Among homeless populations in the United States, minority groups, such as African American and Indigenous people, are shown to experience homelessness at higher rates than others. There is a large disparity that can be seen among African Americans. Although African Americans represent 13% of the general population, they account for 39% of the homelessness population and 50% of homeless families with children.
The racial disparities in the homeless population stems from slavery to segregation. Minority groups have been systemically declined rights and socioeconomic opportunities. This discrepancy has not improved over time. In fact, the effects of racism continue to cause disparities in the rates of homelessness. Three critical areas that impact the rates of homelessness are poverty, rental housing discrimination, access to quality care, and incarceration.
Deep poverty is a substantial predictor of homelessness. Unfortunately, African Americans and Latinx populations experience deep poverty at a higher rate than any other race in the United States. Poverty, along with segregation and housing discrimination are significant factors that lead to homelessness. Redlining was a form of systemic housing discrimination that existed decades ago and was supported by the federal government. Although, redlining is illegal now, it has had lasting effects on the current wealth gap of White households and households of people of color. Redlining also discouraged economic investments, like mortgages and business loans, in Brown and Black neighborhoods. You can still see the effects of redlining today. People of color who are looking to get out of these neighborhoods are shown fewer rental units and are denied more leases compared to White people.
Additionally, Brown and Black neighborhoods are exposed to environmental toxins, and have limited access to quality care, services, nutritious foods and economic opportunities. Which leads to the next factor of homelessness, access to quality health care. As we’ve discussed before, lack of health insurance and chronic medical conditions lead to financial issues that eventually cause homelessness.
Furthermore, racial disparities among incarceration rates have worsened as years go on. Black and Brown people in high poverty neighborhoods have a much greater risk of being targeted, profiled and arrested for minor offenses. The impacts of over criminalization reach far beyond incarceration. People with a criminal background have trouble securing housing and employment. The rate of homelessness among people exiting jails and prisons are high because of the difficulties of accessing affordable housing due to their situation.
Efforts to end homelessness in the United States must address the issues that are results of racial disparities. The U.S. must ensure safe and affordable housing for all, not some. The systems and programs that service people experiencing homelessness should monitor outcomes to eliminate these disparities. Humanity for the Homeless hopes to help as many homeless people, regardless of their situation and how they got there. Help us help them, contact us today.