CASS's COVID-19 RESPONSE
Who are the homeless in America today?
Who is at risk of homelessness because of COVID-19?
And what can we do NOW to make lasting, systemic change for our homeless neighbors?
A message from CASS CEO Lisa Glow
On any given night at least 567,000 people are homeless in America.
They are the working poor. Many of them can no longer afford a place to live because of skyrocketing rents and a lack of affordable housing.
They are people who have lost their jobs. Before COVID-19, four out of five Americans were living pay check to pay check. With the dramatic rise in unemployment from the pandemic, we must plan for a rise in homelessness.
They are the elderly. Nearly 30% of all people experiencing homelessness today are over age 50. By 2030, predictions are that the 65 and older population will triple across the country. The reasons for this rise include the loss of a spouse, a costly medical crisis, the onset of a disabling condition, losing a job, or not being able to keep up with rising costs on a fixed income. In a pandemic world, these challenges are being exacerbated.
They are people challenged by mental health and/or substance abuse issues. At least 20-25% of people experiencing homelessness suffer with a serious mental illness (an average of 6% of the overall population suffers with a serious mental illness). Of those, about one-half have a co-occurring substance abuse dependency. The pandemic will undoubtedly impact the mental health and substance abuse dependence of our nation.
They are people with a disability. Over 40% of the homeless population have a disability versus 17% of the general population.
They are people in poor physical health. Homelessness is connected to declines in physical health, including HIV infection, respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, and more. Research shows that having a home reduces healthcare costs, emergency department utilization, as well as general inpatient hospitalizations.
One of the positive outcomes from the pandemic is that it has provided funding support for governments to open more emergency shelter beds and hotels for people experiencing homelessness, as well as to invest more in temporary housing.
But we cannot stop there with the one-time stimulus and state funding.
We have the opportunity to build a better future for people and to approach solutions to homelessness in new ways; and, to create a future that is inspired by partnership and innovation. We must keep the long game in mind, which includes creating new affordable housing solutions, including public/private partnerships between government and developers to find the middle ground where housing is again affordable for all people. We must also create more specialized services for the various sub-populations who are becoming homeless. And we must continue to engage in more meaningful dialogue as partners (private, nonprofit and public sectors), finding common ground and shared commitments to serving the best interests of our community.
Lisa Glow, JD
As a reminder, CASS is an Arizona Charitable Tax Credit Organization, a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to $400 for individuals and $800 for couples filing jointly. Donations made up until April 15, 2020 can be applied to 2019 or 2020 state taxes. Donations by mail can be sent to —
ATTENTION: Donor Relations,
PO Box 18250
Phoenix, AZ 85005.