National Homeless Person's Memorial Day
This day serves to raise awareness of those who don't have a place to call home, and to remember those who have died as a result of being homeless.
Since 1990, our country has observed National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day during the winter solstice on December 21, the longest night of the year. This memorial day serves to raise awareness of the tragic impact of homelessness on individuals, families, and communities, and to remember those who have died as a result of being homeless.
According to the 2014 Point-in-Time (PIT) survey[721 KB] from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 578,000 people were homeless in the United States on a given night. Almost 70 percent were living in emergency shelters or in transitional housing programs, while 31 percent were living unsheltered. Nearly one-fourth (23 percent) were children younger than 18 years of age. One out of 12 people experiencing homelessness were veterans.
The good news is that homelessness has declined by 2 percent since 2013 and 11 percent since 2007. This decline is largely the result of the collective and concerted work of volunteers, advocates, organizations, and government agencies. These efforts need ongoing support.
Still, homelessness continues to have a severe impact on people's lives. Compared to the general population, people who are homeless are at greater risk of infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse. They are more often victims of violence. They have a mortality rate four to nine times higher than those who are not homeless.
Addressing the public health needs of this population requires the collaborative and integrated efforts of health care providers, community organizations, and social service agencies. CDC contributes by promoting disease awareness and prevention programs, as well as access to choices for healthy living for all. There is much that we can do to improve the health of homeless individuals and families.
The challenges that cause a person to become homeless can affect anyone. This is the time of year when people reflect, and share thoughts and deeds of gratitude. On December 21, 2014, please join others in acknowledging those who lost their lives while homeless, and consider how we all can contribute to ending homelessness. To learn more about this national concern and how you can assist, please check out the links below.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress: Point-in-Time estimates of homelessness[721 KB]. Accessed November 13, 2014.
- U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness: Update 2013[2.9 MB].Accessed December 9, 2013.
- Morrison DS. Homelessness as an independent risk factor for mortality: results from a retrospective cohort study. Inter J of Epidemiology. 2009; 38: 877–883.