Homelessness a Racial Matter: Why Are Black Families Over-represented in Homeless Shelters?

Ralph da Costa Nunez:   President, Institute For Children, Poverty & Homelessness – Posted: 03/14/2012 5:23 pm


When U.S. attorney general Eric Holder described the United States as a “nation of cowards” when it comes to openly discussing race, he was lambasted. But he was absolutely right. And one area where race has long been an issue spoken about in hushed tones is the racial disparity among homeless families in the United States.

But a report by The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, “Intergenerational Disparities Experienced by Homeless Black Families,” highlighting disparities among black and white families in the United States, has gotten people talking about this topic.

The response has been overwhelming. From newspapers in many of the 37 cities across the country where statistics show black families are greatly over-represented in shelters to CNN.com, BET.com and right here on The Huffington Post the conversation has started. And the report continues to go viral on Facebook and Twitter with people of all races and backgrounds sharing the facts.

It’s no wonder. The statistics are stark: In 2010, 1 in 141 black family members stayed in a homeless shelter, a rate 7 times higher than for white families. Black people in families make up 12.1 percent of the U.S. family population, but represented 38.8 percent