Most people experiencing homelessness never thought they would
be in the situation they are in now.
The Trauma of Homelessness
Homelessness is a traumatic and frightening experience. Our staff are specially trained to work with people who have experienced trauma in a way that is safe, respectful, and effective.
Facts & Myths About Homelessness
People experiencing homelessness suffer from the hardship of their condition, but also face alienation and discrimination fueled by stereotypes. Here are some myths and realities of homelessness.
MYTH: They are to blame for their situation.
FACT: Many are victims of circumstances, illness, and trauma from violence and abuse. Roughly 30% of Utah’s homeless are children. About 73% of all homeless persons experience mental illness, domestic violence, or other barriers to stable housing.
MYTH: Most are single men.
FACT: Single men comprise 29% of Utah’s homeless population, while 44% are parents and children.
MYTH: The homeless population is transient, migrating to cities with best services
FACT: 88% of Utah’s homeless population lived in Utah when they became homeless.
What are the main factors of homelessness?
While there is no single picture of a homeless family, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers these insights:
- A homeless family is typically headed by a single mother, usually in her late twenties, with two or three young children under the age of five.
- Many homeless families have experienced trauma prior to becoming homeless such as multiple moves, witnessing domestic violence and substance abuse, and living with chronic stress. More than 90 percent of sheltered and low-income mothers have experienced physical and sexual assault over their lifespan.
- Homelessness affects people of all geographic areas, ages, occupations, and ethnicities, but occurs disproportionately among people of color.
Causes for Homelessness
While poverty is the leading cause of homelessness, there are other reasons why a family becomes homeless.
Lack of affordable housing
While one or both parents may work, they often do not make a sufficient wage to cover housing costs. Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. An estimated 12 million households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local, fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.
Domestic violence affects women and their children. When a woman flees an abuser, she often takes nothing but her children with her. She may have to change her life completely: quitting her job or school, severing contact with family and friends, leaving the community on which she has relied. Nearly 25 percent of all homeless women have fled from domestic violence.
Many parents struggle to move past minimum wage positions without access to professional development or a post-secondary degree. Job skills training and access to continuing education factor into a family’s opportunity for economic mobility. Furthermore, lack of affordable childcare is a huge economic barrier for homeless families. In all 50 states the cost of child care for two children exceeds the average family’s rent payment.
The issues of poverty, domestic violence, and lack of affordable housing are all compounded when a homeless mother is still a teenager. It is a challenge for her to complete high school, work and care for her children.