National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day

Hand lighting candles

Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day raises awareness of the risks associated with homelessness and living unsheltered.

Homeless Persons’ Memorial Dayexternal icon (HPMD – December 21) was created in remembrance of those who died while homeless and without shelter. Events are held in communities on or near HPMD to bring attention to the plight of people experiencing homelessness and the life-threatening risks people can experience when living unsheltered, especially during cold and extreme weather conditions.

According to the last Annual Homeless Assessment Report pdf icon[14.2 MB]external icon to Congress, an estimate of the number of sheltered and unsheltered persons in the United States at a Point-In-Time (PIT), 552,830 people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018, which translates to a rate of 17 people experiencing homelessness per 10,000 people each day. Among those homeless, most were men or boys (61%), who were more likely to be unsheltered than women and girls. Twenty percent were children, most of whom were sheltered.

Logo: Public Health and Homelessness Brand
Homelessness can have a severe impact on people’s health and lives.

Between 2017 pdf icon[13.8 MB]external icon and 2018 pdf icon[14.2 MB]external icon, there has been a slight increase in overall homelessness attributable to unsheltered individuals, particularly among people ages 25 and older (2% increase). An estimated 36,361 unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 experienced homelessness; most (89%) between the ages of 18 to 24 years and living unsheltered (51%). If compared to unaccompanied youth under the age of 25, yet living in households, the number would translate to 18 out of 10,000 unaccompanied youth were experiencing homelessness. The number of people homeless in the U.S, according to the PIT represents approximately 1.69% of the U.S population. However, given the 38 million Americans living in poverty,19 million experiencing housing insecurity, and 27 million living without health insurance; the possibility of homelessness and poor health outcomes are of concern for approximately 11% of Americans.

Living homeless and unsheltered is associated with greater risks of infectious and chronic illness. People experiencing homelessness can also have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues, as well as be victims of violence, prior to and once homeless. For these reasons, as well as high prevalence of chronic medical conditions, homelessness is associated with an increased mortality rate that is four to nine times higher than those not homeless.

Poverty, housing instability, and other social determinants of health can lead to homelessness. Addressing the determinants, as well as identifying effective and long-term solutions, require data, innovation, and strategic partnerships. CDC provides accurate and accessible health information that is used to improve the health and safety of people within communities, including for those experiencing homelessness. CDC and staff have collaborated with other federal agencies on issues regarding homelessness over the years.  CDC has also now established a new workgroup dedicated to Homelessness and Public Health.

The observance of HPMD is a reminder of the loss that occurs when homelessness is not addressed adequately. For more information on HPMD observance events, consult NHCHCexternal icon for more information. For those interested in organizing an HPMD event, an Organizing Manual pdf icon[18.6 MB]external icon for HPMD was collaboratively developed by national non-profit organizations dedicated to addressing homeless health care, policy, advocacy.

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Page last reviewed: December 13, 2019