The exorbitant costs of being homeless in America

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, it costs around $40,000 per year to be homeless in America. Let that sink in—if you had to pay $40,000 every year just to stay alive, you’d probably be very motivated to get your life together and move into an apartment or even your own house. However, if you are already homeless and trying to get yourself out of this horrible situation, this $40,000 might seem like an insurmountable number, which makes it impossible for you to ever break free from homelessness.

What are your basic necessities?

This is a difficult question because different people have different needs. Homeless individuals can be found living out of boxes, tents, and their cars. But what are some basic necessities? A majority of people will say that there should be food, water, and shelter available. If someone doesn’t have a way to shower they may need to buy hygiene products or to find free hygiene centers in their area. This person will also need somewhere safe to store their personal belongings such as clothes and books when they sleep so that someone doesn’t take these things from them or the items get damaged. And if this person has children with them then the child’s needs for basic necessities should also be met.

Sometimes parents need money to make sure that they can provide transportation for their kids, healthcare, and clothing. The cost of living on the streets is astronomical. Without access to jobs without homes (or any type of job), these people have no hope of improving their situation. Some statistics show that the average annual income for an unsheltered individual is less than $5,000 per year. People who are able to work often still live below poverty level wages which means that it becomes harder to afford rent each month or pay other bills like utilities, insurance premiums, transportation costs etc. It would be very hard not only just survive but thrive while being homeless in America because most Americans cannot afford rent anymore much less give those who are homeless jobs with fair pay and benefits!


In 2016, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles County was about $2,000. This means that the price of renting a studio is typically more than 40% of their monthly income. In San Francisco, there were only eight neighborhoods where someone earning the poverty level wage could afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30% of their income on housing.

It would be hard for you to pay your bills while trying to keep up with these rates, because it can cost over $700 per month just to get electricity, which leaves little to nothing left over for other expenses. Some people find themselves without food or running water. These circumstances can lead people to live outside, but even living outside isn’t always an option, as many cities have outlawed sleeping and camping in public places, and shelters don’t allow residents to come in if they are visibly intoxicated or high. To combat this problem, programs like Housing First offer permanent homes, so they have time and space away from the dangers of living on the streets.


Even for those who are lucky enough to have some sort of roof over their head, life can be a challenge. While shelters offer relative safety from the elements and a respite from society’s gaze, they often do not provide many creature comforts. With resources stretched thin and demand high, it is no wonder that those with steady employment have first crack at the vacant beds. Unfortunately for the rest, sleeping bags on mats is often as good as it gets. Finally, despite shelter administrators’ best efforts to keep things orderly and clean, both indoor and outdoor space quickly become dirty after years of daily use – an unavoidable fact which invariably causes people to be more selective about when they’re willing to come indoors or where they’ll lay down their heads.

Besides simply staying warm, one of the most pressing concerns among the homeless population is finding clean water sources. Given this predicament, one might assume that seeking out public restrooms would be low-hanging fruit for city governments looking to tackle homelessness: it would simultaneously address two needs without requiring any additional funding. However, given how difficult it can be just to find available bathrooms in normal circumstances – even if you happen to have money on hand – providing this service for someone without stable housing seems like wishful thinking.


At the surface, homelessness is nothing more than living without a home. On a much deeper level, homelessness is one of the most complicated social issues we face. Homelessness leads to high-crime rates and open drug activity. In addition, people who are homeless tend to do worse health wise than those with homes because they are often experiencing stress or trauma that leads to high levels of depression and PTSD symptoms. This results in an increased risk for addiction. They also can’t easily access medication, have poorer nutrition choices and sometimes have limited access to health care if they have already been rejected from hospitals due to having no identification or insurance coverage. The toll on mental health is significant, too. People who are homeless live shorter lives on average because of these factors and illnesses. For example, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, someone who is homeless may only live 40 years while their peers could be expected to live 80 years. A major factor contributing to this shortened lifespan is lack of access to clean water. Drinking dirty water or not drinking enough water at all lead to problems like dehydration which can kill quickly. Living on less than $2 per day also means that it’s nearly impossible for people who are homeless to afford healthy food options which lead them further into poor health and poverty cycles.

Hygiene and Health Care

For an average person, personal hygiene products cost around $30 a month. Unfortunately, many people who live without a permanent home often have trouble affording these basic needs. This can put those without a roof over their heads at risk for illness and disease, as well as physical and mental distress from not taking care of themselves.

Products such as soap, deodorant, and mouthwash are difficult to find when experiencing homelessness. Beyond the items needed for hygiene, those without shelter often find it challenging to pay for clothes, food or finding a place to sleep at night. Even the act of getting clean clothing becomes difficult, because laundromats often require payment with cash or a credit card, which is inaccessible to many people experiencing homelessness. Furthermore, some shelters do not allow those staying there to keep their belongings on site so they cannot be stolen while they sleep. The result is dirty clothing, bedding and towels that are then given back to them upon departure, making it difficult for individuals without a stable address to maintain hygienic standards.

The stress of trying to survive can lead people who are already struggling with mental illness into states of extreme crisis, making it hard for them to take care of themselves properly. Add substance abuse problems into the mix, and self-care becomes almost impossible. With little access to health care professionals or clinics that offer low-cost services, people who are homeless may be putting their lives at risk without realizing it.; Shelter: There’s no such thing as too many blankets when you’ve got nowhere else to go–and that applies not only physically but emotionally too.

When someone is faced with homelessness, they can’t just walk into a clothing store and say, I need this, the way they could if they had the money. They might get lucky at a thrift store or clothing bank, but often times people who are homeless will wear clothes until they literally disintegrate. Hygiene products can be difficult to come by as well, so many go without any for months at a time. The cost of these items ranges from $5 to $40 dollars per item on average. On top of that, because most homeless people don’t have access to showers or bathing facilities, it’s not uncommon for them to pay between $2-4 dollars per day just for use of a shower. Showers are not always accessible either–many showers only offer 6 minutes per person while others require there be no more than 2 men at one time. Toiletries such as toothpaste and soap also vary greatly in price depending on where you buy them (pharmacies charge more) and what brand you purchase (even generic brands vary). These combined expenses add up quickly; costing someone who is living paycheck-to-paycheck upwards of $150 dollars every month.

The National Health Care for the Homeless Council estimates that homeless people are unlikely to have enough access to basic health care, as 80% lack health insurance. If they have any medical or dental needs, then a visit to the emergency room can cost up to three times what it would cost for a comparable procedure at an outpatient facility. They might not be able to pay for their hospital stay, causing the hospital cost burden from unpaid debts to go up. Such expenses will just add to the already high prices associated with homelessness.

Another significant expense associated with homelessness is transportation. Individuals who do not have access to a car or other form of public transportation must rely on taxi services that charge by the mile or bus rides costing anywhere between two dollars and twenty dollars per ride. The result?


When you’re out on the streets, transportation can quickly become one of your biggest expenses. After all, it doesn’t do much good to have a job if you can’t get there on time. Between bus tickets and cash for taxis, just getting to work every day can put a serious strain on your budget, even if you get lucky and live close enough to walk or bike. If public transportation isn’t an option, then buying or renting a car is going to make your life much easier but come with some hefty start-up costs; car insurance alone is often as expensive as rent! And don’t forget about gas money and maintenance.

Legal Troubles

If these costs weren’t enough, many homeless individuals may find themselves behind bars. According to Yale University’s research on incarceration rates among the general population, inmates previously homeless were six times more likely than those without this experience to return to jail following release. In addition, according to a report released last year by the Legal Aid Society of New York City’s Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), rents increased twice as fast between 2000-2011 in neighborhoods with jails or juvenile detention centers than elsewhere – meaning that incarceration does indeed create poverty.

Willow Stevens

Willow is a mother of six who begins to feel the empty nest, with faer oldest child living with his long-time girlfriend in another state, and the next three begin their talks about jobs and the excitement of college and living alone. Willow started couponing in 2007 to save their family some money on the grocery budget. That's how Freetail Therapy was born, so that fae could share their knowledge of saving money with others. Though the site has become so much more since then, and now includes homeschooling and homesteading info, Willow still does it all on a budget and shares how. Willow enjoys snagging freebies, snuggling with their dog, Xander, drinking decaf coffee, gardening, cannabis and of course, their large frugal family.

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