Homelessness: It's About Race, Not Just Poverty

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A foreclosed property in majority-black Southeast Queens seen in 2010. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, 11 percent of all black homeowners lost their homes during the financial crisis—a likely contributor to the racial skew of the homeless population.

Photo by: Colin Lenton

A foreclosed property in majority-black Southeast Queens seen in 2010. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, 11 percent of all black homeowners lost their homes during the financial crisis—a likely contributor to the racial skew of the homeless population.

When talking about homelessness, race is often the elephant in the room. But no matter how much we avoid it, the blunt reality is that black Americans are greatly overrepresented in homeless shelters across the United States. In 2010, one out of every 141 black family members sought refuge in a homeless shelter, a rate seven times higher than members of white families.

The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness report “Intergenerational Disparities Experienced by Homeless Black Families,” released Thursday, sheds light on this grim circumstance, by highlighting disparities among black and white families in the United States.

The statistics are stark: Black persons in families make up 12.1 percent of the U.S. family population, but represented 38.8 percent of sheltered persons in families in 2010. In comparison, 65.8 percent of persons in families in the general population are white, while white family members only occupied 28.6 percent of family shelter beds in 2010.

This disparity exists in city after city throughout the country, For example, in New York City and St. Louis in 2009, the most recent data available, twice as many black families were found in shelters (55.9 percent and 95 percent, respectively) compared to their share of the general city population (25.2 percent versus 49.5 percent). The opposite held true for white families who were vastly underrepresented in local shelters (1.9 percent and 3 percent, respectively), given the percentages of white families in New York City and St. Louis overall (36.1 percent versus 44.7 percent).

The next question, of course, is why?

Homelessness is primarily a poverty issue. In 2010, nearly one-quarter (23.3 percent) of black families lived in poverty, three times the rate of white families (7.1 percent).

But there is more to it than that. Understanding why blacks are overrepresented in homeless shelters requires an examination of the longstanding and interrelated social and structural issues facing the black community. Throughout U.S. history, housing discrimination has been ever-present, both in the form of official government policies and societal attitudes. Federal policies that reduced the stock of affordable housing through urban renewal projects displaced a disproportionate number of poor blacks living concentrated in cities to other substandard urban neighborhoods.

Residential segregation, which affects black households to a greater extent than other minorities, perpetuates poverty patterns by isolating blacks in areas that lack employment opportunities and services, and experience higher crime and poverty rates. Blacks are also overrepresented in the criminal justice system, which increases the risk of homelessness and developmental delays among affected children.

Lower educational attainment among blacks, in particular black males, is a barrier to gaining any employment and especially to qualifying for jobs in well-compensated sectors. Black males earn bachelor’s degrees or higher at half the rate of white males (15.6 percent compared to 32 percent). Employment disparities rooted in subtle forms of discrimination persist even with educational advancement.

In 2010, blacks with an associate's degree experienced a higher unemployment rate than whites with a high-school diploma (10.8 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively). Furthermore, a male black employee with a bachelor’s degree or higher was paid one-quarter (25.4 percent) less on average in weekly full-time salary ($1,010) in 2010 compared to a male white worker ($1,354) with the same level of education.

This report raises the question of why family homelessness is a racial issue. This phenomenon is not new, but is rarely discussed. Although government-sanctioned racial discrimination may be a relic of the past, the finding that blacks are overrepresented in shelter when compared to whites demonstrates that blacks continue to face prejudice and substantial access barriers to decent employment, education, health care, and housing not experienced by whites.

It takes a community to end homelessness. Family shelters can—and do—function as part of the front-line, combating bias and providing opportunities for families who fall through the cracks. However it will take more than a few service providers to call attention to the elephant in the room. It will take all of us as a nation to voice our intolerance of policies that make it difficult for some to ever rise out of poverty.

  • Damaged Goods verified ✔️

    I want citylimits.org to reply back to me about this, seriously, because this is full of shit. White people outnumber any other individual race in homelessness. Did they even look up any statistics? California alone has 60% white and around 20% black homeless. Race really is the elephant in the room because black people have shamed white people into not being able to bring up how racist black people are. This is just another example, we want to make blacks seem like the ones who are the only ones suffering, when in reality they aren’t even close to being the majority, if you doubled their numbers they still wouldn’t be the majority in homelessness.

    • Jarrett Murphy

      Of course most homeless people are white: White people outnumber blacks in the population. But the research on which this article was based is about rates of homelessness among the races. Blacks have a higher chance of becoming homeless than whites. It’s as simple as that, really.

    • SukeyMac

      I’m fed up with people making excuses for bad behavior, career victims and people who actually believe this crappie. Race is a catch all term to excuse everything and try to make white people feel guilty about being white. Enough is enough.

      • I agree. Enough is enough. Whites should stop excusing everything they do and trying to make black people feel guilty for being black. I congratulate you on your moral courage.

        • SukeyMac

          You’re nothing more than a pompous, leftist apologist. Maybe you make people feel guilty about things but I have more important things to do. White people like you are the ones making excuses because you want to feel good. It’s all about how you feel and anyone else is secondary. Don’t bother me again with your garbage.

  • Damaged Goods demonstrates how racial privilege works. The greatest racial privilege of all is the luxury of ignorance, the comfort and convenience of not having to know.

    It is true that there are more poor whites than poor blacks in total numbers, but there are more poor blacks per capita. Also, the poverty of blacks is far worse than for whites.

    Poor whites are more likely to live in wealthier communities and more likely to escape poverty. Poor blacks, on the other hand, are more likely to experience economic segregation in severely poor communities and to experience multi-generational poverty, built on a deep and long history of racism and its legacies (Jim Crow, sundown towns, white-only covenants, biased hiring, police profiling, white affirmative action, etc.).

    In many black communities, the majority of the adult male population is some combination of unemployed, homeless, imprisoned, on parole, or otherwise caught up in the legal system. Studies show that blacks get arrested more, convicted more, and convicted more harshly even for crimes that whites commit more.

    There is also environmental racism. Bypasses and toxic dumps are more likely to be located in poor minority communities. For this reason, blacks have higher rates of lead toxicity than whites, including higher rates than even poor whites. Lead toxicity is severely damaging to individuals, families, and communities… by increasing rates of violent crime, aggressive behavior, impaired impulse control, ADHD, social problems of all kinds, stunted brain development, cognitive impairment, lowered IQ, etc.

    No American has the right to remain ignorant of these basic facts. It’s time to face reality.

    • SukeyMac

      There’s nothing wealthy about Appala- chia. Stop blaming everything on white people. There are plenty of opportunities out there but that would mean you have to look for them. You can stay down and make excuses or take control of your life and do something. There are plenty of blacks, whites and other races who beat the odds because they wanted more. Life isn’t easy and there is no shame in work. It isn’t easy but it is worth it. No one handed me anything and everything time I was knocked down, I became more determined to make it. And, I did.

      • You obviously didn’t read my comment. I never claimed Appalachia is wealthy, although there are wealthier cities in Appalachia, even as large swaths of rural areas are poor as they come. And I never blamed everything on white people. If you read my comment, you’d see my only blame as on ignorant people. And I’d be the first to admit that ignorance is found in many populations.

        As for excuses and taking control of one’s life, I’d point to some basic facts. There are more poor whites than poor blacks. Also, whites have a higher rate of welfare than blacks, not just higher total number. It sucks to be poor, especially for those who live in areas of few opportunities and can’t afford to live elsewhere, whether rural Appalachia or urban ghettoes.

        If you think there is shame in not working, I guess you could talk to all those poor whites on welfare. I suppose you’re the type who think welfare recipients are welfare queens, but maybe you only think that way about black people. Anyway, most people on welfare actually do work and only temporarily receive benefits. Most people are as or more determined than you, and they get back up when knocked down. Nothing special about that.

        By the way, your claim is false that you’ve never been handed anything. Did you go to public schools, drive on public roads, take public transportation, use any emergency services, relied on utilities (e.g., water), etc? If so, you were handed those publicly funded public goods as a right in being a citizen. And I’m glad that we taxpayers helped you out in that way. I just would hope you’d be more thankful and humble about it.

        • SukeyMac

          Since my parents paid taxes and I pay taxes, I will repeat what I said. No one handed me anything. Those utilities and services you mentioned aren’t given freely as all taxpayers pay for them.You ‘re an arrogant leftist tool and jumped to conclusions based on your own feelings not mine. You might want to take an extra dose or three of humility before you start preaching to anyone.

          • I’ll repeat what I said, because you’re particularly obtuse.

            Everyone pays taxes. Even the homeless pay taxes when they buy some food. But few people pay as much taxes for everything they use. It’s highly doubtful that you and your parents paid as much taxes for how much you benefited from what taxes pay for.

            You received benefits, just handed to you, with nothing you needed to do to receive them. It didn’t matter how much you or your parents made nor how much taxes you or they paid. As a citizen, you automatically get use of a million things throughout your life that are paid with by taxes.

            If you’re looking for arrogance, you need to look in the mirror. I’m suggesting that we all should be more humble.

          • SukeyMac

            You take the crown for being obtuse. Taxes for food are hardly on a par with income taxes. You’re comparing apples and oranges and it’s not working, idiot. You are now suggesting everyone should be humble but that isn’t what you initially said.
            I have never met anyone who had a problem with call citizens using the public services you mentioned. I also didn’t claim that the taxes my family or anyone paid/pays take care of all services. That would be impossible and thus we all share that burden. I don’t want to believe you’re as dense as you appear. I believe that you are intentionally clouding the issue with unrelated topics. Another ploy of the left.
            Theven problem isn’t with those who through no fault of their own need assistance. Americans

          • I never claimed I could force you to face reality. The fact of the matter is you have no idea the the cost and value of all the tax paid benefits you get. It’s so much a part of every aspect of our lives. Unless you are extremely wealthy and pay a lot of taxes, you get more than you pay for.

          • SukeyMac

            Where do you get off making such an absurd assumption about what I understand or don’t understand? You seem to think that only you are able to embrace the enormity of the scope of things we as legal US citizens are able to enjoy. You are so full of yourself it isn’t worth acknowledginger your comments. Again I am going to say, no one gets fed up with all legal citizens using the services our taxes pay for.It is almost overwhelming when one consciously thinks of all that we have. No one likes freeloaders who take everything they can while demanding more and have no intention of becoming productive members of society You do know what I’m referring to.

          • I didn’t force you to be ignorant. It’s a choice you made. I don’t know why that it is. But it’s a free country. You can be ignorant if you want. More power to you.

            Let me give you an example of the difference between people like you and people like me.

            The well informed know that, undocumented immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in tax-paid services. Meanwhile, most poor Americans and most welfare recipients are white citizens (both in terms of total number and per capita).

            Of course, such knowledge won’t change your mind. That is the nature of your willful ignorance.

          • SukeyMac

            You have got to one of the most arrogant idiots walking. How many undocumented immigrants do you know that pay taxes??? Tell me you made a mistake. Your willful stupidity is endless. You can toss all the names you like at me but it simply proves that I have hit a nerve and cretins like you don’t like the truth. Don’t bother responding because I have already gone above and beyond the yearly quota of talking to insipid fools by answer-
            ing you. You look pitiful.

          • I’m only arrogant toward others to the degree they’re ignorant. So, if you perceive me as acting arrogant toward you, then what does that say about you? You’re not very smart, are you? I probably shouldn’t pick on the intellectually defenseless such as yourself, but I just can’t abide ignorance.

            Undocumented immigrants pay taxes all the time: sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, etc. Many undocumented immigrants get fake social security numbers in order to get jobs, buy houses, and even start businesses—and, in doing so, they pay taxes as if they had a real social security number, even though they can never gain any of the benefits from such things as social security because it’s not a real social security number.

            The state and federal governments don’t mind this kind of thing because it’s a net gain for them in the money it brings in. It adds up to almost 12 billion dollars in additional taxes a year (adding a 100 billion to social security over the past decade). All of that would be lost if these people were deported.

            https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2013/02/08/52377/immigrants-are-makers-not-takers/
            http://fusion.net/story/273231/undocumented-immigrants-taxes-contribute-economy/
            https://news.vice.com/article/undocumented-immigrants-pay-billions-in-taxes-to-fund-programs-theyre-banned-from-using
            http://www.cbsnews.com/news/undocumented-own-u-s-homes-and-pay-billions-in-taxes/
            http://americasvoice.org/blog/so-much-for-being-moochers-undocumented-immigrants-have-paid-100-billion-into-social-security-fund-over-past-decade/
            http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/illegal-immigrants-pay-social-security-tax-wont-benefit/
            http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/29/how-immigrants-will-save-social-security.html
            http://thinkprogress.org/immigration/2015/06/24/3673064/undocumented-surplus-medicare-trust-fund/
            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/21/obama-immigration-taxes_n_6199238.html
            https://newrepublic.com/article/122714/immigrants-dont-drain-welfare-they-fund-it
            http://www.pnhp.org/news/2007/december/two_independent_stud.php

  • HansCake

    More liberal propaganda

  • Arafa Speaks

    IF I AM THE ONLY “N” WORD…”NUBIAN” IN THE ROOM…ENGLISH HAS NO BUSINESS BEING MY PRIME[ARY].LANGUAGE…IT IS NOT MY MOTHER TONGUE I DON’T CARE HOW MUCH AMERICA COUNTS US AS HER TROPY….WHAT IS IT TO BE AFRICAN AMERICAN…WHERE IS MY AFRICAN…ANYTHING…WE HAVE BEEN AMERICANIZED AGAINST OUR WILL WHETHER BY OUR OWN OR FOREIGNERS…EUROPPEAN, DUTCH, SPANISH, PORTUGESE…ETC.

    LIKE JESUS SAID: “IF GOD DID NOT GIVE YOU POWER OVER OUR LIBERTY ELSEWISE YOU WOULDN’T HAVE POWER OVER ORIGINAL DOMINANT CREATION…WE LAID OUR LIVES DOWN [DISOBEDIENCE] THEN OUR DISOBEDIENCE TO OUR GOD BROUGHT US TO THIS LEVEL…THIS PLACE OF DIS-GRACE…WHEN WE TURN BLACK BACK TO OUR GOD OF CREATION…THEN AS GOD IS MARRIED TO THE BACKSLIDER…HE WILL RESTORE US TO OUR ORIGINAL GLORY…HIS CHOSEN CHILDREN…ALONG WITH THE GENTILES WHO ACC

    W.A.I.T….KNOW MOORE TO FREE THE LAND…GENESIS 15: 13 / ACTS 7: 6-7 AND ON AND REVELATION 2:9, 3: 9, PSALMS 83 AND ON AND ON AND ON

    KUNTA GAYO KINTE/KENTE=GODIS PLEASED TO RESTORE UNTO US…ALL THAT WAS TAKEN AWAY…

    BOYCOTT DUNCAN DONUTS TILL THEY CELEBRATE AFRICAN AMERICAN? HISTORY MONTH…THE HEART SYMBOL IS ACCUTUALLY AN AFRICAN ADINKRA SYMBOL FOR THE KIND OF LOVE AMERICA KNOWS NOT OF…IT ISTIME FO RUS TO MAKE BLACK ON BLACK LOVE WORKS FOR US…WE HAVE SERVED OUR TIME IN AMERICA TO PROSPER EVERYONE ELSE…WITH NO INE PRAISE OR DEMONSTRATION OF APPRECIATION, OR SO MUCH AS A THANK YOU FOR OUR UNSOLICITED SERVICE; WE CONTINUE TO BE ROBBED BY LAW!

    MAY THE SPIRIT OF GOD NOW RESTORE OUR LOVE PEACE AND SOUL-TRAIN…AGAIN.

    TO YOU ALMIGHTY GOD ALONE DO WE GIVE PRAISE AND THANKS…WE REBUKE ALL WHO PASS THE WHITE MAN OFF AS GOD…AND PROVIDER…JEHOVAH JIRE…YOU ARE OUR PROVIDER…AND SAVIOUR IN THE MATCHLESS NAME OFJESUS CHRIST…THE MESSIAH…AND HIGH PRIEST SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD OUR FATHER AND MAKER AND REMAKER TO YOUR SPECIFICATIONS…AMEN…THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL NETWORK…THE HOLY WORD ON THE BLACK HAND SIDE…JESUS SAVES MEDIA MINISTRIES! HEAVENLY

    • SukeyMac

      Feel free to go back if that,s how you feel. No one is making you stay. You have made that choice. You are either American or African. You can’t be both if you didn’t come directly from Africa. We are US citizens with ancestors from various nations. I’m really tired of career victims. No one ever gets ahead with that mentality. No one owes anyone anything.

  • WeAreNotAmused

    There are more homeless black men because they tend to be low achievers in school and have a high drop out rate. In most cases, they were born out of wedlock and their fathers aren’t in their life. Considering that having children out of wedlock is the greatest indicator of poverty, this is an important contributing factor to homelessness among black men. Many black men have also been to jail or prison. Very few homeless black men are innocent victims of circumstances beyond their control including racial discrimination.

    I am a black woman, and I will tell you that while I am out and about running errands (no matter what side of town I am on) I see able-bodied black men (both young and old) walking around pan handling, begging for change, cigarettes, catcalling women and girls, asking if they can use people’s cellphone, rapping, and being an overall nuisance. To make matters worse, they have the nerve to be arrogant and self-entitled while they are begging you. Sometimes, after they beg you for change, they will start hitting on you (if you are a woman) as if they have anything offer. The prideful delusional mindset of these men is astounding. They act as if they are God’s gift to women, yet they are begging, begging, begging and looking scruffy, intoxicated, and crazy.

    Sometimes, these men are hustling in shopping centers that are hiring. As a matter of fact, sometimes they are begging RIGHT in front of a store that has a “now hiring” sign in the window. Yet I never see them walk in and ask for an application. They’re in the same shopping center week after week running game, hustling, and bumming off of other people. They can’t claim “racial discrimination” because every shopping center that they are in has employed blacks, hispanics, asians, etc. They just don’t want to work. Believe it or not, some of them PREFER living from “the pillow to the post” sleeping on people’s couches, spending their disability check or the money they have pan handled on liquor, weed, fast food, etc — because this lifestyle involves little to no responsibility, and some of them like it like that because that is how the black community teaches black men to be — IRRESPONSIBLE, immature, freeloaders who beg women, white people, and the government for free handouts.

    Sometimes, these black men will have a young black girl out there hustling for them. So there is statutory rape involved, because they are having sex with these young girls, getting them pregnant, and then having these teenage girls push their babies around in a stroller looking pitiful and begging people for money for pampers, formula, food, etc. I have seen this hustle with my own eyes. After the girl begs, she then meets up with her “pimp” in a different parking lot and gives him the money. Then they move onto the next shopping center to “work a new crowd.” Racial discrimination?? Ha! Get out of here with that crap. A lot of these “homeless” black men like living like that because it only requires the bare minimum effort from them and they can live their life depending on others to give them free stuff.

    When you have a sky high rate of illegitimacy, a high rate of academic underachievement, a high rate of incarceration (because they ARE committing crimes), a high rate of uninvolved fathers and paternal abandonment, and mothers (and grandmothers) who coddle their sons and grandsons and teach them that they don’t have to work for anything because mommy or grandma will “always be there for them” and hand them everything that they want for free… what you get is a disproportionate rate of able-bodied black men walking up and down the street all day and night begging, catcalling, staggering around drunk and high, sexually harassing women and girls, and feeling entitled to other people’s money, cigarettes, cellphones, and attention. Blame it on “racial discrimination” if you want to. But the real problem is that black men are reaping the consequences of their actions and piss poor decisions.