While homelessness affects all races and ethnic groups, it impacts some minorities at higher rates.
Racial Inequality and Homelessness
A disproportionate number of minorities experience homelessness, as compared to their white counterparts. In fact, people of color make up 60 percent of the sheltered homeless population – almost 40 percent are African American, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Minorities are about 1.5 times — and African Americans three times — more likely to be homeless than white Americans.
The causes of higher rates of homelessness among minorities are broad and systemic and include discrimination in employment, housing, and the criminal justice system. In the criminal justice system, for example, racial disparities persist at every stage, from policing to sentencing. African Americans are convicted at a significantly higher rate than other groups. Having a criminal history can make it more difficult to find employment or obtain housing, which can ultimately lead to housing instability or homelessness. Another example is racial inequity in education where, for example, African Americans are more likely to attend overcrowded and under-resourced schools, resulting in fewer opportunities for employment, again, ultimately impacting their ability to afford housing.
Racial inequality and housing discrimination
In addition to facing discrimination in other systems, housing discrimination remains a constant driver of racial inequality. Minorities are told about and shown fewer apartments than whites, according to a 2013 HUD report. They also are denied leases based on credit history and criminal records more often than whites. Again, African Americans are discriminated against in employment, making it harder for them to afford housing.
Solutions to racial inequality and homelessness
Addressing racial inequity, particularly as it relates to homelessness, would require broad systemic changes, such as criminal justice reform and improved access to housing and employment for minorities. Removing barriers caused by discrimination in these systems would improve income opportunities for minorities which would translate to greater housing stability and ultimately, decreases in the number of people entering homelessness.