On a single night in Utah in 2019, 2,798 persons were homeless. Crowding in shelters, street corners, parks, and cars, these individuals experienced the loneliness, fear, and pain of homelessness.
Homelessness is incredibly challenging and can lead to serious health concerns. Having a home and being healthy are linked. People cannot afford housing with the high medical bills and unemployment accompanying bad health, and good health is unobtainable without a safe, permanent home.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council reports that the average life expectancy for a homeless individual is 66.5 years, which is 12 years less than the general U.S. population. The life of a homeless person also tends to have more health concerns than the housed person, increasing suffering.
Some recent homeless statistics in the US:
- Almost 90% of homeless individuals report having dental problems within the last six months.
- Unstably housed adults over age 50 use the emergency room at 4 times the rate of the general population.
- Homeless individuals have higher prevalence of chronic diseases, often more than 10% than the general population’s prevalence for any given condition.
What does it mean to be homeless in Utah?
Learn some homeless statistics and the truth about common myths on homelessness:
Myth #1: People who are homeless stay homeless for a long time.
Fact: Fewer than 1% of homeless individuals in 2017 identified as chronically homeless. Most homeless experiences are short-term; 53% of families and 71% of individuals exit emergency shelters within one month of entering them.
Myth #2: Most of the people who are homeless are single adults.
Fact: In 2017, 65% of homeless individuals were single, but 35% were families or children. There were 281 homeless families and 164 unaccompanied youth. Homelessness has a huge impact on children, interfering with healthy development and ability to succeed in school.
Myth #3: The homeless are to blame for their own situation.
Fact: Many homeless persons are victims of circumstance, illness, and abuse. Among homeless youth, there is a 4 times higher rate of mental illness than the general population. Homeless individuals have a 49% rate of experiencing domestic violence, compared to only 2% of the general population. Several of these domestic abuse victims make up the homeless women in Utah. Bankruptcy, divorce, and many other reasons contribute to homelessness.
Follow this link to learn more about the stories and backgrounds of some of our homeless Utahn neighbors: Stories from the Street