Study Finds Significant Racial Disparities in Homelessness Rates

A study of five communities by the Center for Social Innovation’s Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities (SPARC) found significant racial disparities in rates of homelessness. Black residents accounted for nearly 65% of people experiencing homelessness in the five communities, even though they accounted for only 18% of the communities’ overall population. Nationwide, black people account for 12% of the population, but 43% of the homeless population.

The study examined data from the homeless management information system (HMIS), collected 148 oral histories from people experiencing homelessness, and conducted 18 focus groups from various communities. The study also included an on-line survey of homeless service providers, which found that the service providers’ workforce is not representative of the community they serve. Sixty-six percent of senior managers were white, 12.6% were black, and 10.1% were Hispanic/Latino.

The oral histories revealed five major themes: a lack of financial resources combined with fragile, impoverished social networks unable to provide support; high housing costs or dangerous or inhabitable housing forcing individuals into homelessness; criminal backgrounds making it difficult to find housing even with a voucher; mental health challenges; and family disintegration.

The study’s recommendations include: targeted subsidies or flexible emergency funding to prevent homelessness and to help people exit homelessness, greater investments in affordable housing, better regulation of evictions, modifications to the allowable scope of landlord background checks, sealing records of non-violent offenders, and more research into the racial disparities in behavioral health interventions.

SPARC’s Phase One Study Findings is available at:

More information about SPARC is available at: