make it impossible to end homelessness.

Individuals experiencing homelessness are a group that is too big to ignore. In 2019, they made up 70 percent of people experiencing homelessness. Some fall into categories reached by targeted policies and resources—veterans, chronically homeless people, or youth under age 24. But roughly 2 out 3 (approximately 254,000 people) do not belong to any of these special subgroups. They often rely on the attention and resources generally available through their Continuums of Care.

The three subgroups experiencing the fastest increase over this period are transgender individuals (88 percent), Asians (39 percent), and American Indians (30 percent). These numbers are far higher than the 11 percent growth in individual homelessness more generally.

The pattern of disparity extends into unsheltered homelessness. As with the general homeless counts, some disparities in this area have only worsened over the last three years. The most significant growths in unsheltered homelessness have occurred among transgender individuals (113 percent), Asians (53 percent), and Hispanics/Latinxs (50 percent). Their numbers far surpass the overall unsheltered individuals population increase of 25 percent.

All disparities are concerning, but disparities in a few groups raise certain flags. The Trump administration is currently advancing a rule change the would roll back protections promoting equal access to shelter for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Thus, the unsheltered numbers for these subpopulations could soon grow worse. And, notably, Asians rarely top lists of those experiencing the most significant challenges within homelessness—the reasons for recent increases should be explored.

Read the full article about individual adult homelessness by Joy Moses at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.