One in Six African American Baby Boomers Experience Homelessness

African American Baby Boomers who Experience Homelessness Reveals Urgency to Identify Policy Responses to Alleviate and Prevent Racial Disparities

On October 9, 2018, The Washington Post reported that “1 in 6 older black people have been homeless at some point in their life, study finds.”

“About 6 percent of baby boomers and 17 percent of African American baby boomers have been homeless at some point in their lives, according to the first national study in decades to look at lifetime homeless rates.”

This shows evidence of racial disparity in the rate of homelessness among African American baby boomers.

“The study, released last month, suggests older black Americans are about three times more likely to experience homelessness than white Americans.”

“The magnitude of the racial and ethnic disparities is striking,” said Vincent Fusaro, a co-author of the study and a professor of Boston College, in an email.

“The 6 percent number suggests that about 19 million Americans today will be homeless at least once in their lives, assuming the experience of the baby boomers is roughly comparable to other generations, creating a starkly different impression of the pervasiveness of the nation’s homeless population.”

As compared to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandated annual point in time count, this new study is based on asking to report if they have “ever been homeless or lived in a shelter.” The point in time count study asks responders if they were homeless at a specific point in time, typically over a one day period in the month of January.

“The consequences of homelessness are particularly acute for black Americans, and appear to correspond at least in part with higher poverty rates among black Americans. Roughly one in four black Americans are in poverty compared to roughly one in 10 white Americans, according to the U.S. Census.”

Evidence of racial disparity has consequences around necessary responses. “This study’s findings create new urgency to identify federal, state, and local policy responses to alleviate and prevent such racial disparities,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

This year’s NJCounts 2018 report went beyond documenting the numbers giving a picture of homelessness in New Jersey. This year’s report gives evidence of the racial disparities of the state’s homeless population.

“Individuals identifying as African American are over-represented in the population experiencing homelessness and living below the poverty level,” says Taiisa Kelly. “While 12.7% of the general population, persons identifying as African American are 24% of the population in poverty and 48.1% of the population experiencing homelessness. As we work to truly end homelessness in New Jersey, the system we rely on to provide homeless services and housing must not only understand these disparities but work to end the racial segregation. We need to develop strategies that recognize and address the impacts of systemic racism in our society and in the homeless system.”

Other key findings around racial disparity include:

  • Persons identifying as Black or African American make up 48% of those counted as homeless and 55% of counted homeless households with at least one adult and one child under the age of 18;
  • African Americans represent 62% of the population experiencing homelessness between the ages of 18 – 24; and
  • 70% of persons identifying as White indicated a disabling condition as compared to persons identifying as Asian (36%), Hispanic/Latino (40%) and Black or African American (44%).

Washington Post Article

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