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National Homeless Person's Memorial Day

Candles burningThis 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.

For the past 25 years, our country has observed National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day on December 21. The observance serves as a memoriam to those who perished while homeless. The day, which is also the longest night of the year, raises awareness of the far reaching impact of homelessness on our citizens and communities.

According to the 2015 Point-in-Time (PIT) survey [4 MB] from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 564,708 people were homeless in the United States on a given night in January 2015. Most (69 percent) were staying in residential programs for people experiencing homelessness, while 31 percent were found in unsheltered locations. Most people who were homeless, were individuals (64 percent). The 36 percent who were not alone had children. Twenty-three percent of those homeless were children younger than 18 years of age.

Public Health and Homelessness Brand

Homelessness can have a severe impact on people's health and lives.

Despite these alarming numbers, homelessness has declined by 2 percent since 2014 and 11 percent since 2007. This decline is the result of the collective work of volunteers, advocates, organizations, and government agencies. Still, homelessness continues to have a severe impact on people's lives, and these efforts need continual support.

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. CDC is also collaborating with other federal agencies to improve access to health promotion products to vulnerable populations such as 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 on the past year, and make plans for the next. On December 21, 2015, please join others in remembering loved ones, and in how great a loss it is to lose one's life because they didn't have a home. To learn more about this national concern and how you can contribute to ending homelessness, please check out the links below.


  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress: Point-in-Time estimates of homelessness [4 MB]. Accessed December 15, 2015.
  2. U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness: As Amended in 2015 [2.4 MB]. Accessed December 15, 2015.
  3. Morrison DS. Homelessness as an independent risk factor for mortality: results from a retrospective cohort study. Inter J of Epidemiology.2009; 38: 877–883.