Can Jeff Bezos help the homeless? 4 essential reads

Tonight, some 554,000 people in the U.S. will be homeless.

Many of them live on the West Coast, where Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is launching a new fund that plans to fight the problem. Part of the US$2 billion donated by Bezos will be spent “to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families.”

With such an enormous challenge, where would it make sense to start? We looked into our archives for stories on what it would take to eradicate homelessness in the U.S. today.

1. How the homeless population is changing

“The common perception of homelessness is that it is a problem that afflicts only those with mental health and substance use problems,” writes Margot Kushel, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. But a diverse array of Americans are affected.

In fact, the U.S. homeless population is getting older and sicker. Today, half is over the age of 50. Many of these older homeless adults are the victims of circumstance. “Their lives became derailed by job loss, illness, a new disability, the death of a loved one or an interaction with the criminal justice system,” writes Kushel.

2. Homeless high school students

Another group that struggles with homelessness: American teens. One in 30 high school students in the U.S. have experienced homelessness in the past year.

Research from Stacey Havlik at Villanova University shows “that school counselors often lack knowledge about students who are homeless, and have limited training to support their needs.” These students may need not only basic support like food and clothing, but extra attention to their mental health and planning for the future.