7 Facts About Hunger and Homelessness You Should Know

On Thanksgiving, many of us will spend time with our loved ones and reflect on what we’re thankful for. During the week preceding the festive holiday, we encourage you to consider those who are hungry and homeless.

In honor of National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (November 12-20, 2016), we present the following 7 facts about hunger and homelessness you should know, as well as steps you can take to help.

42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.

Food insecurity affects every county and congressional district in the country, according to Feeding America. Learn more about food insecurity (and food banks) in your community by exploring data from Feeding America’s interactive map.

Source: Feeding America


Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children (17% compared to 11%).

Children from families struggling with hunger are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, experience developmental impairments, and have more social and behavioral problems, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit that addresses hunger in the U.S.

Source: Feeding America

Rural communities have higher rates of hunger than metropolitan communities (15.4% compared to 12.2%).

As Feeding America notes, hunger is more prevalent in rural areas for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to higher unemployment and underemployment rates, lower levels of education, and less access to work support services, such as flexible and affordable child care and public transportation.

Source: Food Research & Action Center, Feeding America

Photo credit: “Homeless and cold” by Flickr user Ed Yourdon

Being homeless could take 36 years off your life.

Homeless people have an average life expectancy of  42 to 52 years, while most people can expect to live to 78. This short life expectancy is tragic but not necessarily surprising, given that people who are homeless are more likely to get sick, struggle with mental health and/or substance abuse, and are often victims of violence.

Every year on the longest night of the year, cities nationwide mourn the loss of people who died on the street in their communities.

Source: National Alliance to End HomelessnessCDC

A list of people who died on the streets of Denver, CO December 2014 through December 2015
A list of people who died on the streets of Denver, CO December 2014 through December 2015

You could fill five football stadiums with the homeless population of the U.S.

At least 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in January of 2015 in the U.S., according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) annual Point-in-Time (PIT) 2015 count.

While the PIT count does not fully capture the state of homelessness in the country, it offers an important snapshot that helps direct resources.

Source: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Photo credit: “Homeless and cold” by Flickr user Ed Yourdon

Photo credit: Fairuz Othman
Photo credit: Fairuz Othman

Every year 2.5 million children experience homelessness. That’s almost the entire population of Chicago.

One in every 30 children experiences homelessness every year in the U.S. Children are homeless in every city and state nationwide.

Source: American Institutes For Research

Anyone could be at risk of homelessness.

While hundreds of thousands struggle with homelessness, millions more are living paycheck to paycheck and at risk of becoming homeless. One unexpected event, like a car breaking down, can put them on the street.

Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness

How you can help

If you want to address hunger and homelessness in your communities, you can:

Volunteer your time and effort to homeless shelters, food banks, and affordable housing organizations in your area. Find volunteer opportunities near you at www.volunteermatch.com.

Donate money to organizations that are helping address hunger and homelessness.

Advocate for more affordable housing. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a wonderful Advocates’ Guide to help get you started!