Solving Homelessness Together

Homelessness 101

Explore this page as a starting point for understanding some of the causes and nature of homelessness.

Homelessness in Columbus from Homeless Resource Network on Vimeo.



Who is Experiencing Homelessness?

When many individuals think about someone experiencing homelessness, they consider the images that they see on TV or the occasional individual begging for money at an intersection. Most commonly the individuals you see on the streets are either:

  1. Not homeless at all, or
  2. one of the chronically homeless (statistically 10% of the homeless population)

If only 10% of the homeless population is chronically homeless, and creates much of the stereotype of homelessness, where is the other 90%?

This is a good question. Many of the individuals are working. 44% of the homeless have worked for some income within the past month. Many are unable to work due to disabilities. 33% of the individuals who came to Homeless Resource Network last year had a disability that made their ability to work severely limited.

Homelessness is also something that is hard to count. You can imagine being an individual who has just lost his job, his home, and eventually every individual who was willing to help them stay off the streets. This individual is not waving their hands in the air for someone to put them on a homeless count. In actuality, this individual is typically avoiding the reality they are homeless and trying to avoid others realizing the same.

So if individuals are avoiding being noticed as homeless, how do organizations like Homeless Resource Network get counts of people experiencing homelessness? There is an annual Point-In-Time Count that counts the individuals and families on the streets and in shelters. These counts are understood to never be able to reflect the absolute reality of all people that are affected by homelessness.

Another way that that Homeless Resource Network is able to calculate statistics on homelessness is through the intake process individuals must go through to receive services at HRN. You can see more of the result of these questions on our local data page.

We also utilize a computer database that local homeless services organizations use called HMIS. This tool allows us to look at homelessness on a long-term scale and across different organizations. We can answer questions such as, are individuals moving from emergency shelters to the streets and back throughout the year, or are they moving through to find affordable housing and employment.


Why do people lose their homes?

There are many Causes of Homelessness. Although there are many factors  that can lead someone into the state of homelessness, poverty is the number one indicator that someone will become homeless.


Many people in the Metropolitan Columbus area are not aware that 20.2% of Muscogee County’s population lives in poverty.

Realities about…

  • There is no place in the 50 states that you can work a minimum wage job and afford fair market rent. See if you could here.
  • Majority of clients at the Homeless Resource Network who obtain employment income, do so at minimum wage.
  • Majority of the people experiencing homelessness want to work. 44%  worked for some wage within the past month.
  • In our economy those with felony convictions have an even harder time obtaining work due to increased competition.
  • In January 2012, the national unemployment rate was 8.3%. Georgia’s was 9.2%.
  • There are 1828 people on the waiting list in Columbus for public housing. 505 of those are waiting for a one-bedroom apartment.
  • The local Housing Authority has a 1% vacancy rate.
  • Section 8 is closed and looking to open in the next 12 months. There are 392 people on the waiting list.
  • Job’s House (Columbus’ only single room occupancy for homeless individuals) has two vacancies. There are 23 people on the waiting list. (estimated 6 month wait)
  • Jail, mental health facilities, and hospitals have difficulty finding appropriate placement of homeless patients (discharged to the streets).
The above information was up to date as of  April 2012

What do people experiencing homelessness face?

Not only do individuals experiencing homelessness have to deal with the obvious issue of being without a home, they have many other obstacles to face as well. Listed below are just a few: People experiencing homelessness face major barriers to accessing, utilizing, and succeeding in mainstream addiction and mental health services, including lack of income, verification documentation, difficulties in maintaining schedules, and lack of transportation.

The death rate of people experiencing homelessness is almost four times greater than that of the general population.

Harsh living conditions and constant exposure to the elements leave a person without a home more susceptible to acute illness and traumatic injuries.

Many workers, living in shelters, are employed by day labor agencies, earning low pay, having no job security, no health insurance, and less than sufficient work protections.

What is the answer?

When faced with a problem as big as homelessness, many people become apathetic stating, “Nothing that I could possible do would effect this problem.”; but this is far from the truth. There are many ways to get involved in ending homelessness on a local and federal level, and each little action adds up.

While there are as many needs as there are types of people who experience homelessness, there are 2 main elements in ending homelessness:

1. Affordable Housing

2. Employment

If you can help advocate for creating more affordable housing and a livable wage in our community, you are affecting the main barriers to individuals and families ending their homelessness.


Read your local newspaper for articles about homelessness or visit our FAQ page to learn more.

Visit our Local Data page to see information about homelessness locally.