Homelessness Declining

One way to assess the number of homeless individuals is by examining the service systems they use.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, police stations served as shelters, with an estimated 630,000 people sleeping in such facilities in 1880 and 615,000 in 1890.

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of American families had a member who sought shelter in police stations.

Presently, the overall US population has grown more than sixfold, yet the annual count of people experiencing "sheltered" homelessness stands at 1.4 million.

In 1911, it was estimated that Chicago's lodging house districts had around 40,000 residents, while a decade later, sociologist Nels Anderson suggested that the city's homeless population ranged from 30,000 during good times to 75,000 during hard times.

Today Chicago's homeless population is reported as 5,390.

Early 20th-century nationwide estimates ranged from 500,000 to 5 million, which, when adjusted for population, would greatly exceed the current count of approximately 580,000.

Eide, Stephen, Homelessness in America : history and tragedy of an intractable social problem, Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield, [2022]

Homelessness used to be a more prevalent experience in the past, with many writers and public figures, such as Jack Dempsey, Robert Mitchum, and Clark Gable, having firsthand knowledge of the tramp or hobo lifestyle.

According to sociologist Theodore Caplow, millions of people had transient life experiences.

Some individuals, like poet Harry Kemp and Justice Douglas, made their tramp experiences central to their personal brands.

Today, in the twenty-first century, there are no famous individuals solely known for their homeless status.

Prominent figures who have experienced homelessness, such as athletes and politicians like Jimmy Butler, Najee Harris, and Kyrsten Sinema, incorporate their past hardships to showcase resilience or victimhood rather than heroism or nonconformity.

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