any given time today in America, there are about half a million
people who are "homeless" -- they don't have a “permanent,
safe, decent, affordable place to live.” Around the world
there are about 100 million homeless people, and many of them
are women and children.
is one of the world's most serious problems. While there are
many reasons why people become homeless, including mental
illness, drugs and domestic violence, most people are homeless
because they can't afford a decent place to live. Far too
many people have lost their homes due to foreclosure and housing
costs are proportionately much higher than they have been
in the past, but wages for lower skilled workers have remained
stable and many urban areas continue to be economically depressed.
One third of the homeless in America are families!
shelters and emergency shelters, operated by nonprofit organizations,
religious institutions, and local municipalities, can only
provide shelter for a fraction of the homeless families in
need. Many are forced to live out of their cars, or in garages,
or move from place to place, staying with friends and relatives.
Even short periods of homelessness can result in depression
and child neglect, but many families are homeless for months
or even years.
In order to end homelessness, we have to help those who are
homeless find immediate shelter, and affordable housing for
the long-term. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
which was adopted by the members of the United Nations in
1948, declares that shelter is a basic human right that all
are entitled to. Our economic system needs to change in order
to do a better job of ensuring that everyone hasa chance to
find affordable, decent and stable housing.
year since 1990, the National Coalition for the Homeless sponsors
National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day around December 21
-- the first day of winter and the longest night of the year
-- to help raise awareness about the growing problem of homelessness
in America. This day is an opportunity for you to speak to
your family, friends, and community about the many causes
and solutions to homelessness. It's a time you can have a
food or clothing drive or volunteer your time in a soup kitchen
or homeless shelter. It's
a chance to write to local, state and national leaders to
advocate for policies and programs that serve the homeless
and create more affordable housing.