Another study confirmed what many housing advocates already know: Homelessness is primarily caused by a lack of affordable housing, not substance abuse.
The study, which Washington State University conducted, analyzed state-level differences in rates of homelessness in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia using data from 2020 to 2023. It then compared the rates of homelessness to socioeconomic and health factors such as poverty, binge drinking, and opioid addiction to determine which factors were most likely to cause someone to experience homelessness.
In the end, the study found that states with the highest cost of living also had the highest rates of homelessness. Unemployment, poverty, and binge drinking were also cited as contributing factors, but they were not strongly correlated with homelessness.
The study also found a negative correlation between opioid prescription rates and homelessness, which suggests that drug addiction is not a leading cause of people losing their homes.
“One of the major issues contributing to homelessness is the rising cost of housing. Housing accounted for a fifth of inflation in 2022 in the United States,” the study concluded. “However, by March 2023, the housing inflation rate rose to 2.6 percentage points, accounting for half of the annual consumer price index inflation. With rental prices rising, even minor changes are estimated to affect homelessness substantially.”