Who is Homeless in Alameda County?

Who is homeless in Alameda County?

EOCP is a crucial entry to Alameda County’s safety net services for the homeless. An estimated 16,000 people experience homelessness in the county. Data compiled in the Alameda Countywide Shelter and Services Survey, May 2004 Report (ACSSS) found that:

  • 49.2% of Alameda County’s 6,215 homeless people live in Oakland.
  • Families make up 43% and children comprise 28% of the county’s homeless population.
  • Many of the homeless were previously incarcerated, hospitalized or in Foster Care.
  • There are approximately 560 homeless people living with HIV/AIDS in the county.

What is homelessness?

People are homeless if they live in:

  • Places not meant for habitation: cars, parks, abandoned buildings, the streets
  • An emergency shelter, transitional housing program or motel
  • A temporary, unstable arrangement with friends or family members
  • When you are discharged from an institution with no resources to obtain housing (e.g. hospital, jail, mental health facility)

How do people become homeless?


  • Homelessness is caused primarily by poverty and lack of affordable housing. The current levels of housing costs, coupled with low wage jobs, the recent economic downturn and the mortgage crisis have pushed more of the working poor into homelessness.
  • Sudden loss of income leads to many people becoming homeless: layoffs, divorce/loss of spouse, lack of benefits, disability, loss of work due to caring for a sick relative
  • High rents. Alameda County is one of the top 10 least affordable housing markets in the U.S. A family earning minimum wage needs to work over 142 hours a week year-round to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. A disabled individual earn less per month from SSI ($812) than the fair market value of a studio apartment ($900).
  • Individual circumstances that increase a person’s vulnerability to homelessness include family violence, mental or physical disabilities, addiction issues, and lack of support after foster care
  • Approximately 34,000 (6%) of Alameda County’s 523,000 households are at severe risk of homelessness because they are extremely low-income renters paying more than 50% of their income on housing

What is the impact of homelessness?

On average homeless families experience homelessness once or twice, for less than a year; families tend to enter and exit homelessness relatively quickly (Urban Institute).

  • Homeless families are typically headed by a young mother with 2 to 3 children, who did not finish high school or is unemployed
  • Homeless children suffer more health problems than housed children: 38% of children in homeless shelters have asthma, middle ear infection prevalence is 50% higher than the national average, and over 60% of homeless children are under vaccinated (Redlener & Johnson, 1999)
  • Nearly one-fifth of homeless children repeat a grade in school and 16% are enrolled in special education classes – rates 100% and 33% higher than housed children; much of this is largely due to their high mobility rate (Institute for Children and Poverty, 2001)

Homeless single adults are more visible and more likely to live on the streets, experiencing longer or more frequent periods of homelessness. Homeless adults:

  • Suffer chronic health conditions such as TB, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and hypertension at a much higher rate than housed individuals; treatment is difficult without a stable environment
  • Utilize public services (e.g. hospital emergency rooms. Mental health facilities, jails) more frequently
  • Usually experience higher rates of violence and victimization

What can I do to help?

  • Support local, state and national affordable housing and living wage initiatives
  • Donate to homeless providers such as EOCP
  • Volunteer at a local homeless organization such as EOCP