How do People Become Homeless?

Dec 3, 2020

The simple answer is this: there’s no singular reason a person becomes homeless. The complex answer is that it often can be caused by a combination of reasons that together leave an individual without housing. 

Homelessness is not an individual’s fault, nor do they deserve to be homeless. For people who have always had housing, it can be hard to imagine circumstances that would put you in such a position. But it isn’t as uncommon as many believe: an estimated 500,000 Americans are homeless on a given day. 

In Minnesota, respondents to a state-wide homelessness survey reported that their top reasons for leaving their last housing were financial issues, interpersonal issues, eviction, safety concerns, or entry into the criminal justice system. 

Unaffordable Housing

Inability to afford housing can is a large contributor to homelessness. In Minnesota, in 2018, 56% of individuals experiencing homeless reported that they could not find affordable housing.  Affordable housing is lacking, leaving many without options.

Low Income

People with low incomes may have to choose between paying rent and other necessities, such as food, transportation, healthcare, and childcare. These can add up and prevent people from being able to make ends meet.

Loss of Employment

 When a person loses their job, they’re going to struggle to pay rent. In 2019, it was estimated that 78% of people in the U.S. live paycheck to paycheck. That means that losing a steady income, even for a short amount of time, can be devastating. 


Unexpected life events can cause homelessness, such as falling out with family or roommates or experiencing domestic violence. It’s estimated that 38% of people who experience domestic violence will also experience homelessness. 

In 2018, 38% of homeless Minnesotans reported that fear for their safety caused them to lose their housing. Nearly half of women experiencing homelessness reported leaving housing due to safety issues, versus 29% of men experiencing homelessness. Domestic violence can force people to choose between homelessness and staying in an abusive relationship, a choice no one should have to make. 


29% of Minnesota adults experiencing homelessness report that their criminal background has prevented them from obtaining housing. Previously incarcerated individuals may not receive help getting housing prior to release.. Additionally, getting a job is more difficult for those with a criminal record, impacting their ability to pay rent.

Guild Can Help

Here at Guild, we’ve been helping individuals experiencing homelessness find housing for over 30 years. We know that individuals experiencing homelessness often face complex and intersecting challenges. We believe everyone is deserving of a safe, stable place to live. Our services are person-centered and tailored to fit needs.

Learn more about our Housing services.

Want to support our work in the community? Donate here.



Homelessness in Minnesota, Wilder Research. 

Homelessness in America, National Coalition for the Homeless. 

What are People Homeless? National Coalition for the Homeless. 

What Causes Homelessness? National Alliance to End Homelessness. 

Domestic Violence, Housing, and Homelessness, National Network to End Domestic Violence. 

Incarceration and Homelessness, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.