Homelessness in the USA

Many people think of it as a big-city problem — “street people” sleeping in boxes or on park benches.  

But homelessness occurs in communities of all sizes throughout the United States. And it’s on the rise, according to a report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness released in January. From 2008 to 2009, the report noted, about 20,000 people joined the ranks of the homeless, to 656,129. (There is no one agreed-upon method for counting homeless, so estimates vary widely. Some organizations list the number of U.S. homeless in the millions.) Many homeless stay in shelters or transitional housing, but 40 percent live on the streets, in cars or some other place not meant for habitation.  

The factors are many: economic upheaval, mental illness, dependence on drugs and alcohol, aging out of the foster-care system with little or no support.  

Yet, behind all of these facts and statistics, there are flesh-and-blood human beings living with the reality of not having a permanent place to call home. Meet people from five U.S. communities who are working hard to find stable housing and read about their hopes for the future.

Chimere Silvia (Providence, R.I.): Mother of six getting life on track after years of drug addiction

Amanda Mellish (Pittsburgh, PA.): Catholic program helps young woman break from former life

Alesa Thurman (Chicago): Shelter keeps family together as mother searches for work

Christine Rodgriguez (Eugene, Ore.): Hard times help mother appreciate what she has in life

Mark Elias (Miami): Out-of-work laborer finds safe harbor at Catholic shelter 

How to Help

To assist the homeless in your community, contact you local Catholic Charities office, many of which offer shelter for the homeless. In addition, here is information for the shelters mentioned in these profiles: 

Chicago: Catholic Charities of Chicago’s Madonna House, www.catholiccharities.net/services/homelessness/. 

Eugene, Ore.: First Place and the Egan Warming Center run by St. Vincent de Paul, www.svdp.us

Miami: Camillus House, www.camillushouse.org

Pittsburgh: PATH Transitional Age Project for Young Adults, http://osv.cm/hWp4pF 

Providence, R.I.: Emmanuel House, www.dioceseofprovidence.org/?id=430