Guiding Families Towards Home
About IHN

The Basics of Homelessness


How Many People Experience Homelessness?

The 2012 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) documented on a single night*:
  • 643,782 Americans were homeless
  • 77,157 were families comprised of 239,403 adults and children
  • 62 percent were individuals and 38 percent were families
  • 69,619 were veterans
  • 13,025 homeless individuals were in NJ; 2,247 were family households comprised of 6,422 adults and children
  • Over 1.5 million Americans experienced homelessness
* Measured in point-in-time counts conducted by local continuums of care for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)  


Who Are The Families that Become Homeless?

  • Homeless families are usually headed by a single woman who, on average, is in her late 20s with approximately two children, one or both under 6 years of age.*
  • Recent trends show that homeless families now often include male-headed families as well as two-parent families, a result of the faltering economy.
  • Among mothers with children experiencing homelessness, more than 80 percent previously experienced domestic violence.
  • At IHN of Essex County, 57 percent of the individuals we’ve served in the past three years were children

Why do Families Become Homeless?

Poverty and the lack of affordable housing are the primary causes of homelessness. Typically, a family becomes homeless as a result of an unforeseen financial crisis. Since they often have weaker social networks with few resources for sufficient help, a death, family illness, job loss, even a fire is sometimes all it takes. Without enough income to pay for their house, they end up losing it in order to feed and clothe their children.


In Essex County, the four factors are:

  1. Income is falling behind the cost of living
  2. Available jobs are low-paying
  3. Cost of housing is rising: The government defines “affordable housing” when a household pays no more than 30 percent of their annual income on housing costs.
  4. Many families have little or no savings to cover unforeseen expenditures


What a Family Needs to Live in Essex County

According to the United Way of North Essex, a family of four needs to earn $45,000 a year to afford the basics: housing, child care, food, transportation and health care. In Essex County, 118,859 households, or 42 percent, didn’t earn enough to be self-sufficient.


Sample Monthly Budget for Family of Four (2008):

“The Basics”

2 adults + 2 Pre-K Children



Child care






Health care




Taxes (net)




Self-sufficiency Wage



$57,625 total/year

Note: No allowances are made for clothing, entertainment, or travel

* Information from United Way of North Essex



The Impact of Homelessness on Children

When a child experiences homelessness, the effects appear significant and long-lasting.

  • High rates of acute and chronic health problems
  • The majority have been exposed to violence
  • More likely to have emotional and behavioral problems
  • Decreased academic achievement


Homelessness Impacts All of Us

The cost of homelessness is high, especially when it affects families. Costs associated with supporting both parents and the children include the high cost of the homeless system itself: both emergency shelter and transitional housing. Other costs include the child welfare and healthcare systems, as well as transporting children to schools and other strains on the education system caused by high mobility.


·         Over 643,000 Americans were homeless

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"We are as much helped and impacted by the people with whom we serve as they are hopefully helped. We did it because God is constantly moving on the hearts of our laity, showing them where the work is being done and inviting us to join. Sometimes we get it right, hear clearly from God, and respond appropriately. This is one of those times."
A pastor from a congregation that provides emergency shelter