The Face of Poverty and Homelessness

*By Lily Rossow-Greenberg

By now we’ve all seen this video of a police officer giving a homeless man a pair of boots, however, we need to take a moment think about the true face of homelessness and poverty in New York City. Of the 50,000 people experiencing homelessness more than 20,000 are children, as reported by the Coalition for Homelessness. There are over 11,000 families living in shelters and, according to a 2005 Vera Institute of Justice report for NYC Department of Homeless services, 89% are headed by women.

In fact, women and children are the groups most affected by poverty and homelessness in the U.S. According to 2011 Census data and a recent report by the National Women’s Law Center entitled “Insecure & Unequal: Poverty and Income among women and families 2000-2011,” 21.9% of children are living in poverty, whereas 10.9% of adult men are poor. Further, the poverty rate for female-headed households with children is 40.9%, compared to 21.9% of male-headed households and 8.8% of households headed by a married couple. These gaps exist across all racial and ethnic groups, particularly for black (25.9%), Hispanic (23.9%), and Native American women (27.1%).

This imbalance exists because the wage gap persists, with women earning only 77% of what men make; women are more likely to bear the costs of raising children; and women can be driven into poverty and homelessness by domestic and sexual violence, among other reasons.

While this video conveys a great act of kindness, it also provides an opportunity to consider the pervasive inequalities that engender the true faces of poverty and homelessness— those of women and children.

Find more information on homelessness in New York City here.

For the full National Women’s Law Center report click here

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