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Permanent Homelessness in America?

Richard B. Freeman and Brian Hall
Population Research and Policy Review
Vol. 6, No. 1 (1987), pp. 3-27
Published by: Springer in cooperation with the Southern Demographic Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40229999
Page Count: 25
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Permanent Homelessness in America?
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Abstract

This paper seeks to determine the approximate number of homeless persons in the U. S., the rate of change in the number, and whether or not the problem is likely to be permanent or transitory. It makes particular use of a new 1985 survey of over 500 homeless people in New York City. It finds that: (1) the much-maligned 1984 study by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs was roughly correct in its estimate of 250,000-350,000 homeless persons for 1983; (2) the number of homeless has grown since 1983, despite economic recovery, with the number of homeless families growing especially rapidly; (3) homelessness is a relatively long-term state for many homeless individuals, with an average incomplete duration, corrected for growth of the homeless population, of six years and an estimated completed duration twice as long; (4) much of the homeless problem can be attributed to increases in the number of the poor in the 1980s and declines or rough constancy in the number of low- rent rental units; (5) relatively few homeless individuals receive welfare or general assistance money; a large proportion have spent time in jail. Overall, the study suggests that economic recovery will not solve the problem of homelessness and that, in the absence of changes in the housing market or in the economic position of the very poor, the U. S. will continue to be plagued with a problem of homelessness for the foreseeable future.

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