The Stewart McKinney Act of 1987 defines a homeless person as one who lacks a fixed permanent nighttime residence or whose nighttime residence is a temporary shelter, welfare hotel or any public or private place not designated as sleeping accommodations for human beings. .
Included in the homeless population are people who stay with friends or family for a short period of time and then decide to find shelter on the streets because of conflict with the people whom they are staying with, or because of personal pride. In the early 1980's homelessness was determined to be a major problem in the United States. These years saw a steep rise in the number of homeless, due to poor economy and diminishing financial help for housing and income. The homeless consist of all types, races, and ages of people. A large portion of the homeless population consists of men but the number of women and children living on the streets is on the rise.
Current statistics show that women and children now make up around forty percent of the homeless population. One-third of homeless people abuse drugs and one-fourth are mentally ill. The current homeless population is mostly non-white and has an average age of the middle thirties. Veterans make up about one-third of the total number of homeless men. The homeless all suffer from absolute poverty. As stated in 1995 by the United States government, 36 million people or 13.8% of the population was poor. The government defines a family of four as being poor if they generate a yearly income of $15,569 or less, although the average improvised family's income was only around $10,000 in 1995. We should not be surprised that one percent of our population, for one reason or another is unable to cope with our complex and highly competitive society. One cause of homelessness is the competitiveness of the business market. Companies are no longer as loyal to their employees as they used to be.