An estimated 553,742 people are experiencing homelessness in the United States on any given night, or 17 people for every 10,000 people in the general population. Homelessness tends to disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and veterans.
What is it?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines several categories of homelessness. In literal homelessness, an individual or family lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This could mean that one’s primary residence is a public place or a place that is not meant for humans to live, living in a privately or publicly operated shelter that is designed for temporary living, or has recently left an institution where they have resided for up to 90 days and who has lived in an emergency shelter or inappropriate place for human habitation right before entering the institution. Literal homelessness is most likely what we think up when homelessness is brought up. However, the HUD has also defined the imminent risk of homelessness, homelessness under other Federal statutes, and fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence as categories of homelessness as well. Companies who support homelessness may do so in a variety of ways whether it be donating profits, time, or products to organizations that are focused on this issue or directly to the homeless population.
Why does it matter?
Roughly 65 percent of the U.S. homeless population is sheltered, but that also means that 35 percent of this same population is unsheltered. Public and private shelters can only serve so many people which is why it has grown increasingly important for the private sector to provide more support to this growing population. It is incredibly easy for private companies to conduct business as usual and only worry about how much profit their business is generating. However, businesses can be incentivized to support the homeless, as well as help with the resolution of other social issues, when consumers favor companies who have worked the triple bottom line (environment, people, and profit) into their business model. It is important for consumers to vote with their wallets because they are the ones who are supposed to be purchasing companies’ products. With so many kinds of businesses out there, we might as well put our wallet where our values are.
Additionally, those who experience homelessness are already oppressed with their other social identities. In America, Asian, Native American, and African Americans are overrepresented in the homeless population. Those who are White and homeless tend to be women, children, veterans, and/or members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, these identities may play an overwhelming role in increasing their vulnerability to experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives.
Your “Simple Switch” to products that support the homeless is important because it provides disadvantaged individuals with the support they need.