Homelessness is a public health crisis with serious economic and social costs. In contrast to an average life expectancy of close to 80 years in the United States, life expectancy on the streets is between 42 and 52 years. According to a recent comprehensive review of medical literature, “homeless persons are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than the general population.”
Homelessness is associated with malnutrition, severe dental problems, AIDS, tuberculosis, drug addiction, mental illnesses and diabetes. On average, maintaining an individual in a state of chronic homelessness costs taxpayers an estimated $40,000 a year through the utilization of public resources–from emergency room visits to police and court time.
In Baltimore, eleven percent of the homeless were younger than 18 years of age. More than half of homeless individuals are without a home for more than a year. Sixty-one percent met the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of “chronically homeless”, having consistently been without a home for a year or having had at least three incidents of homelessness in the past four years.
Health and housing concerns are the primary resons for homelessness. Obtaining a job has been cited as the most important need, after housing.