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National Homeless Person's Memorial Day

Hand lighting candles

This 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.

As we approach the close of another year, we recognize Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day (HPMD) on the 21st day of December. The events held around the Nation honor those who have died because they did not have shelter, as well as serve as reminders of the countless hardships and risks people who experience homelessness continue to face.

Compared to the general population, people who experience homelessness are at greater risk of infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse. They are also more often victims of violence, prior to and once homelessness. Homeless persons also have a mortality rate four to nine times higher than those who are not homeless. With an estimated 40 million Americans living in poverty, 19 million experiencing housing insecurity, and 28 million without health insurance, the risk of homelessness and poor health is a concern for 1 out of 8 Americans.

In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), coordinated by the local HUD-funded continuum of care (CoC) programs, conducted the Point-in-Time (PIT) survey to identify and estimate the United States’ sheltered and unsheltered homeless. According to the report [13.8 MB], 553,742 people in the United States experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017. This number translated to a U.S. homeless rate of 17/10,000, where 33 percent of those homeless were families with children, and within those families, 59% were children under 18 years of age. The estimates from 2016 [33.7 MB] to 2017 [13.8 MB] showed increases in some areas (e.g., unsheltered homelessness and in major cities) and decreases in other areas (e.g., families with children). The 2017 PIT also served as the baseline year for estimating homeless unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 and on their own. An estimated 40,799 unaccompanied youth experienced homelessness; most (88%) were between the ages of 18 to 24 years, and living unsheltered (55%).

Logo: Public Health and Homelessness Brand

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

Eliminating homelessness can seem daunting.  Yet, continued collective and coordinated efforts can make a difference. CDC, as the nation’s leading health protection agency, continues to work to provide accurate health information that is accessible to everyone. CDC is also committed to disseminating health information that other federal and non-federal agencies who work directly on issues related to homelessness can use to improve the health and well-being of people affected by homelessness.

As December 21 approaches, let us be reminded of the lives lost to poverty and lack of shelter. If you’re interested in participating or planning an event in observance of HPMD, The National Health Care for the Homeless Council in collaboration with National Coalition for the Homeless and National Consumer Advisory Board have produced a manual [18.6 MB] to assist people who want to organize or participate in local events.

More Information

Federal Resources on Homelessness

CDC Web Resources

CDC Video and Audio Podcasts on Homelessness


References

  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 2, 2016.
  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 2, 2016.
  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.
  4. National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Organizing Manual [18.6 MB]
  5. The National Coalition for the Homeless, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and National Consumer Advisory Board produced the manual to assist people who want to organize or participate in local events.
  6. Stats for Stories: National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day
  • Page last reviewed: December 14, 2017
  • Page last updated: December 14, 2017
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