Family Homelessness Facts

Among industrialized nations, the United States has the largest number of homeless women and children. Not since the Great Depression have so many families been without homes. The statistics below are the best estimates of the extent of homelessness, but it is important to note that they are undercounts.

  • Homeless families comprise roughly 34% of the total U.S. homeless population
  • Approximately 1.35 million children will experience homelessness over the course of a year. In any given day, researchers estimate that more than 200,000 children have no place to live
  • People counted in the single adult homeless population (about 2.3-3.5 million annually) are also part of families:
    • Among all homeless women, 60% have children under age 18, but only 65% of them live with at least one of their children
    • Among all homeless men, 41% have children under age 18, but only 7% live with at least one of their children

Who are homeless families?

The typical sheltered homeless family is comprised of a mother in her late twenties with two children.

  • 84% of families experiencing homelessness are female-headed. This is due to a number of factors:
    • Most single-parent families are female-headed (71%). Single-parent families are among the poorest in the nation and as such, are extremely vulnerable to homelessness
    • Many family shelters do not accept men into their programs, causing families to separate when they become homeless
  • Families of color are overrepresented in the homeless population. Nationally:
    • 43% are African-American
    • 15% are Hispanic
    • 8% are White, non Hispanic
    • 3% are Native American
  • Families experiencing homelessness usually have limited education:
    • 53% of homeless mothers do not have a high school diploma
  • 29% of adults in homeless families are working
  • 42% of children in homeless families are under age six

What are the experiences of homeless mothers?

The impact of homelessness on mothers is profound. Many experience anger, self blame, sadness, fear, and hopelessness. Mothers experiencing homelessness have significant histories of interpersonal violence. For them, the experience of becoming homeless is another major stressor amidst already complicated traumatic experiences.

  • Over 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime
  • 63% report that this abuse was perpetrated by an intimate partner

What are the experiences of homeless children?

Children experience high rates of chronic and acute health problems while homeless. The constant barrage of stressful and traumatic experiences also has profound effects on their development and ability to learn. Violence plays a significant role in the lives of homeless children.

  • By age 12, 83% of homeless children had been exposed to at least one serious violent event
  • Almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families
  • 15% have seen their father hit their mother
  • 11% have seen their mother abused by a male partner
  • Children who witness violence are more likely than those who have not to exhibit frequent aggressive and antisocial behavior, increased fearfulness, higher levels of depression and anxiety, and have a greater acceptance of violence as a means of resolving conflict

How is family violence linked to homelessness?

Over 85% of homeless families are headed by women – specifically, by single women with children – and domestic violence is a principal cause homelessness among single mother families.

  • 1 of every 4 homeless women is homeless because of violence committed against her
  • Inadequate housing and shelter options, evictions, discrimination, poverty, and other factors contribute to the crisis of homelessness caused by family violence. Furthermore, many women remain in an abusive relationship because of these barriers.

How many homeless individuals in Austin have been victims of domestic violence?

  • 17% of all homeless individuals (male and female) in Travis County have been victims of domestic violence


  1. “The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness.” The National Center on Family Homelessness. April 2008.
  2. “Some Facts on Homelessness, Housing, and Violence Against Women.” National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. 2006.
  3. Point-in-Time Data for the Austin/Travis County Continuum of Care on January 25, 2007. HUD’s 2007 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs Homeless Populations and Subpopulations. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Homelessness Resource Exchange.