ITEM Ninety-six percent of the adult homeless л San Francisco are men.24 In other cities it is less – a median of 85 percent men.25

ITEM There are three times as many homeless men living on the streets by themselves as there are homeless children, adolescents, and adult women combined who are living on the streets by themselves.26

Single Individual homeless living on the streets by themselves

Children or adolescents (19 or younger)


Adult women


Adult men


When we think of the homeless, we often think of a woman and her children. In faa, nationwide, only 16 percent of the homeless are in a family group of any type.27 And even when family groupings are counted, there are still more single men among the homeless than there are children, single women, married women, or married men combined}*

We also tend to think of homcess/amilies being the worst off, but studies of the homeless find that they are treated the best – the most likely to be sheltered, fed, and reemployed. By far the worst off arc the single individual homeless.29

When I have delivered food and clothing to the homeless, I was struck by the degree to which the street homeless – the unsheltered homeless – were men and boys. I can still remember one of these men shivering and cuddling his four children on a filthy mattress. His one coat was used to cover his two youngest children. When 1 lived in New York, I can remember a man competing with a rat for garbage, his freezing hand sorting out wilted lettuce from baby diapers and tampons.

Almost every report on the homeless has a sentence like this one (from an official report on California’s homeless): "While women are a small part of the homeless (estimated at 10 percent in California), they face special problems."50 Which is fine But there was no section on the problems men face.

Homeless men are not just without a home, they are without love and virtually without hope of finding love as long as they are homeless. Many once had homes, children, and a wife, but when they lost their ability to protea, they also lost everyone they loved. On the street, they joined an almost all-male club.

Why do we resist giving help to homeless men? In pan because we don’t understand how our pressure on men to suppon families often forces men to take transient jobs that are but a step away from homelessness (the "death-of-a-salesman" jobs, the migrant worker jobs, the merchant marine jobs, the trucker, the road and railroad builders. . . ). And in pan because we respond differently to men who fail. . .