Rates of homelessness have increased for three years in a row, nationwide. The current COVID-19 crisis has contributed to this increase of individuals who are experiencing homelessness due to job loss, living with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, living with high risk populations, and lack of available rental properties.
Homelessness is significantly defined by gender. About 60% of all people experiencing homeless are male. Among this population, 70% of homeless individuals are men and unaccompanied youth. Unaccompanied youth are considered individuals who are under the age of 25 who are not in the custody or company of a legal guardian. Men are much less likely than women to accept assistance from the Department of Social Services.
States with the highest costs of housing and highest rent burdens often have the highest rates of homelessness, including California, New York, Florida, and Texas. In Erie County, the zip code 14215 has the highest rate of homelessness. This zip code is for the Cheektowaga, NY region, with about half of the homeless population being homeless due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This region is predominantly low income and consists of many African American families. Niagara Falls, NY has the second highest rates of homelessness in Erie County, with 22% of households making less than $14,999 per year.
The homeless population in Western New York is estimated to be 55.8% - African American, 37.7% - Caucasian 4.2% - Multiracial, 1.3% - Native American, 0.5% - Asian, and 0.4% Pacific Islander/Hawaiian American.
Children make up nearly one quarter of the homeless population in Erie County. In 2019, 23.9% of youth were homeless. Of those youth, those aged between 16-24 made up 16.6% of the homeless youth population. In 2020, studies have shown that the number of unaccompanied youths has increased.