What is Homelessness?

This is a bona fide crisis.

Homelessness is now recognized as a public health crisis in the United States.

Homelessness is complex.

In our culture, we’ve perpetuated negative stereotypes about homelessness and the people who experience it. The truth is, doing so helps no one — least of all those in our community who most deserve our compassion and respect.

Homelessness is a multifaceted issue. The causes are complex. And it can happen to anyone; no one is completely invulnerable.

Poverty. Lack of affordable housing. Health problems. Fleeing from violence… All compounded by racial inequities. Just to name a few of the biggest contributors to homelessness.

Homelessness is on the rise across the country.

The biggest increase has been among those who are unsheltered or living outdoors for long periods of time. This is also known as “chronic homelessness.”

The face of homelessness is changing.

Single adults account for the largest percentage of folks experiencing homelessness in the U.S. And women are now the fastest growing subset. Youth, refugees, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are also at greater risk of becoming homelessness.

Who Experiences Homelessness?


Although men and boys make up 60% of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S., women are now the fastest growing group.

Why is homelessness on the rise for women?

  • Domestic violence. In a recent study, 57% of all homeless women in the United States cited domestic violence as the cause.
  • The affordable housing crisis. Right now there is no state or county in the U.S. where a full-time worker at minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. In the United States, women make up the majority of our minimum wage workforce — and in particular, women of color.
  • Housing costs. In 2022, the minimum wage is $7.25. And while income levels stay stagnant, housing costs continue to rise. Dramatically. So lower-income folks are forced to choose one basic need over another.
  • The gender pay gap. In recent years, more than half of States have chosen to increase the minimum wage. And the gender pay gap is real. Many women still do not make enough to afford food, clothing, and shelter… let alone other essentials like menstrual products. Poverty is simply not gender-blind.


Youth ages 13 to 24 account for more than a quarter of individuals experiencing homelessness in the U.S. Of those “unaccompanied homeless youth,” LGBTQ+ young people account for up to 40%. And the heartbreaking reality is that the longer young folks stay homeless, the more difficult it is to break out of the cycle.


That stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, plus others whose identities that don’t fit into a simple box. That + could include intersex, who gender non-binary, or Two-Spirit… among others.

What unique challenges do LGBTQ+ folx face?

In addition to the physical and emotional strains that all homeless individuals face, LGBTQ+ folx are far more likely to experience discrimination that can lead to homelessness and/or prevent them from accessing services once they become homeless.

  • Discrimination. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 1 in 5 transgender individuals has experienced homelessness due to rejection by family members, social stigma, and discrimination.
  • Heightened risk of violence. LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing homelessness face a much higher risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation compared to heterosexual and/or cisgendered peers.
  • Lack of family support.

Immigrants & Refugees

Immigrants and refugees now make up 14% of the U.S. population. That’s 46 million friends and neighbors trying to find home. Some are fleeing natural or man-made disasters. Others are trying to find a better life that simply isn’t available (or allowable) where they happened to be born.

What unique challenges do immigrants and refugees face?

No matter the reason for completely uprooting their lives, many individuals arriving in the U.S. have nothing except for the clothes on their back.

  • Barriers to services and resources. Language barriers, documentation status, and location make it difficult for individuals and families coming into the U.S. to get employment, housing, or even health insurance.
  • Heightened risk when seeking help.

Managing One’s Period While Homeless

Health and safety is NOT a given.

Living on the street and trying to manage one’s period is neither easy nor safe. Women and folx who menstruate are forced to rely on public restrooms to wash themselves and their clothing.

Without the standard period products such as pads, tampons, or period underwear, menstruators are forced to use items like toilet paper, leaves, or rags. Continued use of items like these can lead to infections. And when urinary or yeast infections go untreated, they can lead to really serious – even dire – health conditions …

Navigating an overburdened healthcare system is hard enough for those of us who have houses, jobs, and robust family support systems. For folks living on the street, there truly are no guarantees.

Periods are $TAXING$.

Then there’s the issue of cost. With the average box of tampons coming in at $7, this often means making the choice between buying a meal or managing one’s period safely…

Even for women and folx living in shelters, it’s still a problem. The most requested item by shelters is menstrual hygiene products but it’s the least donated item. This means women and folx in shelters are not likely to receive enough to manage their period in its entirety. And so the vicious cycle continues…

What Can I do to Help?

Donate products: Find your local I Support the Girls affiliate and donate products which will be distributed to those who need it most.

Host a collection drive with ISTG! Collect donations of essential items such as bras, menstrual products, or toiletries at your school, coffee shop, dorm, workplace, etc. which will then be distributed to those who need it most.

Take what you’ve learned and spread the word to family & friends! Our strength is definitely in numbers. This moment could be the beginning of your movement.

Volunteer your skills at your local shelter! Your experience, skills, or simple kindness can help individuals build confidence and skills to apply for a job or housing.