Homelessness among black baby boomers more widespread than once thought, study says

Researchers say as many as one in six African Americans of the baby boom generation have faced nights where they had no place to go

In the black community, homelessness is more pervasive than many may realize.

A new national study conducted by a team of researchers that looks at lifetime homeless rates has found that one in six African American baby boomers have been homeless at some point in their lives — or roughly 17 percent, compared to about 6 percent of whites. The study found that older blacks were about three times more likely to face homelessness at some period in their lives than white Americans.

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“The magnitude of the racial and ethnic disparities is striking,” Vincent Fusaro, one of the study’s co-authors and a Boston College professor, told The Washington Post. The study’s other co-authors include Helen Levy and H. Luke Shaefer, two researchers at the University of Michigan.

The study seemed to confirm what homeless activists have always stated – the numbers are higher than federal government estimates. Previous studies conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) use a methodology that evaluates the number of people who had slept outside, in a car, an abandoned building or a shelter for one night. In this new study, researchers asked respondents if they had “ever been homeless or lived in a shelter.”

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 “A one-night snapshot tells us only how many people are experiencing homelessness at one time, not how many have ever experienced homelessness,” added Fusaro.

The new study, released last month, examined people born between 1946 and 1964. Its findings seem consistent with two other studies that sought to understand our national homeless rates, including a study conducted in 1994 and another paper released in 2009. “This study’s findings create new urgency to identify federal, state, and local policy responses to alleviate and prevent such racial disparities,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told the Post.

Baby boomers of varying racial backgrounds had higher rates of homelessness when compared to other generations, according to the study. But Dennis Culhane, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said it was not known whether homeless rates have gone up or down.

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