"Hobo," "tramp," "vagrant," and "transient" are pejorative names for people who find themselves having to cope with the very serious problem of being homeless. Not only does homelessness impact a lot more people than you might expect, it causes a host of other problems for the homeless individuals and for society at large.


Homeless people do not have a permanent residence. People become homeless for a variety of reasons. Sudden catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, or fires destroy homes and throw people into a temporary homeless condition. Relationships that break up can also cause someone to become homeless. There are also individuals that seem to exhibit a chronic homelessness.


Homelessness is a large problem in the United States. In 2008, there are around 600,000 homeless families, which include 1.35 million children. Another 200,000 veterans are homeless, according to the Disabled American Veteran's Services. About 60% of homeless Americans are single men. The incidence of homeless elderly individuals has been increasing in this country as well.


Being homeless is not the only problem facing families without permanent places to live. About one-third of the families who are homeless also report that they lack enough food at least once each month. Homeless children do worse academically than other children, and they have much higher school absentee rates. Homeless individuals also do not usually have adequate medical care, and they often become admitted into a hospital as victims of violent crime. About 70% of homeless people live in urban areas. People who are homeless in rural America are more hidden but exist nonetheless.


Many nonprofit organizations and government agencies exist to serve homeless people. Frequently the mission of these organizations is to help the individuals and families transition out of homelessness. Homeless people need help with job training, education, employment counseling and learning about how to buy and keep a home.

Expert Insight

Since the U.S. government passed the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, the focus of many agencies and nonprofit organizations has emphasized preventing homelessness. It is more difficult to transition people out of homelessness when the condition has lasted for more than five years. This is the sad case for about 25% of the people who are homeless in America. The most difficult homeless people of all to help move into a permanent home are the individuals who are substance abusers or who are mentally ill. 50% of homeless people who are substance abusers are alcoholics. 25% of homeless people suffer from a mental health condition.